|FRIDAY 30 SEPTEMBER 2022||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: UK collecting society PRS For Music yesterday set out plans to launch a new online portal that will provide easy access to key data linked to the songs catalogue it represents, including the writers behind each song, and important codes like ISWC and IPI... [READ MORE]|
PRS announces plans for new portal offering easy access to song rights data
Figuring out who owns the copyright in any one song or recording can be quite tricky because there is no one stop shop global database of music rights. Instead, the music industry's collecting societies in each country manage databases of the works they represent, though that information is often not publicly accessible.
This creates challenges for companies looking to license the use of music, especially in scenarios where the blanket licences issued by the collecting societies don't apply. Plus it makes it harder for artists, songwriters and their managers to spot where there is a dispute over who owns and controls the copyright in any one work, or how a copyright is split between collaborators and co-owners. And, especially on the songs side, those disputes are pretty common.
Issues around music rights data have also added complexities to the way songs are licensed to streaming services and digital royalties paid to songwriters, which means writers generally experience many more delays and admin costs compared to artists as their streaming income is processed. One particular issue there is the linking of each recording to the song it contains - so matching the ISRC that uniquely identifies the recording to the ISWC that uniquely identifies the song.
As part of the processing of digital royalties, various entities - often within or owned by the collecting societies - are matching recordings to songs on a constant basis. But - like the ownership data - that matching data often isn't publicly accessible. Which makes it hard to spot when different entities have matched the same recording to different songs, or where recordings haven't been matched to a song at all.
Having more transparency on all that data is always a good thing, and can help to address some of the issues around the payment of song royalties. Some other collecting societies around the world have sought to make some music data more publicly available over the years - most notably in the US - and with this new portal PRS will be making it easier to see songwriter names and key codes for each song, plus what recordings have been matched to each song by PRS and its partners.
Announcing the new portal yesterday, PRS said: "The recent Digital Culture Media And Sport Select Committee's inquiry into the Economics Of Streaming highlighted the need for greater availability and transparency of industry metadata, and how improvements to the current systems were needed to accelerate the flow of royalties to music creators".
"By releasing this information PRS For Music is determined to remove key barriers to the flow of royalties worldwide", it added, "ultimately improving the matching of sound recordings and musical works and increasing the speed and accuracy of royalty payments".
It went on: "This online tool will give songwriters, composers and music publishers greater visibility and increased control over their data, with the ability to search and download key data about their works - importantly, it will also allow them to highlight any discrepancies". And not only that, but "the new tool will give digital service providers access to writer information, facilitating more songwriter credits on streaming services".
PRS boss Andrea Czapary Martin added: "PRS For Music are embracing the latest technologies to build this portal, empowering members to grow the value of their works through better visibility. We're putting the power of metadata into the hands of creators for their benefit. Clean data directs the flow of royalties and is the key to ensuring that songwriters and music publishers are properly paid for the use of their music and are given credit for their songs. This is fundamental to securing a stronger global royalty system".
The initial plan is to make data available for over two million works, with millions more to follow. It's not actually clear quite how many songs are currently available on the streaming services, because while there are stats for the number of recordings in the Spotify and Apple Music libraries, obviously some of those will be recordings of the same songs. But there's probably somewhere between 30-35 million songs currently streaming away.
A portion of those will have been created by DIY musicians who do not work with publishers or societies and therefore fall outside the system, and are unlikely to be in the PRS database as yet. Which also likely means they never see any song royalties from their streams.
However, initiatives like that announced by US collecting society the MLC earlier this week - to work with music distributors to try to match recordings that have never been linked to a song - could ultimately bring those works into the official databases too.
The UK's Music Managers Forum has been calling for more transparency around music rights data for years now via the 'Dissecting The Digital Dollar' reports and guides it has published in partnership with CMU. Therefore, it has unsurprisingly welcomed the two music data developments announced this week on both sides of the Atlantic.
Its CEO Annabella Coldrick said last night: "The MMF - through our Digital Dollar project, Song Royalties Guide and Manifesto - has long called for increased transparency from all parties in the song royalty chains so artists and writers can ensure they're being accurately paid. A big part of that is about making music data more readily available. We therefore applaud PRS's announcement today to create an open song metadata portal to identify the writers behind each work, and linking songs to recordings. We look forward to discussing how we can engage songwriter managers on its roll out in the new year".
"We also welcome the groundbreaking plan from the MLC in the US to work with music distributors to track down the writers of recordings that have never been matched to a song", she added. "We hope to see more proactive steps in this direction to greatly reduce the size and impact of the digital black box and ensure writers are paid their streaming royalties quickly and accurately".
Judge declines to issue summary judgement in second song theft case over Ed Sheeran's Thinking Out Loud
Sheeran's lawyers have been quite busy over the years dealing with various allegations that the musician has lifted elements of existing songs when writing his pop music. That included the headline-grabbing legal battle in the UK courts over 'Shape Of You', in which the Sheeran side were victorious.
Over in the US, 'Thinking Out Loud' has resulted in multiple song-theft lawsuits. It was the estate of 'Let's Get It On' co-writer Ed Townsend who originally sued back in 2016. But then a company called Structured Asset Sale - which also owns a stake in the 'Let's Get It On' copyright - filed its own litigation. In fact, it sued twice. It's the SAS lawsuit that's been ruled on this week
The defences provided in song theft cases are now pretty routine. If the song that has been allegedly infringed isn't well known, the accused song thief will argue that they couldn't possibly have heard the earlier work before writing their song.
Sometimes the plaintiff will simply say that their song is available on the streaming services so the accused song thief could in theory have heard it. Though the courts generally now reject that line of argument, given the sheer quantity of music that is streaming these days. Other times six degrees of separation style theories are constructed as to how the earlier song got to the creators of the later song, though those often don't stand up in court either.
Of course, where a song is famous - like Marvin Gaye's 'Let's Get It On' - the access point isn't so relevant. And so defence number two becomes important. That goes as follows: yes, there are similarities between the two songs, but the similarities are simply short and common musical segments or lyrical phrases which, in isolation, are not substantial or original enough to enjoy copyright protection.
The plaintiff might then argue that, while the shared elements may be short and common, the original song combined those elements in an original way, and that combination of the musical or lyrical segments has been copied in the new song, and that's where the claim for copyright infringement lies. That then usually results in lots of complicated chatter about the technicalities of music-making and copyright law.
In a summary of the lawsuit filed by SAS in his ruling on the summary judgement claims this week, judge Louis Stanton writes: "SAS's infringement claim is based on Sheeran's alleged copying of the combination of two elements from 'Let's Get It On's deposit copy into 'Thinking Out Loud': the chord progression and the particular way in which anticipation is used in connection with the chord progression - 'harmonic rhythm' - collectively the 'backing pattern'".
"The parties agree that those elements, standing alone, are commonplace and unprotectable", he adds. "Accordingly, Sheeran argues that summary judgment dismissing the claim is appropriate as a matter of law because the combination of two unprotectable elements is not sufficiently numerous or original to constitute an original work entitled to copyright protection under the 'selection and arrangement' theory of liability; and 'Let's Get It On's backing pattern is not identical or nearly identical to that in 'Thinking Out Loud'".
But, he goes on: "The law does not support Sheeran's contention that the combination of 'Let's Get It On's chord progression and harmonic rhythm is insufficiently original to warrant it copyrightable. There is no bright-line rule that the combination of two unprotectable elements is insufficiently numerous to constitute an original work. Moreover, where, as here, the parties' experts disagree as to whether a particular musical element is original, summary judgment is inappropriate".
So, that means, "although the two musical compositions are not identical, a jury could find that the overlap between the songs' combination of chord progression and harmonic rhythm is very close. Accordingly, questions remain that are not resolvable by summary judgment, but require trial".
That said, although the Sheeran side failed to get the lawsuit dismissed at this stage, they did get a couple of side rulings in their favour. If SAS were to win the legal battle, they want Sheeran's live performances of 'Thinking Out Loud' to be taken into account when damages are calculated, as well as the monies made by sales and streams of the record. The judge is fine with that, but agreed with Team Sheeran that merch sales at those shows cannot be considered too.
Sheeran's lawyers also raised issues with reports prepared by some of the experts hired by the SAS side, and the judge said that those experts' reports and testimonies in their current form should be excluded from any future trial, although the experts can resubmit their reports to deal with the issues raised.
Rammstein secure injunction to stop Viagogo sales of tickets for upcoming tour
As the live sector has started to get back to normal following the COVID pandemic, the debate around secondary ticketing - so the resale of tickets by touts online - is becoming a bigger talking point again, with many artists keen to stop tickets for their shows being sold at a marked-up price on platforms like Viagogo.
It's not the first time Rammstein and their tour promoter has gone legal to formally stop tickets for their shows being touted. They got a similar injunction in the Hamburg courts back in 2018 in relation to their 2019 tour. Although the latest injunction seemingly references new German consumer protection regulations that came into force earlier this year.
Commenting on that new injunction, Sebastian Ott from the law firm Lichte Rechtsanwälte told Musik Woche: "Purchasers often do not realise that they are not buying their tickets from the organiser, but on the secondary ticket market. [German law-makers] have recognised this deficiency and acted. We are pleased that the Hamburg Regional Court shares our view and consistently prohibits violations of the new law".
Rammstein have also advised their fans to only buy tickets for their shows from the authorised ticket seller, which is CTS Eventim. Plus any ticket-buyer unable to attend the show for any reason should only seek to resell their ticket via Eventim's own resale service, Fansale.
Concord acquire Genesis catalogue in $300 million deal
According to the Wall Street Journal, the deal is valued at over $300 million, and gets Concord ownership of song rights, and certain recording rights and revenues, from all three members of the band's classic line-up: Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks. That includes music from the three musicians' respective solo careers as well as Genesis itself.
Concord was already the administrator of the song catalogues of Collins and Genesis, and the music firm's President Bob Valentine confirmed that it was via that existing relationship that talks regarding a big old catalogue acquisition began.
Confirming the deal had been done, Genesis manager Tony Smith of TSPM said: "This is a catalogue of music that we are all extremely proud of and it means a great deal to many fans. Concord is one of the global leaders in music with whom we have been working for many years on the publishing side, [a relationship we are now] extending to the whole recording catalogue together with publishing. We have been impressed by their good judgement and sensibilities as to the wishes of the artists".
Although under the deal Concord gets an interest in the Genesis recordings, some other labels will also continue to be involved on that side. Smith confirmed as much by adding that he was confident that, with Concord's expanded role and "the respective continued relationships with record labels Warner Music and BMG, we leave the future ownership of the catalogue in their capable hands, safe in the knowledge that the heritage will be protected".
Confirming the deal form Concord's side, the aforementioned Valentine added: "The songs of Tony, Phil and Mike have been the soundtrack to many people's most important life moments. Everyone at Concord feels the weight of the cultural significance of this remarkable collection of works, and we will strive to ensure that current and future generations of music listeners continue to hear and enjoy them".
BMG books out Berlin theatre for two years of fun times
Says BMG boss Hartwig Masuch: "The Theater Des Westens is arguably the greatest theatre in the German capital. As a Berlin-born company, and the only German-owned and managed global player in the music industry, we are proud to make this investment in the musical life of our hometown".
And BMG's Chief Content Officer Dominique Casimir adds: "We are committed to making the Theater Des Westens the premiere venue for entertainment in Berlin. Taking such a long lease on a venue is a first for a music company [and] bringing high end artist residencies to Berlin is a first for Germany. We see a particular opportunity for established artists who want to present a high end show in a beautiful venue rather than embarking on a regular tour".
The theatre is owned by the city of Berlin and operated by Dutch company Stage Entertainment. Its Director Of Operations, Ulf Dewald, adds: "We are delighted to have found in BMG a renowned and ambitious partner for Theater Des Westens and are happy to support the company in all marketing efforts for its compelling artistic concept".
As for what you can expect to be staged at the BMG-programmed Theater Des Westens, well, tickets are already on sale for 'Romeo & Julia - Liebe Ist Alles', a new musical by BMG-published songwriters Peter Plate and Ulf Leo Sommer. As for what artists will perform residences, well, that's still to be confirmed.
Though there's good news for haters of music, because you'll be catered to as well. BMG plans to liaise with its sister companies in the wider Bertelsmann group to stage some spoken word events too, likely including some of the authors published by Penguin Random House.
Deezer rejigs livestreaming interests as Driift acquires Dreamstage
The digital music firm invested into US-based Dreamstage back in May 2021, and then in October the same year became a minority shareholder in Driift - the livestreaming business founded by Brian Message and Ric Salmon from UK-based ATC Management. Under the new deal, Driift will both acquire Dreamstage and get a new £4 million investment from Deezer, with the streaming firm becoming the largest shareholder in the expanded Driift company.
Driift will continue to operate under that brand as an independent entity headed up by Salmon as CEO and Claire Mas as COO. Deezer adds that: "With a total investment from Deezer of around $7 million this year, Driift has secured enough funds to execute on its business plan and accelerate growth".
Confirming all that, Deezer CEO Jeronimo Folgueira says: "As the home of music, this is a milestone moment for Deezer. Connecting artists and fans through engaging experiences is an essential part of our growth strategy, and adding livestreaming capabilities to our portfolio is a key component to deliver on this ambition".
"Driift has already built an unparalleled reputation for bringing groundbreaking livestreams to music fans all over the world", he adds, "and we consider that the addition of Dreamstage's tech and sales platform will take the business to the next level. We have full confidence in the Driift team to deliver fantastic results".
Meanwhile, Salmon says: "This is an exciting new chapter for Driift. Over the past two years we have become genuine pioneers in the livestreaming space. We've collaborated with certain of the world's most talented artists, filmmakers and creators to deliver online events that have been part of the latest redefinition of the livestreaming format. Our team has shown a proven ability to innovate, selling hundreds of thousands of tickets and generating millions of dollars in revenues already".
"Through Deezer's investment", he goes on, "we are confident that our upward trajectory will accelerate. We are delighted to welcome Dreamstage's hugely talented team of developers, engineers and customer service personnel into the company. We can now offer a fully integrated livestreaming solution to our partners, with production, promotion and what we see as a market-leading technology and revenue generating platform under one roof".
"It is a major cultural shift", Salmon concludes, "and we look forward to bringing an even greater range of live experiences to truly global audiences".
LABELS & PUBLISHERS
Warner Music has partnered with NFT marketplace OpenSea to help the record company's artists do some of that Web3 stuff. "Fundamental to music's DNA, is community - it's artists and fans coming together to celebrate the music that they love", says WMG's Chief Digital Officer Oana Ruxandra. "Our collaboration with OpenSea helps to facilitate these communities by unlocking Web3 tools and resources to build opportunities for artists to establish deeper engagement, access, and ownership". Yeah, whatever.
Bruce Springsteen will release new album 'Only The Strong Survive' on 11 Nov. Here's new single 'Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)'.
Arctic Monkeys have released another track form their upcoming album 'The Car'. It's called 'Body Paint'.
MIA has released new single 'Beep'.
LCD Soundsystem have released new track 'New Body Rhumba', taken from the soundtrack of new Noah Baumbach film 'White Noise'.
Razorlight's Johnny Borrell has launched new band Jealous Nostril. Let's say that name three more times. Jealous Nostril, Jealous Nostril, Jealous Nostril. Brilliant. They've released a song too. Here's 'Phase 6'. "I actually think I just wanted a name that would help people under-estimate the band", says Borrell. One more time, Jealous Nostril.
Jon Hopkins has teamed with Kelly Lee Owens, Sultan + Shepard, and Jerro for new track 'To Feel Again/Trois'.
Yunè Pinku has released new single 'Jaws'.
Låpsley has released new single 'Smoke And Fire'.
Bree Runway has released new single 'That Girl'.
Nia Archives has released new single 'Baianá'.
Meet Me @ The Altar have released new single 'Say It (To My Face)'.
Gallops have released new single 'Death Square'. It also comes with a Worriesaboutsatan remix, which is a nice little bonus for you.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Metallica launch cigars to go with their whiskey
Metallica's Blackened American whiskey brand is launching cigars now, you see. Specifically, it's a project driven by frontman James Hetfield and the Master Distiller of the band's whiskey company, Rob Dietrich. They both like cigars and whiskey, so I guess it makes sense. To make it all happen, they've partnered with cigar maker Drew Estate.
"The collaboration began with James Hetfield and Rob Dietrich, who frequently enjoy cigars together after forming a close friendship through their work together on Blackened", explains the Metallica drinks company.
"Dietrich and [Drew Estate's] Jonathan Drew, whose friendship spans over a decade, always wanted to combine their talents to collaborate on something special", it adds. "This seemed to be the perfect opportunity and became a passion project - bringing together three immensely talented and experienced cigar enthusiasts".
"Samples from the Drew Estate portfolio were sent to Hetfield and Dietrich who kept cigar journals to critique the cigars and identify what they liked and disliked about each one", it then explains "After two years of enjoying and sampling cigars together, the group decided on the exact flavour profile that would become Blackened Cigars M81 by Drew Estate".
Have you got a cigar journal? Maybe you should start one. The Metallica-endorsed cigars are called Blackened Cigars M81 by Drew Estate, as noted in that quote there. Although I guess it's probably easier to just refer to them as M81. They'll officially go on sale in December. More info here.
Earlier this year, Metallica launched their latest Blackened whiskey, Rye The Lightning. And I still haven't got over that pun.