|THURSDAY 19 JANUARY 2023||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Megan Thee Stallion is trying to stop her label from deposing Roc Nation CEO Desiree Perez as part of an ongoing legal battle. 1501 Certified Entertainment wants to question Perez under oath in her guise as the rapper's manager... [READ MORE]|
Megan Thee Stallion tries to block deposition of Roc Nation boss in ongoing label dispute
The current legal dispute between 1501 and Megan Thee Stallion - real name Megan Pete - relates to whether or not she has fulfilled her obligations to the label in terms of releases.
Under her record deal she is obliged to deliver three albums to 1501. Pete reckons she has done that, but 1501 argues that the second album she delivered - 2021's 'Something For Thee Hotties - didn't qualify as a proper album as defined in her record contract, because it was basically a compilation of archive recordings and previously released freestyles.
As that dispute goes through the motions, 1501 has requested a deposition with Perez, so they can ask her questions under oath. But in a new legal filing, Pete's lawyers argue that there aren't sufficient legal grounds to force the boss of their client's management firm to subject herself to any such questioning.
There are some principles in US law that make it harder to demand depositions with senior executives at big companies when those senior executives are actually somewhat removed from the specifics of a dispute, even though their company is involved. These principles aim to stop people seeking such depositions mainly to embarrass and inconvenience prominent executives, usually in a bid to pressure the other side into a settlement.
Therefore, to depose Perez, 1501 needs to show she has unique first-hard knowledge relevant to the case and that other less intrusive forms of discovery are not available. Pete's legal filing this week reckons the label has not met this burden.
"1501's characterisation of the evidence it cites confirms that it cannot satisfy the standard to take Perez's deposition", the legal filing states. "According to 1501, Perez has the requisite knowledge to justify [the deposition] because she signed interrogatory responses, communicated with Pete's counsel during settlement negotiations and the accounting reconciliation, and was involved with the release of 'Something For Thee Hotties'".
"Even if true", the filing goes on, "1501's allegations suggest Ms Perez has, at most, some knowledge of the relevant facts". And that's not "unique or superior knowledge". Nor has 1501 demonstrated "an inability to proceed through less intrusive alternatives". With all that in mind, "the court should grant Pete's motion for protective relief and quash 1501's notice of deposition".
The legal filing also responds to 1501's claim that Pete herself isn't in a position to object to its attempts to depose Perez. "1501 argues that Pete lacks standing to object to 1501's repeated efforts to harass her manager", it notes before adding: "Not so".
"1501's discovery tactics affect Pete because they impede Perez's ability to represent Pete and implicate Pete's right to prevent her representative from disclosing potentially privileged information", it continues.
"Perez is extremely busy working for Pete and other Roc Nation artists. Preparing and sitting for a deposition would cut into the time Perez can spend advancing Pete's interests. Thus, contrary to 1501's assertion, the discovery requests on Perez necessarily affect Pete".
So there you go. We await to see how 1501 and the judge overseeing the case respond.
FUGA announces Marathon partnership
Says Marathon CEO Paul Rene Albertini: "Marathon Music Group is entering a new stage of its journey and we could not be more excited to do this in partnership with FUGA. Marathon shares with FUGA - and its parent company Downtown Music Holdings - intrinsic traits including an appetite for enabling technologies and artistic independence. We look forward to this collaborative partnership".
Meanwhile, FUGA's General Manager UK, Liz Northeast, adds: "We are THRILLED to welcome Marathon Artists to the FUGA fold. Marathon's dedication to championing diverse, independent artists - alongside their passion for supporting emerging talent in the music technology space under their LABs initiative - makes them an ideal and like-minded partner for FUGA. We are humbled to be bringing such great talent and partners to FUGA and providing them with our best in-class services".
New study says up to 3% of streams in France last year were manipulated
Stream manipulation has been a talking point in the music industry for some time now, though - some would argue - not a big enough talking point.
It's basically where people employ sneaky tactics to artificially boost the number of streams of any one track. Often by setting up a load of accounts on a streaming platform and having computers play certain playlists 24/7. Or sometimes actually hacking other people's accounts and having those accounts listen to specific music when the actual account holder isn't online.
Some of this manipulation happens within the music community, with artists, labels or managers hiring the services of agents that can game the system and boost the stream count.
Some of the people hiring those agents know exactly what they're doing, though within the massive community of DIY artists and hobbyist musicians at least some people are likely buying those services - which are pushed heavily at them through search and social feeds - under the impression that that's just how you're meant to market music.
Then, of course, there are the outright scammers. Those are the people who make and upload generic music, sign up to a load of premium accounts and set their computers streaming that music.
Whereas those in the music community boosting streaming numbers may be doing so as much for marketing reasons as financial reasons - so that their music looks more popular than it really is - with the outright scammers it's all about gaming the system so that you pull more money out of the royalty pool each month than you put in buying the subscriptions.
There have been various efforts by the streaming services and the music industry to stop the manipulation - by cancelling the accounts and removing the music of the people doing the manipulating, and also seeking to shut down the websites overtly selling stream manipulation services.
And in 2019, various labels, publishers and services signed up to a code of conduct, formally condemning stream manipulation and setting out what they were respectively doing about it. Though plenty of people reckon much more could and should be done.
Last week's memo from Universal Music boss Lucian Grainge - in which he talked about the need to stop people 'gaming the system' when it comes to how streaming monies are shared out each month - prompted new conversations about stream manipulation and the scammers. Even though that's not necessarily the gaming of the system that Grainge was really talking about.
And the new study from the National Music Center could also ensure that the conversation about stream manipulation is a little more prolific this year. That study was based on data provided by Spotify, Deezer and Qobuz, and input from labels and distributors.
In his summary of the study, the Center's President Jean-Philippe Thiellay notes that it's no secret within the music industry that 'false' plays on the streaming services regularly occur, and that the tactics employed by those creating the false plays evolve as the platforms spot and stop the manipulation.
In terms of the scale of the problem, Thiellay writes: "In France, in 2021, between one and three billion streams, at least, are false, ie between 1% and 3% of total listening". But, he stresses, those figures are based on "the fraudulent streams detected by the platforms and eliminated from the sharing of revenue. It is certain that the reality of false streams exceeds what is detected".
Thiellay says that the industry - both platforms and rightsholders - are increasing their efforts to spot and stop manipulation. But, at the same time, it seems likely that the amount of manipulation going on is also increasing.
Thiellay has some proposals for how those attempts to stop stream manipulation and false plays could be more successful. In particular the development of a new charter that would presumably go considerably further than the 2019 code of conduct.
If nothing else, that charter could set up a system via which music distributors could more effectively share information about scammers they've spotted using their services, to stop those scammers from simply jumping from distributor to distributor each time they get caught.
Meanwhile, within the DIY distribution space, there is probably more education to be done to stop grassroots artists from signing up to the stream manipulation services that pop up in their social feeds promising a good old streaming boost.
We shall see. You can read Thiellay's summary of the new study here.
BBC provides update on local radio cutbacks
The revamp was unveiled last year. It is partly about saving money - with the BBC needing to cut its overall costs after the UK government froze the licence fee that generates most of its income - although it's also partly about diverting resources from local radio stations to local news content online.
A number of adjustments have now been made to the revamp plans based on feedback from staff and audiences. In particular, when weekday afternoon programmes on the Beeb's 39 local stations in England switch to regional shows, there will now be 20 of those regional shows rather than the eighteen that were originally planned. During daytime at the weekend there will be eighteen instead of the originally planned twelve.
Yesterday's update also announced "future plans for dedicated programming on BBC local radio for black and Asian audiences". Existing programmes aimed at black and Asian communities will "become more accessible" by moving from the current Sunday evening slot to Monday and Friday evenings, plus "the number of stations featuring community programming will increase from 20 to 33".
As for BBC Introducing, as noted concerns are increasing in the music community about the future of the 32 local BBC Introducing shows that currently air on the local stations, each of which is focused on a different local music scene.
The people behind those shows are key supporters of each local music community, and also spot new talent emerging in their local area, championing those new artists within the BBC more generally.
It's feared that if a smaller number of regional BBC Introducing shows replace the current local shows, those local connections will be lost, especially outside the bigger cities where the kind of support BBC Introducing provides is most essential.
A plethora of music industry organisations this week wrote an open letter to the BBC board urging them to ensure that the cuts at local radio do not negatively impact on BBC Introducing. Meanwhile Tom Robinson, who hosts one of the national BBC Introducing shows, has urged artists and music fans to formally express their appreciation of their local BBC Introducing programmes.
BBC Introducing was mentioned in yesterday's update, although there is no word yet on what the number of shows and size of the team making them will be following the changes.
The update said that BBC Introducing and BBC Upload - a scheme that allows people to share creative output other than music - would still have programmes on the local stations "broadcast as part of our schedule on Thursday and Saturday evenings".
Though it was definitely implied that BBC Introducing output will be less prolific following the changes, with the update seeking to reassure everyone that "we'll be giving more prominence to new music artists on BBC Sounds and across our local radio schedule".
Commenting on the update, Jason Horton, Director Of Production for BBC Local, said: "Our goal over the next twelve months is to modernise our BBC local services in England to strengthen our online provision for communities across the country".
"We have listened carefully to the feedback we have received about proposed changes to BBC local radio programming. As a result, we are making a number of amendments to the original plan in order to strike the best possible balance between live and on-demand services".
Full line-ups and schedule information for the revamped and streamlined local BBC radio stations will be announced later this year.
Richie Hawtin teams up with University Of Huddersfield for electronic music PhD scholarship
Applications for the new scholarship are open now. The successful candidate will get a full waiver of tuition fees as well as automatic consideration for other scholarships that provide additional funding. They will also have access to Hawtin himself, who will offer tutorial support.
"There is huge scope for research within this PhD", says Professor Rupert Till, Head Of Department for Music And Design Arts at the university, who also makes music under his Professor Chill moniker. "It could be anything within music such as electronic music, dance music, club music, DJ culture, or even around composition or analysis".
"Richie has set up his own labels; technology companies; an investment fund; a sake brand; has run a residency in Ibiza; and written many genre-defining albums", Till notes. "This is a wonderful opportunity to tap into his knowledge and experience".
Hawtin himself adds: "I'm honoured to continue my relationship with the University Of Huddersfield and participate in their PhD scholarship programme. My hope is to offer my experience and insight into the many areas of techno culture which I've been involved in over the past thirty years; to assist in a student's exploration of the past and inner workings of our industry; and help them offer new critical analysis from a contemporary perspective".
Arlo Parks announces second album My Soft Machine
"'Weightless' surrounds the painful experience of caring deeply about someone who only gives you tiny breadcrumbs of affection", she says. "It's about suddenly realising that a person has dulled your edges and embarking on the slow journey back to being a brighter version of yourself".
"The world [and] our view of it is peppered by the biggest things we experience - our traumas, upbringing, vulnerabilities - almost like visual snow", she goes on, turning to the themes of the album more widely.
"This record is life through my lens, through my body - the mid 20s anxiety, the substance abuse of friends around me, the viscera of being in love for the first time, navigating PTSD and grief and self sabotage and joy, moving through worlds with wonder and sensitivity - what it's like to be trapped in this particular body".
"There is a quote from a Joanna Hogg film called 'The Souvenir'", she adds, explaining the new album's title. "It's a semi-autobiographical film with Tilda Swinton - it recounts a young film student falling in love with an older, charismatic man [and] then being drawn into his addiction".
"In an early scene he's explaining why people watch films: 'We don't want to see life as it is played out, we want to see life as it is experienced in this soft machine'. So there we have it, the record is called... 'My Soft Machine'".
The album is set for release on 26 May, and Parks has announced that she will play Dublin's 3Olympia Theatre on 5 Sep and the Hammersmith Apollo in London on 28 Sep. Watch the video for 'Weightless' here.
Avex USA - the US brand of Japanese major label Avex - has partnered with TikTok-based music curator Ari Elkins to form new joint venture label Blue Suede Records. "I'm so excited to take my love for finding new artists and sharing them with the world to the next level with Avex and the launch of Blue Suede", says Elkins. "What we are building is a unique opportunity for emerging artists to get best-in-class traditional label services but also truly tangible and contemporary marketing power".
Spotify has announced a new deal with Middle East-based record label Rotana Music to bring 10,000 Arabic songs to the streaming service's catalogue. It follows last week's deal between TikTok and Rotana. "I am incredibly proud to announce our partnership with Rotana which will allow us to expand our Arabic music library tremendously", says Mark Abou Jaoude, Spotify's Head Of Music for MENA & South Asia.
The US Senate Judiciary Committee has confirmed that it will will hold a hearing to examine Ticketmaster's handling of the Taylor Swift ticket presale last year, as well as the ticketing industry more widely, on 24 Jan. Plans to have such a hearing were announced in November.
EDUCATION & EVENTS
The UK's Association Of Independent Festivals has published the full programme for its Festival Congress conference which will take place at the Bristol Beacon on 1 Feb. The Congress is, says new AIF CEO John Rostron, "one of my favourite days of the year, a brilliant moment where so many people involved in presenting and running festivals - or keen to start up their own festival - get together for one long day of learning, listening, sharing and networking. I'm looking forward to a really productive time back in Bristol".
The UK's Association Of Independent Music has announced the line-up for this year's AIM Sync conference. Speakers include Leland Music's Toby Williams, Amazon Music's Mitch Page and Beggars Group's Emma Lomas. "Sync continues to be an important source of income as well as an effective tool for artists to reach new audiences, so we designed AIM Sync to help professionals understand, participate in and capitalise on the sync and brand partnership opportunities available today", says AIM COO Gee Davy.
Skrillex has released another new single, this one called 'Leave Me Like This', a collaboration with Bobby Raps.
Fall Out Boy have released new single 'Love From The Other Side'. The band will release new album 'So Much (For) Stardust' on 24 Mar, their first LP for the Fueled By Ramen label for 20 years. "Our band has been an ongoing art project for 20 years and we know there have been many inception points along that journey", says the band's Pete Wentz. "We wanted to create an album that merged those points together - something new, but carved from our foundation. Fueled By Ramen and Elektra seemed like the perfect home for this".
Kelela has released new single 'Contact', ahead of her new album 'Raven', which is out on 10 Feb. "'Contact' has a little bit of something for every part of the night", she says. "It's a soundtrack for 'pre-gaming', a song to play as you're getting ready or on your way to the club. It's also the interior club experience: the heat that envelops you when you walk into a packed rave. All this culminates in a very naughty, psychedelic moment in the back of the club with a lover".
Art School Girlfriend is back with new single 'A Place To Lie'.
Benoît Pioulard has released new single 'Halve'. His new album 'Eidetic' is set for release on 3 Mar.
Anna B Savage has released a new single, wooooooo! It's called 'Crown Shyness'. "I whittled away at this song for a long time, over two years", she says. "It's about feeling two conflicting things at the same time: a pull towards and a push away from. For me this song doesn't feel explicitly sad, though. To me it feels like an acknowledgement of tenderness, and connection, but also the ways in which it can't happen". Her new album, 'In|Flux', is out on 7 Feb.
Braids have released new single 'Evolution', and announced that they will release new album 'Euphoric Recall' on 28 Apr. "Evolution in and of itself is a patient act", says frontman Raphaelle Standell-Preston. "Our pursuit of the individual self, which comprises all realms of human emotion, is sweetened with the intention and act of patience from ourselves, from those that we love and those who love us".
The Raincoats' Gina Birch has released new solo single 'I Play My Bass Loud' - the title track of her debut solo album, which is out on 24 Feb. She is set to tour the UK in March, including a show at Oslo in London on 22 Mar.
MF Tomlinson has released 'We Are Still Wild Horses (Part 2)' - the second half of the 21 minute title track to his upcoming new album, which is out on 17 Feb. "Finishing this song was the hardest thing I've ever done as an artist", he says. "And yet, it was impossible to resist. It didn't feel like I had a choice - it just had to exist. It draws upon themes of awakening, remembering, escape, release, and transcendence. The verse is murmured reflections, memories flashing before the eyes. The story of the horses is a dream - I can't visualise it".
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Flo Rida says he has "unconditional love" for drink brand after winning $82.6 million legal battle
Though, despite the legal battle, the rapper says he has "unconditional love" for the Celsius brand and would happily work with the company again in the future. Whether that sentiment is shared on the other side of the table - what, with the $82.6 million cheque they've now got to write - is another matter entirely.
The dispute centred on whether certain sales targets had been met during Flo Rida's partnership with Celsius. Because, in addition to some upfront payments and shares in the company, the rapper's deal with the energy drink maker said he would receive additional shares if certain targets were met.
He argued that those sales targets had been achieved and therefore the extra shares should have been handed over. He went legal in 2021 as the company's share price was shooting up, making the value of that equity considerably higher, hence the big pay out in this week's judgement.
For its part, Celsius disputed whether the targets that granted Flo Rida extra shares had really been met, while also insisting that the company's recent successes were not a direct result of its partnership with the rapper, which ran from 2014 to 2018.
However, the court concurred with Flo Rida's interpretation of his agreements with Celsius and concluded that the targets had been met, and therefore he was due the additional and now rather lucrative stock, or at least a pay out equal to the value of that stock.
Summarising the dispute, the rapper's legal rep, John Uustal, told the Associated Press that his client "loved the product" and enjoyed "a very successful four year relationship" with the energy drink business.
"There were some benchmarks", he added. "He was supposed to get stock when certain things happened. And there became a dispute about whether those benchmarks had been reached. So that's what this was about".
Uustal also confirmed that his client's love of the product has not gone away, despite the litigation, adding that - because of all the love - the rapper would accept additional stock in the Celsius company in lieu of the financial damages he was awarded in court.
The rapper himself also confirmed that the love remains, noting that he still has the upfront shares he received in the Celsius business and adding that he'd like to work with them again in the future. He told the AP: "I'm still a owner in the company - and when you basically planted the seed for something that is successful, you can't help but have unconditional love".