|TUESDAY 18 OCTOBER 2022||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: A stack of artists have sued Trax Records, the Chicago-based label that played an important role in the development of house music in the 1980s. The plaintiffs claim that the label hasn't paid them the royalties they are due and - in some cases - released their music without ever paying them anything at all... [READ MORE]|
More artists sue Trax Records over allegedly unpaid royalties
The new litigation follows the previous lawsuit pursed against Trax by Larry Heard and Robert Owens - prominent players from the 1980s Chicago house scene and two thirds of Fingers Inc. With support from their current music publisher TaP Music, they sued Trax in June 2020 over unpaid royalties and other contractual disputes, with their lawsuit declaring that "this case involves an all-too familiar story of the early days of the music industry".
"Talented, but unrepresented, musicians hungry for their first break", it added, "were lulled into a business relationship with an unscrupulous record company that made promises it never intended to keep and masqueraded as paternalistic benefactors for those artists - like a wolf in sheep's clothing".
The label's founder, Larry Sherman, had died shortly before that lawsuit was filed in April 2020. When reporting on his death, the Chicago Sun-Times noted that while Sherman and his label were "instrumental in developing house music", he also "left a complex legacy within Chicago's house music community". Over the years multiple artists signed to the label had complained about their treatment and unpaid royalties.
Rachael Cain - who, after signing to the label as an artist, was involved in various business ventures with Sherman, later becoming President of Trax - acknowledged some of those controversies at the time of his death, telling the Sun-Times "he's a controversial figure". But she insisted that in more recent years Sherman had been trying to sort out the payment of past royalties, partly via litigation with a former distribution partner.
Nevertheless, Trax initially tried to get much of the lawsuit filed by Heard and Owens dismissed. But ultimately a settlement was reached, which was confirmed by TaP Music back in August. Among other things, the settlement deal confirmed that the duo own all the rights in the music they released with the label.
TaP Music said: "This is a huge victory not only for Heard and Owens but, symbolically, for the artistic community. At a time when the 'whitewashing' of dance music and its culture is under the spotlight, this return of foundational creative works to the black creators who rightly own them is a reminder of historical injustices at the heart of this culture, but also a shining example of how some at least of those wrongs can be righted".
According to Rolling Stone, among the artists involved in the new lawsuit are Marshall Jefferson, Adonis, Maurice Joshua and even the label's co-founder Vince Lawrence. The litigation targets Trax itself, as well as Sherman's estate and the current owners of the label, which includes Cain.
A legal rep for the plaintiffs, Sean Mulroney, says that the early years of Trax was a period of "forged signatures, bounced cheques and sketchy (or nonexistent) accounting".
He tells Rolling Stone: "Larry Sherman said he was going to pay [the artists] and never did. Are you going to spend 50, 60 grand to chase it down, knowing there's no moving forward? What are they worth? You have to go, 'Is it worth it? I'll just keep writing'. And for some of these guys, it was, 'I'll never write another song again'".
Although a lot of the criticism of Trax is really criticism of the late Sherman, there is criticism of Cain too regarding her conduct in more recent years.
Several critics of Trax told Rolling Stone that they have been threatened with defamation lawsuits by Cain if they discuss their grievances with the label in public. And Mulroney himself says he received a cease and desist demand earlier this month.
When approached by Rolling Stone, Cain said that she has been working hard to breathe life back into the Trax catalogue following those past issues with the former distribution partner, with the aim of getting "artists paid the royalties they are due".
As for the new lawsuit, she added: "I have not even seen it so I cannot respond in defence yet, but I will on the legal record".
Night Time Industries Association criticises high court ruling on business interruption insurance
The high court yesterday ruled on three COVID-related disputes involving a number of insurers. Those disputes dealt with various grievances regarding the claims pubs, restaurants and other companies have made on their business interruption insurance policies.
The specific ruling criticised by the NTIA relates to the question as to whether an insurer can deduct from any pay out monies a policyholder received from the government during the pandemic, in particular via the furlough scheme. The high court ruled that those sums can be deducted.
Clubs, venues, bars and other hospitality businesses were hit particularly hard by the COVID lockdowns of course. And NTIA boss Michael Kill says yesterday's ruling "sets a dangerous precedent, which will resonate in frustration and anger across the hospitality and night time economy sectors".
"Many will be aggrieved to see insurers, who have placed so many in financial ruin over the business interruption challenge, wrongly being allowed to consider deducting the state support that a paid policyholder has received when deciding what to pay the businesses", he adds.
"Confidence is at an all time low between the sectors", he concludes, "and we feel strongly, alongside the industry, that this decision is unjust, [and] raises questions on whether these deductions should be returned to the state".
Yesterday's rulings are set to be subject to appeal.
Virgin Music UK launches new electronic music distribution service Parachute
"The growth of dance music over the past year has been undeniable, and at Virgin Music UK we're proud to launch a new choice for artists and producers alike", says Virgin Music UK MD Vanessa Bosaen.
The new unit is aiming to put out one release per month and has actually already put out one track pre-launch - Melle Brown's 'Feel About You' - with a Sean McCabe remix now set for release on 4 Nov. Parachute's first official single, 'Don't Walk Away' by Essel, will be out on 21 Oct.
"Having an independent spirit is fundamental to me at this stage in my career as an artist, allowing me to release music with an open mind and experiment whilst developing my sound", says Brown. "Working with a label services team like Virgin Music UK has given me support in the right places, but more importantly, the freedom I need at this stage in my career".
Essel adds (briefly): "I am super excited for this one to land on Parachute".
Kanye West buys Parler after his social media accounts were locked
As you may have noticed, West has been spouting ever increasing amounts of nonsense of late. Some of it is offensive, some of it is outrageous, and most of it is wrong. In fact, so prolific has West's nonsense spouting been in recent weeks, we've stopped paying attention to him entirely.
However, the machines at the big social media platforms that monitor for content that is offensive, abusive and/or misleading have carried on paying attention, resulting in the rapper's Twitter and Instagram accounts being locked. Meanwhile, the full and somewhat controversial interview he did with the Drink Champs podcast was removed from YouTube.
Which is why West is suddenly a big fan of Parler, the social media service that usually allows through the kinds of racist and anti-semitic statements - and misinformation and conspiracy theories - that tend to get filtered or blocked on the mainstream platforms.
Originally founded in 2018, Parler saw a big spike in popularity in 2020, especially among Trump supporters in the US who were angry about the filtering happening on Twitter and Facebook. Though - like other companies that have set up social media services with minimal filtering - Parler's avid userbase is much more niche when compared to the social media giants.
Critics also reckon that, on the quiet, Parler does quite a lot of content filtering. Partly to understandably stop the distribution of outright unlawful content. But, some critics allege, also to prioritise the kind of right-wing opinions that are popular with its core userbase, so that - in the words of one Wired article - it "prioritises conservative speech rather than free speech".
Either way, Parler is owned by a US-based company called Parlement Technologies which yesterday said that it had entered into "an agreement in principle" to sell the "world's pioneering uncancellable free speech platform" to Ye, which is, of course, how we are meant to refer to West these days.
"Ye has become the richest black man in history through music and apparel", the Parlement Technologies statement continued, "and is taking a bold stance against his recent censorship from big tech, using his far-reaching talents to further lead the fight to create a truly non-cancelable environment".
The firm's CEO George Farmer added: "This deal will change the world, and change the way the world thinks about free speech. Ye is making a groundbreaking move into the free speech media space and will never have to fear being removed from social media again. Once again, Ye proves that he is one step ahead of the legacy media narrative. Parlement will be honoured to help him achieve his goals".
Meanwhile, West himself stated: "In a world where conservative opinions are considered to be controversial we have to make sure we have the right to freely express ourselves".
In terms of deal specifics, the statement concluded: "Under the terms of their agreement in principle, the parties intend to enter into a definitive purchase agreement and expect to close during the fourth quarter of 2022. The terms of the proposed transaction would include ongoing technical support from Parlement and the use of private cloud services via Parlement's private cloud and data centre infrastructure".
Given that many of West's business partnerships end acrimoniously, it will be interesting to see how important providing a platform for free speech really is if and when both sides start using that platform to diss each other in public.
AJ Tracey launches fund to support black students at St Peter's College Oxford
"We are delighted that AJ Tracey has become a close friend of St Peter's College", says Judith Buchanan, Head of the college. "We welcome the useful questions he asks about black experience in Oxford and his attentive interest in the wellbeing of our students. He has already provided inspirational encouragement to black students within the college, and to us all".
"With his generous support we look forward to seeing current and future talented black students flourish in their time here and move out into the world as the confident, bold, thoughtful and creative leaders of the future across fields. AJ Tracey's own personal commitment to seeing our students thrive in their time at Oxford sits at the heart of the generous support he is providing".
Through the AJ Tracey Fund, the rapper will provide £40,000 per year for the next three years to fund work, including addressing issues of access and under-representation, expanding opportunities for black mentorship, and supporting the student experience of those from low-income backgrounds.
In 2018, Stormzy launched the Stormzy Scholarship to support black students studying at Cambridge University.
Frank Carter and Jamie T team up for new single The Drugs
"'The Drugs' was written after a few long conversations with some beautiful friends of mine who had been struggling with addiction", says Carter. "Getting clean and staying clean is a long and difficult road but the lessons I learned in 2007 still ring true today. Life is a difficult journey, it's easier with good friends around".
"Jamie has been my friend since we bumped into each other backstage at a gig in Austin, Texas in 2007", he goes on. "[My former band] Gallows had just finished playing a set, I had been punched in the face and he walked in and I just smiled a bloody smile and we've been friends ever since".
"Two sides of the same coin, Frank and I", Jamie T adds.
Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes will be heading out on a European tour in November and December. Watch the video for 'The Drugs' here.
HarbourView Equity Partners has acquired the songs catalogue of Incubus. The deal also includes the solo work of guitarist Mike Einziger.
Coheed And Cambria have signed a new publishing administration deal with Round Hill Music. "We are pleased to welcome [frontman] Claudio [Sanchez] and the band to the Round Hill family", says the company's Head Of Creative Services John Baldi. "Our team is excited to explore creative outlets and opportunities for their music and provide support wherever we can on their current release, 'Vaxis Act II'".
Audio recognition company Audoo has hired Matthew Fackrell and Eric Nguyen as SVP and General Manager for Asia Pacific and North America respectively. They both join from previous collecting society roles, Fackrell from APRA AMCOS in Australia, and Nguyen from SOCAN in Canada. "At Audoo, the mission of revolutionising the public performance royalties space continues", says CEO Ryan Edwards. "With Matthew and Eric's expertise and regional connections, we are in the best place to execute our commitment to delivering the most accurate data for public performance around the world. We look forward to welcoming more international partners, licensees and creators to join us on this industry-changing journey".
A new scripted TV series about Amy Winehouse - based on the book 'Saving Amy' by Daphne Barak - is in the works. "Although her career was cut far too short, Amy was the voice of a generation and we look forward to telling her story in the most poignant way possible", says David Ellender of production company Halcyon Studio.
Liam Gallagher will screen a new documentary about his solo return to Knebworth this summer on 17 Nov. "I'm still in shock that I got to play Knebworth [over] two nights, 26 years after I played it with Oasis", he says. "I'm still trying to get my head around it. To have played to multiple generations at the same venue so many years apart was beyond biblical". Tickets and info here.
Sam Smith has announced that they will release their fourth album, 'Gloria', on 27 Jan. Smith recently released new single 'Unholy', featuring Kim Petras, and will play two shows at the Royal Albert Hall this weekend.
Caroline Polachek has released new single 'Sunset', produced by Sega Bodega. "Resolution is so rare in life, but music is unnaturally full of it", she says. "A sunset is the biggest pop cliche ever, because it's a perfect resolution. I wanted an operatic chorus with no lyrics, but salted with some very real disillusionment: past all the distraction, dead ends, and false promises of the world is the love we too often take for granted. That's my sunset".
HighSchool have released new single 'Only A Dream' through Speedy Wunderground. You can catch the band live at the Shacklewell Arms in London on 10 Nov.
GIGS & TOURS
Jack Savoretti has been announced as the first artist for Forest Live 2023, playing in four forests around England in June as part of Forestry England's annual programme of live shows. "I love performing at these wonderful woodland locations, they are like no other live arenas", says the musician. "I look forward to sharing all the new music we have been releasing with you in these incredible settings". Tickets go on sale on Friday.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Yungblud is selling necklaces made out of his used chewing gum
Yeah, you read that right. Each necklace has a piece of chewed up gum encased in plastic hanging off it. Lovely. Just lovely. Designed by luxury jewellery artist Greg Yunah, they've got some diamonds on them too, are engraved with the 5 Gum logo, and come with a certificate of authenticity. So lovely.
Each piece of gum was chewed before a different performance on the musician's aforementioned US record store tour before being turned into a necklace. So if you were at one of those shows, you can get yourself a little memento of that night.
"I love these jewellery pieces that Greg Yuna created", says Yungblud. "His work is next level and the fact that some of my fans will have the chance to own a little piece of history is amazing".
"I loved this tour with 5 Gum", he goes on, "and I couldn't think of a better way to have celebrated the release of my [latest] album ['Yungblud'] than by hitting as many cities in the US as I could and seeing as many of my fans as possible. Playing these new songs for the first time in these beautiful record stores was an experience I'll never forget".
Yuna adds: "Creating slightly shocking luxury jewellery pieces out of an everyday item such as gum is something that has never been done before in the industry, so I loved stepping into the unknown and challenging myself to create pieces that were equally as exhilarating as Yungblud and 5 Gum".
"Experiences that heighten your sense is the new luxury", he reckons, "and I'm incredibly proud of both this partnership with 5 Gum and the final jewellery pieces. As fans will see, they truly embody self-expression, passion and boldness, which is what I'm all about".
All fifteen necklaces are up for sale on eBay now. Fifteen little balls of chewing gum to hang around your neck. Urgh. Just remember, it's all for charity.