|WEDNESDAY 5 OCTOBER 2022||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The Music Creators North America organisation has called on the US Copyright Royalty Board to make public the agreement reached between the music publishers and the streaming services regarding the rates to be paid by the latter for the streaming of songs in the years ahead. MCNA says that all songwriters need access to an "un-redacted copy of the agreement under consideration in its entirety, including any and all related or potentially related agreements"... [READ MORE]|
Songwriters call for full transparency around US song royalty rate settlement deal
In the US, what royalties are paid by streaming services to music publishers and songwriters is set by a panel of judges known as the Copyright Royalty Board. That's because there is a compulsory licence covering the mechanical copying of songs under US copyright law. As a result, every few years the CRB decides what percentage of streaming revenues should be allocated to the song rights under that compulsory licence.
There has been much disagreement in recent years over what the basic revenue share allocation should be, as well as over other technicalities contained within the compulsory licence. As the CRB started to consider what rates it should set for the next five years, the music publishers proposed an increase from the current 15.1% to something closer to 20%, while some of the streaming services were proposing something more like 10.5%.
However, in August a deal was done between the publishers - repped by the National Music Publishers Association - and the streaming services, meaning a full costly and time-consuming royalty rate battle before the CRB was avoided.
Under that deal, there will be a very slight increase in the song royalty over the next five years, up to 15.35%. That will keep the US in line with the streaming monies allocated to the song rights elsewhere in the world - actually, in the main it's slightly more - plus the publishers got some of those technicalities reformed in their favour.
The deal was broadly welcomed across the music publisher and songwriter communities, not least because it meant that the music publishing sector wouldn't have to spend a whole load of time and money fighting the streaming services in front of the CRB.
However, since the deal was announced, and as formalities at the CRB in relation to the deal have started to go through the motions, some issues have been raised by some songwriters in relation to some aspects of the deal, in particular around transparency.
Among those raising concerns is George Johnson, the songwriter who has been the most proactive individual in recent CRB proceedings, with organisations like the MCNA backing him up.
In a submission to the CRB yesterday, the MCNA writes: "We would like to express our extreme dismay over the joint response dated 26 Sep 2022 filed by the National Music Publishers Association, the Nashville Songwriters Association International and various digital music distributors in opposition to participant George Johnson's recent motion to compel disclosure of those groups' unpublished, privately negotiated, proposed streaming rate deal".
"We are deeply concerned by these recent efforts to shield secret dealings by parties whose interests are potentially in conflict with those of music creators", it goes on, "and firmly believe that filing a proposal urging the CRB to engage in an action that would be in flagrant violation of the mandatory disclosure, transparency and comment provisions set forth in the US Copyright Act represents a pursuit of highly questionable motivation that should not be permitted to influence CRB policy".
Noting a filing earlier this week by the NMPA and Google, the letter adds: "Our concerns in this regard are immeasurably heightened by the filing last evening of a joint notice of lodging by NMPA and Google containing admissions that potentially 'related agreements' were executed among Google and certain of the music publisher endorsers of the proposed streaming settlement 'on or around the execution date of the settlement agreement' which they regard as superfluous and 'substantively unrelated' to the proposed agreement for which CRB approval and adoption is being sought".
The letter then highlights that US copyright law says that those affected by any CRB amendments to royalty rates must be given the opportunity to submit comments on those amendments.
"In order to satisfy the Congressional mandate that affected parties be given opportunity to comment upon private agreements negotiated by participants to the proceedings prior to their adoption or rejection by the CRB", it continues, "we respectfully urge the CRB to timely publish an un-redacted copy of the agreement under consideration in its entirety, including any and all related or potentially related agreements the existence of some of which are already acknowledged by NMPA and Google".
That is required, it says, "so that the independent music creator community and all interested and affected parties are afforded the requisite time and complete information necessary to adequately review and evaluate the proposal in whole. That opportunity is a sine qua non [essential condition] to formulating complete and cogent comments for CRB consideration, as mandated by statute".
It remains to be seen if the big old deal between the publishers and the services - and details of any side deals - are indeed made fully public and, if so, whether there will be any elements of those documents that cause some or all of the songwriting community to change their opinion on the widely welcomed settlement.
Taylor Swift says Shake It Off song-theft accusers don't even have the right to sue
In this particular song-theft case, songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler accuse Swift of ripping off their 2001 song 'Playas Gon Play' when she wrote her 2014 hit. The claim is mainly based on the similarities between the two songs' respective key lines, with the 2001 track having the line "the playas gon play/them haters gonna hate", while 'Shake It Off' famously includes the lyric "the players gonna play, play, play, play, play/and the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate".
Swift's legal team have been trying very hard to get the case dismissed, mainly on the basis that the notion of players playing and haters hating is far too generic for lyrics based on said notion to be protected by copyright in isolation. More recently the Swift side has also gone to great lengths to explain how she couldn't possibly have heard 'Playas Gon Play' before writing 'Shake It Off', because she never watched MTV and was mainly into country music when the former was released.
The judge overseeing the case, Michael W Fitzgerald, did actually initially dismiss it, agreeing that lyrics about players playing and haters hating were too banal to enjoy copyright protection. But that decision was overturned on appeal, and ever since Fitzgerald has seemed very reluctant indeed to rule on the key copyright arguments at the heart of the dispute, reckoning that the appeals court ruling means those matters have to go to a jury.
Still, that hasn't stopped Team Swift trying to persuade Fitzgerald to kick the case out for a second time. And one line of argument that hasn't got so much attention previously is the claim that Hall and Butler never had the right to go legal.
That argument is based on the respective publishing deals Hall and Butler did back in the day in relation to 'Playas Gon Play'. The Swift side argues that, while Hall and Butler are still beneficiaries of the song, the rights in it are ultimately controlled by their publishers, which means only those publishers are able to sue if they believe the 'Playas Gon Play' copyright has been infringed.
And who are the publishers in control of the rights in 'Playas Gon Play'? Well, according to the MLC database, the publishing divisions of Sony and Universal. And do you know who also appears among the list of publishers for 'Shake It Off'? Yeah, Sony and Universal. And do you know who are among the list of corporate defendants on the 'Shake It Off' song-theft lawsuit? Yeah, Sony and Universal.
According to Law360, a legal rep for Swift - Peter Anderson - brought all this up in a court hearing yesterday. He claimed that when Hall and Butler did their publishing deals, they signed away their rights to file a lawsuit in relation to 'Playas Gon Play'. And, he alleged, when the two writers approached their publishers about negotiating back that right, said publishers refused. Presumably for obvious reasons.
Anderson also told the court that Hall and Butler's publishing contracts were long-form and therefore comprehensive, and were "unambiguous" on what rights the two writers retained in relation to their songs - basically to share in future income.
Fitzgerald noted that there isn't a huge amount of case law - ie previous rulings in similar disputes - to offer guidance on what to do in circumstances like this.
Anderson responded: "I have never in all my experience in this court or in New York or anywhere else heard of a case where a plaintiff songwriter who entered into a co-publishing agreement with these types of provisions turns around and sues over the objections and without the consent of the music publisher that owns those rights. And so sometimes there's a lack of law because no one does it".
It remains to be seen whether this or any other technicality can help the Swift side avoid this dispute going to a high profile jury trial.
Blake Shelton sells recording rights to Influence Media Partners
"I can't believe it's been 20 years since my first album and single", says Shelton. "Sometimes I still feel like the kid from Oklahoma I was back then! While a lot has changed during that time, my passion for music hasn't".
Name checking Influence Media Co-Managing Partners Lylette Pizarro and Rene McLean, he goes on: "I'm excited to be working with Lylette, Rene and the team at Influence Media on so much of my catalogue and to introduce my songs to the next generation of country fans".
Pizarro, who also founded the music investment fund, adds: "Blake is one of the most exciting luminaries to emerge in both country music and television in the past two decades, His music's continued resonance with new and established audiences makes him the perfect business partner for Influence".
"We're particularly proud of the fact that Blake will continue to be an active participant in his catalogue moving forward, and to have a tailored joint venture in place that will ensure he remains an active profit participant", she continues. "We're excited to work closely with Blake, his management team at Starstruck and our partners at Warner Music Nashville to identify strategic opportunities for his modern country classics".
The deal includes eleven albums - including a Christmas album - and two EPs. As Pizarro noted, Warner Music will still be involved with the recordings, while Sony Music Publishing will remain the catalogue's publisher.
Session announces partnership with SoundCloud to deliver song metadata
Getting key music rights data into the system in relation to new songs and recordings as soon as possible is key to building a more efficient system for licensing digital services and getting songwriters paid quickly and accurately.
Session has been working for some time on creating music collaboration tools that also help music-makers gather and log the key data points that allow tracks and songs, and creators and copyright owners, to be identified. A key part of that mission has been connecting those tools to digital audio workstations, the music industry's various databases and, ultimately, digital music platforms. The SoundCloud alliance is a big part of that.
"At SoundCloud, we are passionately devoted to getting creators paid with fairness and transparency", says SoundCloud President Eliah Seton. "[Session founders] Max Martin, Bjorn [Ulvaeus], Niclas [Molinder] and the whole Session team are changing the game to get songwriters the credit they deserve. This partnership is a major milestone in our effort to equip creators with the tools to earn".
Ulvaeus adds: "Technology has made it incredibly easy in recent years to upload and share music, but until now the power of technology hasn't been embraced by the music industry to ensure music creators are adequately credited and rewarded. Session's partnership with SoundCloud showcases the best of the music industry and technology working together for the benefit of music creators today and the future generations to come".
Among other things, the Session Studio app makes it easier for collaborating music-makers to agree who is cut into the ownership of any copyrights they create, and to then access and submit the key codes required to store and share that information.
Session reckons that $655 million globally fails to reach the correct rightsholders due to inaccurate or missing data about songs, recordings and who owns them. Launched last year, the app received funding of £1 million from Spotify and YouTube.
Depeche Mode announce new album and tour dates
The news follows the death of founder member Andy Fletcher, who passed away during the making of the album earlier this year.
"We started work on this project early in the pandemic, and its themes were directly inspired by that time", says the band's Martin Gore. "After Fletch's passing, we decided to continue as we're sure this is what he would have wanted, and that has really given the project an extra level of meaning".
Dave Gahan adds: "Fletch would have loved this album. We're really looking forward to sharing it with you soon, and we can't wait to present it to you live at the shows next year".
'Memonto Mori' will be out in the spring. The tour will arrive in the UK and Ireland in June, with shows at Malahide Castle in Dublin on 14 Jun and Twickenham Stadium in London on 17 Jun.
Friendly Fires to mark debut album fifteenth anniversary with London show
"Time is a flat circle, much like a CD or a record, and one such flat circle that completely reconfigured our lives will be turning fifteen next year", say the band. "'Friendly Fires' only peaked at a modest number 38 in the album chart, but momentum grew via the word of mouth of our small crew of proactive fans, and eventually we had a hit on our hands".
"So next year, we're going to be getting out there and doing a special show to celebrate this, both for us and for the fans who made it a success", they go on. "We'll be blasting through the record in full along with a generous helping of other tunes, doubtless feeling a bit weepy and emotional throughout. It'll be great to see the old gang, plus the newer heads who came on board later".
The show will take place at Here At Outernet on 24 Feb. Tickets go on general sale on Friday.
Ralph W Peer has been named MD of Peermusic Australia. Not to be confused with Ralph S Peer, his grandfather, who founded Peermusic in 1927, or Ralph Peer II, his father, who is currently Peermusic's Executive Chair. "I'm confident that Ralph will be a driving force in the continued development of the company's Australasian operations, working to maintain high standards for the Peermusic song catalogue as well as to sign and develop contemporary repertoire", says Peermusic Australia's President Kathy Spanberger.
BMG's EVP Global Catalogue Recordings Peter Stack - who joined BMG after it acquired his Union Square company back in 2014 - has announced that he is stepping down at the end of the year. "Peter Stack is both a true professional and a real gentleman who has played a central role in the development of BMG's successful catalogue operation", says CEO Hartwig Masuch. "His place in BMG's history is assured. We wish him well".
Music business PR firm Fourth Pillar has hired Claire Turvey as a Managing Partner. She joins from financial communications firm FTI Consulting, where she was Managing Director, and will boost Fourth Pillar's mission to, among other things, provide "specialist corporate and financial communications" within the music industry. "Fourth Pillar is in a unique position to be able to assist organisations in navigating this often complex industry, and to craft and tell their stories to those they need to reach, be it investors, customers, employees or partners", she says of her new role.
NME Networks has promoted Thomas Smith and Sophie Williams to Commissioning Editor (Music) and Associate Commissioning Editor (New Music) respectively. Williams is "incredibly excited", while Smith is "THRILLED".
Music PR company Charmfactory has promoted Vicky Ward to Head Of Publicity. "It's a truly exciting time to be a part of the ever-changing digital music landscape", she says. "I'm looking forward to drawing on the agency's extensive expertise and experience to continue building our incredible roster of artists and shining a light on the endless pool of talent in the UK and internationally".
Universal's Republic Records in the US has promoted Donna Gryn to EVP Global Marketing Strategy. "Over the past decade, Donna has been crucial to not only breaking artists on an international scale, but also sustaining their success over the years", says co-President Jim Roppo. "She is the rare marketing executive whose expansive vision is matched by her incredible work ethic and commitment to our collective mission as a team. As such, she's the perfect leader for our global marketing initiatives, and it's an honour to announce her much-deserved promotion".
Fred Again has released new single 'Kammy (Like I Do)'. His new album, 'Actual Life 3 (1 Jan - 9 Sep 2022)', is set for release on 28 Oct.
There's a World Cup coming up at some point in what must be the near future, and Slade are celebrating by releasing a new video for their 1978 single 'Give Us A Goal'. "Good luck to England in the soon to be 2022 World Cup", says frontman Noddy Holder.
Ibeyi have released new single 'Juice Of Mandarins'. Says the duo's Lisa-Kaindé: "'Juice Of Mandarins' is my favourite love song I've ever written. It is about the ecstasy of falling in love. The sensuality of allowing someone to see all of you. It's about reality becoming supernatural. Love is the most radical life changing, meaningful experience, thus, 'my love for you ain't quiet'".
Ásgeir has released new single 'Borderland'. "This was the last song to be put on the album and came about pretty spontaneously", he says. "I was playing around on an old Memory Moog in the studio and made a loop of some synths and a drum machine, then I improvised some melodies on top of that. When I had the basic layout of the song I got my father to write some words for it. He quickly sent me a lyric in Icelandic – 'á Milli svefns og vöku' - which means between wakefulness and sleep". That album he mentioned there, ''Time On My Hands', is out on 28 Oct.
King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard have released new single 'Iron Lung', taken from their upcoming album 'Ice, Death, Planets, Lungs, Mushrooms And Lava' - one of three they have on the way this month. Guitarist Stu Mackenzie says of the new track: "We wrote the lyrics as a group and created the music out of improvisation. Spontaneous creation. The best kind".
Shirt has released new single 'Death To Wall Art'. A new album produced by Jack Splash is due out next year.
GIGS & TOURS
Lizzo has announced four UK shows in March next year, including a performance at the O2 Arena in London on 15 Mar. Tickets go on sale on Friday.
Shaun Ryder will play his first solo show for eleven years at Manchester's Factory 251 this Friday, largely performing songs from last year's 'Visits From Future Technology' album. "'I'm really looking forward to playing my first solo show in eleven years", says Ryder. "It'll be great to play some songs from my album 'Visits From Future Technology' live". Tickets are available now.
Reb Fountain will play The Water Rats in London on 15 Nov. And I think we can all agree that that's good news.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Lorde "told off" after revealing voting plans on Instagram
"I'm proud to be voting Efeso Collins for mayor of Auckland", she wrote in the original post. "Local election turnout is low as always - get out there - your community needs you".
When the post was taken down, she updated fans in a story post, explaining: "OK, so the Electoral Commission told me off because you're not allowed to post anything about who you're gonna vote for or show voting papers. The post still applies - get out there".
Yes, do get out and vote, Aucklanders. Voting is fun. Vote for whoever you want to, as well. Don't be swayed by Lorde. Luckily, now that her post has been deleted, you'll never know who she was voting for anyway. All of that information has definitely been totally scrubbed from the internet. I don't think you can find it anywhere now.
Lorde isn't the first pop star to fall foul of electoral laws. Back in 2016, Justin Timberlake was told he faced a prison sentence after posting a picture of himself voting over there in the USA.
Although it later turned out that that wasn't the case, with Shelby County DA Amy Weirich putting out a statement confirming that an earlier one saying that the incident was being investigated was incorrect.