|THURSDAY 13 OCTOBER 2022||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: US song rights collecting society BMI has announced plans to shift from operating on a not-for-profit business model to a for-profit business model. Why? Because doing so will "open up new and important opportunities for us to invest in our business and ensure we can continue to deliver on our mission to support our affiliates and grow the value of their music". Or that's what CEO Mike O’Neill reckons... [READ MORE]|
BMI announces shift to for-profit business model
Most of the music industry's collecting societies around the world are not-for-profit organisations owned by their members, which are usually some combination of artists, songwriters, record labels and/or music publishers. BMI, somewhat unusually, is actually owned by a group of broadcasters, it being established by the US radio sector in the 1930s as a rival to the existing US society ASCAP. But it's still a not-for-profit set-up.
However, there are some societies that are for-profit enterprises, including BMI and ASCAP's smaller competitors in the US, ie SESAC and GMR. BMI has been reviewing how it operates for a while now, for a time as part of an investigation into whether or not there were any investors out there which might be interested in buying the organisation from its current owners.
In the end, plans for a sale were called off, but that process likely informed the new for-profit strategy. "After a comprehensive and careful assessment on how best to position BMI for the future, we will be changing our business model, moving from operating on a not-for-profit making basis to for-profit", O'Neill wrote yesterday in a memo to the society's members - or 'affiliates' if you prefer.
"This will open up new and important opportunities for us to invest in our business and ensure we can continue to deliver on our mission to support our affiliates and grow the value of their music", he added. "And, most importantly, our goal is to continue to grow our distributions at an even greater rate than we have before".
He then explained: "As you all know, we began a strategic review earlier this year to evaluate opportunities to grow our company and make the most of our evolving industry for our affiliates. The one thing we continually heard throughout that process reinforced what we have been thinking for some time: the need for us to invest in BMI and operate in a more commercial and forward-thinking way".
"Growth requires investment", he went on. "And in this new model, we can now structure, fund and operate new strategic opportunities, adopt new technologies and enhance and expand our services and products in a way that under our old model would have come at the expense of distributions".
"I know this is a big change for us", he then mused. "There is no question that the old model served BMI well. But it also held us back and limited our ability to invest in the future in a meaningful way. Our move to for-profit gives us more financial flexibility and makes us nimbler to do what we need to do".
In terms of the kinds of projects that the new approach - and any new investment it allows BMI to secure - might enable, O'Neill's memo talked about innovations and possible acquisitions that might provide better royalty tracking, or allow members to draw down advances on future royalties, or which would provide other useful business services to songwriters.
"In short", he said, "this new model will enable us to approach our business in ways we were never able to do before to stay ahead of the industry and the needs of our affiliates. It unleashes so many more options".
According to Billboard, any new investment secured via the new approach would come from external parties, not the society's current broadcaster owners. Though those current owners won't share in any future profits via dividend, or at least not in the short term, though they would profit from any future sale.
Meanwhile, when asked by Variety to what extent the now abandoned plans to sell the society had influenced this shift, O'Neill said: "Initially, we hired Goldman Sachs to help us view strategic opportunities, and there were discussions about how do we change the model".
"But", he went on, "we had already been looking at that, and at the end of the day, the board and BMI decided that it was in our best interest to control how we do this, and how we grow and how we can ultimately benefit our affiliates".
Ticketmaster's allegedly biased arbitrator criticised over moves to limit discovery
A number of lawsuits filed against Ticketmaster by customers have ended up being forced into an arbitration process outside of court and behind closed doors, because when people buy tickets from the ticketing site the terms and conditions say that that is how grievances should be dealt with.
Attempts to circumvent arbitration by arguing that this commitment is hidden away from customers in hard to find terms have generally been unsuccessful. However, in one more recent dispute plaintiffs have tried to argue against arbitration by raising issues with Ticketmaster's chosen arbitrator.
The ticketing firm used to use a company called JAMS for arbitration, but then switched over to a newer player in the arbitration space called New Era ADR. Ticketmaster argues that New Era ADR are better set up to deal with complaints where there are lots of concurrent complainants, as is common in the ticketing market.
However, the aggrieved ticket-buyers argue that New Era ADR is more biased in favour of Ticketmaster than JAMS, and that therefore their complaints won't get a fair hearing.
With that in mind, the ticket-buyers have been seeking access to various documents from New Era ADR that provide more information about the specific arbitration processes it employs, and its connections with Ticketmaster.
For its part, New Era ADR has been trying to cut back a subpoena from the court that orders it to share such documents with the ticket-buyers. And said ticket-buyers formally objected to those moves in a court filing this week.
According to Law360, they said: "Defendants switched from JAMS, an established arbitration provider, to New Era, a two-year-old start-up that touts its ties to defendants and has little experience administering arbitrations. New Era now seeks to flaunt the court's order by producing only cherry-picked materials that it selected through a black-box search process".
In case you wondered, the actual complaint from the ticket-buyers here relates to those allegations that Live Nation and Ticketmaster - as dominant players in both tour promotions and ticketing - act in an anticompetitive way. But this lengthy detour around arbitration obligations and systems is proving quite the distraction from all that.
Warner's Julie Greenwald to head up new division connecting Atlantic and 300 Elektra labels
So, for fans of major label brand names, that means Greenwald's empire now includes Atlantic, ATCO, Big Beat, Canvasback, 300, Elektra, Fueled By Ramen, Roadrunner, Low Country Sound, DTA and Public Consumption. Imagine all those logos on a big screen - fun times!
She will also continue to jointly lead the Atlantic Records side of that new super division in partnership with Craig Kallman. The 300 Elektra Entertainment side is headed up by 300 co-founder Kevin Liles.
"I love nurturing the next generation", Greenwald confirms, "contributing to culture, and building vibrant communities for our artists. We have the most fantastic talent at Atlantic, 300, and Elektra, from superstars to baby bands, from expert execs to young people just starting out in the business. I want them all to feel that this is the best place to do bold, brave, creative work, and build real careers".
"I'm so proud to be in it with them, shoulder to shoulder, every day", she adds. "I'd like to thank Craig and Kevin for being my partners, Max and Steve for their leadership, and our allies across the industry who help us bring great music to the world".
The Steve of whom Greenwald speaks is, of course, Mr Cooper, the CEO of the entire Warner Music company (for now), while the Max that she mentions is good old Mr Lousada, who oversees all of the major's recorded music operations.
"Julie's a force of nature", says Lousada, "a fearless champion of original talent, a mentor to countless artists and executives, and the visionary behind game-changing moves, such as Atlantic's early embrace of streaming and the spin-off of the Elektra Music Group".
"She's made artist development an artform in its own right", he waffles on, "by combining passion and intelligence, gut sense and strategic thinking, the big picture and the smallest detail. This new role only hints at the full scope of her influence and impact across our industry, but it's still much deserved recognition of her dynamic leadership at our company".
Wall Street Journal says TikTok music service talks on going but strained
It's been known for a while that Bytedance wants to expand its music streaming service Resso - currently available in India, Indonesia and Brazil - into many more markets, and to more closely connect Resso and TikTok.
So, you know, when a track goes viral on TikTok and everyone starts streaming it, that streaming happens within the Bytedance ecosystem rather than everyone jumping over to Spotify or Apple Music, or worse still YouTube.
However, Bytedance is negotiating with the majors about the Resso expansion just as the music companies are starting to think they should be earning much more from their licensing deals with the main TikTok platform, given just how big TikTok has become and the key role music arguably plays in many of the videos uploaded to the service.
So while Bytedance likely sees the marketing power of TikTok as a way to get a better deal around the global growth of Resso, the labels and publishers see Bytedance's Resso ambitions as a way to get a better deal from TikTok. Which is presumably making for some fun deal negotiations. And that's before you even consider Sony Music's recent issues with Resso as it is currently operating.
Citing various sources, the WSJ reported yesterday that: "TikTok parent ByteDance Ltd has begun talks with music labels about expanding its music-streaming service globally to compete with industry leaders including Spotify Technology SA". However, "significant hurdles remain in the negotiations", and "talks have been strained at times over disagreements about how to value TikTok's promotional benefits for the labels".
Spotify doom-sayers reckon that a big move by TikTok into the subscription streaming space globally could pose a significant challenge for the current market leader in premium music streaming, with Yahoo Finance reporting yesterday that "Spotify stock erased gains on Wednesday after a new report from the Wall Street Journal revealed that TikTok parent company ByteDance has begun talks with music labels to expand its music streaming service".
Spotify's share price has been below the $100 mark for nearly a month now and continues to wobble, but there are various reasons for that. And while a big push into music streaming by TikTok would definitely be a challenge for the Spotify business, it's never assured that a digital platform that dominates in one kind of content consumption can achieve similar success in another kind.
I guess we'll see how Bytedance performs in the wider subscription streaming domain if and when these major label deal talks reach some sort of conclusion.
Stormzy announces new album
Like many a musician before him, to make the album the rapper retreated to the remote Osea Island in Essex, where he camped out with a variety of yet to be revealed musicians and producers and took in the 'Wicker Man' vibes.
"When you hear about music camps they always sound intense and sombre", he says. "People saying: 'We need to make an album', [or] 'We need to make some hit records'. But this felt beautifully free. We're all musicians but we weren't always doing music. Some days we played football or walked around taking pictures".
"The bi-product to that was very beautiful music", he goes on. "Because when you marry that ethos with world class musicians and the best producers, writers and artists in the world, and we're in one space, that's a recipe for something that no one can really imagine. You can't even calculate what that's going to come up with. And it came up with a big chunk of this album".
Everything is currently pointing to Stormzy having made a folk album. It's probably safe to say he hasn't. But if he has, that's fine. The last track is called 'Give It To The Water', which does sound quite folky.
Anyway, there's nothing for you to listen to at the moment, but I'm sure there will be in due course. 'This Is What I Mean' will be out on 25 Nov.
Mimi Webb announces debut album, tour dates
"Announcing my first ever album is such an important moment in my career that honestly, sometimes I wasn't even sure would happen", she says. "But after three years of hard work, I just can't wait to share this body of work with all of you who have helped me get to where I am today".
"The album is named 'Amelia', my full first name, as there are two sides of me that I want people to get to know", she goes on. "There's Amelia, the girl from the UK countryside who loves to be at home with her family, friends and dogs; and Mimi, the pop artist who loves to be up on stage traveling the world. It was important for me to capture this duality with songs written for both of those girls, and I'm excited for you all to get to know them!"
The album is set for release on 3 Mar. UK and Ireland shows will follow in April, with tickets for those going on sale on 20 Oct.
Here are the dates:
1 Apr: Norwich, UEA
Sony Music Publishing has announced a new worldwide deal with the estate of Muddy Waters to administer the full catalogue of the late blues musician. "Muddy Waters was without a doubt one of the most impactful songwriters in modern music", says SMP CEO Jon Platt. "His vibrant, expressive sound is embodied in music today and continues to inspire generations. We look forward to working with the Muddy Waters estate to build upon its enduring songwriting legacy".
See Tickets Group has promoted Boris Patronoff to COO. He will remain CEO of the company's North American business. Meanwhile, Marijke Van den Bosch has been upped to CEO of Benelux and Germany, and Adriana García-Abril Ruiz becomes MD of Iberia. The company also has a new hire, in the form of Laurent de Cerner, as CEO for France.
Warner Chappell Music Nordics has promoted Petter Walther Walthinsen to Head Of A&R. "I couldn't be prouder to take on this wider role as Head Of A&R for the Nordics", he says. "Our region has such a rich and diverse pool of amazing songwriters who can make a real impact on the global stage, and I hope in this new position I can help propel the next stars to international success".
Una Healy has released new single 'This Is Your Life'. "I originally started writing 'This Is Your Life' nearly 25 years ago when I was a teenager, when I was just beginning my career as a singer-songwriter", she says. "I went back to it many times over the years, but was never able to finish it until recently. I realise now that I never had the life experience or perspective to get to the heart of the song until now".
Avawaves have released 'Surf High', taken from their soundtrack to upcoming documentary 'Savage Waters'. The full album is out on 11 Nov.
Rozi Plain has released new single 'Prove Your Good', taken from her fifth album 'Prize', which is out on 13 Jan. "'Prove Your Good' is thinking about the often silent fight within us", she says. "Trying to come good, trying to not be bad. Feeling judged and judging ourselves. The small re-writing we can do of bits of our own history. The painful shift of changing favourites. Rearranging the leader board. Knowing things must be simpler but going after the tricky stuff anyway". She and her band will also be touring the UK from January through to March.
Joan have released their first single of 2022, 'Don't Wanna Be Your Friend'.
Maja Lena has released new single 'Clear As The Water'. "I was feeling very inspired by mountain-scapes when I wrote it, and the feelings of clarity and fresh perspective I often have when immersed in nature, especially in a vast and dramatic landscape where you can feel very small and insignificant yet very free", she says. "I wanted the music to have a feeling of euphoria to mirror this and also be fun and uplifting". Her new album, 'Pluto', is out on 2 Dec.
Mellow Rackz has released new single 'Rich Bitch Party'.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Mercury Prize announces details of rescheduled ceremony
Eleven of this year's nominated artists - Fergus McCreadie, Gwenno, Jessie Buckley & Bernard Butler, Joy Crookes, Kojey Radical, Little Simz, Nova Twins, Sam Fender, Self Esteem, Wet Leg and Yard Act - will perform live.
Harry Styles will be the only absence, because he just can't be bothered. Also, he's on tour in the US. I suppose thats a fairly good excuse. A video of him doing a turn will be played instead. Though, if you're thinking that we're missing out on a Harry Styles live set because of the postponement, he wasn't available for the original date either.
So, actually, the line-up for the rescheduled show - with the other eleven shortlisted acts all playing - is the exact same line-up from the event that was cancelled last month.
Also the same: Lauren Laverne remains on board as host; it all still takes place at the Hammersmith Apollo in London; and the whole thing will still be broadcast by BBC Four and BBC Radio 6 Music, with additional programming in the lead up to the big show. It's basically like nothing ever happened and the Mercury Prize 2022 just time travelled a few weeks.
So, everything's sorted and it's looking good for this all to go ahead as planned on 18 Oct. Just as long as no more monarchs die. Or the venue goes out of business because it can't pay its energy bill. Or the government collapses and the entire country descends into anarchy. Oh, or that pending nuclear apocalypse happens. But let's all keep it pencilled in anyway, for now.