|MONDAY 23 JANUARY 2023||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: A US judge last week ruled that Megan Thee Stallion’s manager - Roc Nation CEO Desiree Perez - must sit for a deposition as part of the rapper's ongoing legal dispute with her label 1501 Certified Entertainment. Megan Thee Stallion’s lawyers had argued that there were insufficient grounds for forcing Perez to answer questions from 1501's legal team under oath... [READ MORE]|
Judge says Roc Nation CEO must sit for deposition in Megan Thee Stallion label dispute
The current legal dispute between 1501 and the rapper - real name Megan Pete - centres on whether or not her 2021 release 'Something For Thee Hotties' should count as one of the three albums she is obliged to deliver to the label under her record deal.
1501 argues that that release, as a compilation of archive tracks and previously released freestyles, does not count, meaning that the rapper still needs to provide it with one more record to put out. Pete counters that 'Something For Thee Hotties' does constitute an album under the terms of her record contract and therefore she has fulfilled her obligations to the label. Both sides also accuse the other of owing them money.
As part of the legal battle, 1501 requested a deposition with Perez in her guise as Pete's manager, so that they could ask her questions under oath. Pete's team objected to that request, citing rules in US law that are designed to stop people from deposing high profile executives mainly to inconvenience and/or embarrass said executives, so to pressure the other side in a dispute to settle.
Under those rules, people seeking to depose a high profile exec must demonstrate that that exec has specific knowledge that is important to a case, and that there aren't less intrusive ways to access that information, for example by deposing someone more junior. Pete's lawyers argued that 1501 hadn't met those requirements.
They also said that forcing Perez to sit for a deposition would negatively impact the rapper too, stating: "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".
For its part, 1501 insisted that Perez was a key witness in this case, with "direct, personal and substantial" involvement in the record contracts under dispute, and in past conversations between artist and label on the status of 'Something For Thee Hotties'.
According to Billboard, last week the judge overseeing the case, Robert Schaffer, sided with the label, declining to issue an order stating that 1501 could not depose the Roc Nation chief. He didn't provide any detail on the rationale behind that decision.
It's not clear when that deposition will now take place, with neither side as yet commenting on last week's decision.
BMG sues over pooping unicorn rework of Black Eyed Peas hit My Humps
The Poopsie Slime Surprise product line was first launched in 2018 and - a lawsuit filed by BMG last week explains - "included a number of different toys, including, but not limited to, a dancing unicorn doll and a unicorn doll that excretes sparkling slime".
As for musical element to the dancing pooping toy unicorns, MGA "created a song called 'My Poops' that clearly copies from, and is substantially similar to, 'My Humps'" and also made an animated video in which cartoon versions of the toy are seen "singing and dancing to the infringing work".
And it doesn't stop there. "Defendant also incorporated the infringing work into its physical dancing unicorn toys", the lawsuit continues. "The dancing unicorn toys start to play and dance to a copy of the infringing work when a heart-shaped bellybutton on the front of the toy is pressed".
Plus, "as a key marketing component for its Poopsie Slime Surprise product line, defendant also placed a sticker on the packaging of the dancing unicorn toy specifically directing consumers to 'dance to' the 'My Poops' song and infringing video on YouTube".
BMG then reminds the court that music, "especially a hit song such as 'My Humps', adds great value when incorporated into a product or used in a video advertisement, because it increases consumer recognisability, consumer engagement and attention to the product. This results in greater consumer recognition of the product, brand and company, and leads to an increase in sales, revenue, and overall commercial gain".
"The infringing work is so substantially similar to 'My Humps' that it is obvious that the infringing work was intentionally copied from 'My Humps'", the lawsuit continues, "and was created to commercially exploit the popularity of, and goodwill associated with, 'My Humps' and the Black Eyed Peas in order to sell more products".
And yet, MGA did not secure any licence or permission from BMG to rework and use the Black Eyed Peas song in that way. The music firm controls 75% of the original song, the lawsuit confirms.
"Defendant's intent to copy 'My Humps' is further evidenced by the fact that it chose a lead vocalist to sing the infringing work who sounds very similar to the Black Eyed Peas member, professionally known as Fergie, who is prominently featured in the original sound recording of 'My Humps'", the lawsuit also notes.
"The vocalist singing the infringing work uses a similar delivery and vocal inflections as used by Fergie on the original sound recording".
With all that in mind BMG would like an injunction preventing the future use of 'My Poops' or any other poop, slime or unicorn based rework of 'My Humps', as well as some lovely damages "not readily ascertainable but believed to be in excess of ten million dollars".
MGA will presumably claim that its rework of 'My Humps' was 'fair use' on the basis 'My Poops' was a parody of the Black Eyed Peas hit. Which, if the case gets to court, will require plenty of discussion on whether a poop-centric rework sung by slime-pooping unicorns qualifies as a parody under US copyright law in such a way that the rework did not require the permission of the original writers or their publishers.
It will be interesting to see how that goes, and how easy it is - or not - for BMG to fight back against any fair use claims.
Easier, maybe, than backing up another statement the music firm makes in its lawsuit that "the Black Eyed Peas are arguably the most popular and recognised pop musical group in the past thirty years and are beloved by millions of people around the world". Though, fortunately for BMG, its infringement case doesn't swing at all on assessing whether or not that assessment of the Black Eyed Peas is also a load of poop.
Ultra Music Publishing responds to Sony Music's Ultra trademark claim
Both the publisher and the label were founded by Patrick Moxey and they originally operated as sister companies. Sony first bought into the label in 2012, though Moxey continued to run both the recording and publishing sides of the business until early last year. At that point Sony took complete control of the Ultra label and Moxey stood down from his role at the record company.
Ultra Music Publishing was not part of the Sony deal and continues to be run by Moxey. However, in a lawsuit last year, Sony argued that the Ultra label owns the Ultra brand, and that it previously allowed Moxey to use the name for publishing under licence. However, that licence was terminated last year. Therefore, the major said, his continued use of the Ultra brand in the music publishing space constitutes trademark infringement.
But not so says Moxey in a legal response filed with the courts last week which includes a counterclaim. That's because, he explains, before Sony got involved, Ultra Records LLC (or URL) owned the Ultra mark in the record business, but Ultra International Music Publishing (or UIMP) owned it in the music publishing space.
"This separate ownership is reflected in the fact that when URL registered the mark Ultra [with the US Trademark Office], it only registered that mark for the record business services and not for the music publishing business. This is consistent with the fact that there are a number of other users of the mark Ultra in the music business, including the famous Ultra Music Festival, an annual electronic dance music live event which takes place in Miami".
In the 2012 agreement with Sony, the new filing goes on, "there was a provision that assured UIMP of the continued use of the mark Ultra and the continued use of websites using the mark Ultra. That provision also provided a process whereby UIMP, while assured of the continued use of the mark Ultra, would give up its ownership of the mark Ultra in return for a licence reflecting that continued use".
"When Moxey proposed a licence between URL and UIMP as provided for in the agreement, he was required to get Sony Music's approval", it adds.
"Despite repeated requests, Sony Music did not respond to the requests for such approval; Sony Music did not approve the licence or even propose different terms. Thus, the exchange of ownership for a perpetual licence was never consummated and UIMP remained the owner of the mark Ultra in the music publishing business".
"When the remainder of the ownership of URL was sold to Sony Music, the issue was raised again by UIMP and Moxey, but Sony Music refused to even discuss the issue", the legal filing then claims.
"After the sale of the remainder of URL to Sony Music, URL sent a letter to UIMP where it stated that it was cancelling the 'licence' with about three months' notice; giving UIMP three months to transition its reputation and goodwill to a new mark where UIMP had spent over 20 years developing its reputation and goodwill in the Ultra mark in the publishing arena".
"UIMP responded that there was no licence to cancel because UIMP - not URL - owned the trademark Ultra in the publishing arena and UIMP did not need a licence from URL to continue to use the mark Ultra. URL waited about a year and brought this action".
With all that in mind, Ultra Music Publishing would like the court to confirm that it owns the Ultra trademark within music publishing - or, if the court decides Sony does in fact control the mark in both recordings and publishing, that it has a perpetual licence to use the brand in the latter.
Artikal Sound System urge judge to deny Dua Lipa's motion for dismissal in song-theft case
There are actually two lawsuits going through the motions that both accuse Lipa and her collaborators of ripping off earlier songs when writing 'Levitating'. The other one has been filed by songwriters L Russell Brown and Sandy Linze who reckon Lipa actually ripped off two songs they wrote back in 1979 and 1980.
In this case, Artikal Sound System claim that 'Levitating' borrowed elements from their 2017 track 'Live Your Life'. The band's initial lawsuit was light on detail regarding the song-theft claim, especially in relation to the similarities between the two songs that Artikal Sound System reckon constitute copyright infringement.
So much so, in their motion to have the lawsuit dismissed, Lipa' lawyers argued that "plaintiffs fail to allege a single fact that identifies what material from 'Live Your Life' is copied in 'Levitating'".
However, in their formal legal response last week, Artikal Sound System deny those claims, insisting that they provided a lawyer previously working on the case for Lipa with a twelve page report written by one of those musicologists setting out all the similarities.
"Defendants have failed to inform the court that on three occasions plaintiffs' counsel submitted to defendants' prior attorneys a twelve page report prepared by a respected musicologist setting forth in detail the substantial similarities between the two songs", the new legal filing states.
"The existence of this musicologist's report and its submission to prior counsel for defendants makes, at best, disingenuous any argument that substantial similarity has not been sufficiently alleged at this stage of the litigation".
The new legal filing also summarises Artikal Sound System's theory for how Team Lipa had access to 'Live Your Life' when writing 'Levitating', the alleged connection being a writer linked to the Lipa team who - like the band - comes from the Florida city of Delray Beach.
"A writer who collaborates in writing songs with at least one of the defendants, and who admittedly worked on a song on the album on which Dua Lipa's infringing song 'Levitating' appears, not only grew up in Delray Beach, but was mentored as a musician and writer by the brother-in-law of plaintiff Chris Cope".
With all that in mind, last week's legal filing concludes, "plaintiffs have established sufficient allegations of access and substantial similarity to defeat a motion to dismiss their infringement claim". We wait to see if the judge agrees.
Midem event staged in Cannes as prequel to full return in 2024
Midem, of course, had been a fixture of the music industry calendar for more than five decades when - in 2021 - its owner, RX France, announced that it would no longer be staging the event and that the planned 2022 edition was cancelled. However, at the time RX France said that the city of Cannes was looking into acquiring the Midem brand, which it then did last year.
The new owners relaunched the event last week with a small conference and a series of concerts, setting out plans for a full return next year. Like last week's mini edition, that full return will take place in January, Midem having traditionally taken place early in the year, before moving into a June slot in 2015.
The plan is for the new Midem to have three strands. First, a revamped conference and market-place for the music business. Second, a training programme aimed at both artists and music industry execs. And third, a series of concerts which, like those staged last week, will also be open to the public.
It's no secret that Midem peaked in terms of delegate numbers in the late 1990s, seeing its audience slide in the 2000s. Partly because the record industry was in steep decline at the time and so had less money to spend on such events. And partly because, in a rapidly changing business, fewer record labels and music publishers needed a physical conference to find and negotiate with international licensing partners.
That said, even in the 2010s Midem remained a significant event, with various innovations put in place that sought to adapt the proceedings to the modern music business. It remains to be seen what further changes the new owners instigate. And also what scale is required to make the whole thing viable for those new owners, and whether that kind of scale is achievable.
To help inform the evolution of the event, Midem is building a network of senior music industry executives, with last week's conference mainly bringing together the first 100 members of that network. It's seemingly hoped this network - called MuSee - will have value year round, beyond Midem itself, providing a forum for sharing knowledge and ideas.
Opinion seems divided within the music community about the role Midem can play in the music industry of the 2020s, especially given the significant number of other music conferences that now take place each year. Indeed, last week's mini edition clashed with another big conference for the music industry - Eurosonic in the Netherlands - a diary clash that Midem's organisers have insisted will not happen in 2024.
And there's even now another music industry event in Cannes. MiCannes was first staged last June in the slot left by the cancelled Midem, with a second edition planned for 6-9 Jun this year. It states its mission as follows: "We are a group of like minded music industry professionals who attended Midem in Cannes for many years and continued to attend a new music conference in Cannes from 2022 on".
All of that said, the Midem brand still enjoys a high profile internationally, and could remain distinct from many of its competitors as primarily a deal-making forum, if it can relaunch itself around the kind of deal-making that still needs to be done in the music business of today. We shall see if that can be achieved.
Musicians' Census launches to gain a picture of UK music makers
"The world has changed significantly in recent years - and with that, the landscape for musicians", says MU General Secretary Naomi Pohl. "But without quality data and representative insights, it's difficult to understand what today's musicians really need and how we can help".
"There are an estimated 37,000 musicians in the UK - over 32,000 of which being members of the Musicians' Union", she goes on. "While we interact with musicians on a daily basis, with the community spanning such a broad range of demographics and backgrounds, we know more can be done to understand the holistic picture".
"This is why we need the Musicians' Census", she concludes, "to learn more about the community so we can build a better industry, one that's inclusive, accessible and fair to all".
Sarah Woods, Deputy Chief Executive at Help Musicians, adds: "At Help Musicians, we believe that musicians really count, and we have been working for over 100 years to make a meaningful difference to the lives of musicians across the UK. To date, however, there has never been a comprehensive picture of the total population of musicians and without this insight we are unable to ensure our support is as impactful as it can be".
"With the Musicians' Union, we developed this project to ensure that the future design of our services and support initiatives is truly built upon a detailed and factual understanding of the lives and careers of all those we seek to serve", she continues. "Working collaboratively with others within the industry to track trends we will all better understand and shape a world where musicians can thrive in the decades to come".
All UK-based musicians can fill out the census form here.
New book on touring and mental health to be published this spring
Edited by promoter turned psychotherapist Tamsin Embleton and supported by Live Nation, the book covers a wide range of topics, including anxiety, depression, crisis management, physical health and post-tour recovery. It also includes personal recollections from artists including Radiohead's Philip Selway, Katie Melua, Four Tet, Chvrches' Lauren Mayberry and Will Young.
"I wish this book had been around when I first started touring", says Selway. "'Touring And Mental Health' can really help us all navigate the darker moments and the bumps in the road out on tour. The insights, wisdom and strategies from the mental health and medical experts, the tour crew, and musicians in this book are invaluable. It should be the first thing we all pack when we head out on the road".
The book is also recommended by James Ainscough, the CEO of music charity Help Musicians, which provides health and wellbeing support to the music community. He states: "This book should be a compulsory purchase for anyone who spends time on the road - or sends others out there. It can add decades to a career, give wisdom to the most exhausted mind, and offer encouragement to every burdened heart".
The book will be published by Omnibus Press on 23 Mar and can be pre-ordered here.
Warner Chappell in the Philippines has announced a new worldwide publishing agreement with ABS-CBN Music, which - we are told - has one of the largest music catalogues in the country. Says the Warner music publisher's MD for ASEAN, Jacqueline Chong: "ABS-CBN Music has been our key partner in the Philippines for many years. I am very excited for this new deal and can't wait to evolve our partnership to a new level".
Babymetal have released new single 'Metal Kingdom'. Their new album 'The Other One' is out on 24 Mar.
Fraser T Smith will release new EP 'We Were We Still Are' on 9 Jun, and has released the title track, which features Kae Tempest. "I've wanted to work with Kae Tempest for years", says Smith. "Kae's lyrical dexterity and flow knocked me sideways on this track and the subsequent interlude. It sets up the EP in a hugely confident, uplifting way".
Jethro Tull have announced that they will release their 23rd album 'RökFlöte' (that's "smoke flute" in Swedish) on 21 Apr. New single 'Ginnungagap' (no idea) is out now.
Say Lou Lou are back with new single 'Waiting For A Boy'. Of the track, the duo say: "'Waiting For A Boy' flowed out of a very natural and genuine place in us both, and the process reminded us of the early days of us writing songs for Say Lou Lou - a sense of ease, excitement and urgency".
Jesus Piece have announced that they will release their second album '...So Unknown' on 14 Apr and have also released new single 'Gates Of Horn'. "A big goal on '...So Unknown', outside of songwriting and technical goals, was to capture the same energy on record that we have live", says drummer Luis Aponte. "For people to get that sense of urgency and danger".
Eloise has announced that she will release her debut album 'Drunk On A Flight' on 14 Apr. Here's the title track. "The biggest moments of my life have revolved around flying somewhere", she says. "Flying away from something or flying to the thing that changed my life. The morning that me and my first boyfriend split up, I got in a taxi to Heathrow and that was the beginning of my first ever tour".
Sløtface have released new single 'Nose'. "[The song] is a conversation between me and a loved one where I'm trying to use imagery to describe what anxiety feels like to someone who doesn't experience it, how even the smallest things can trigger it and send me into a thought spiral that feels impossible to stop", says the band's Haley Shea. "The choruses are then the replies of someone I love reminding me to breathe, a tactic which usually helps me calm my thoughts, when done in the right way, by my partner, family and loved ones". New EP 'Awake/Asleep' is out on 24 Feb.
GIGS & TOURS
Madonna has added three extra London dates to her 40th anniversary tour. She will play The O2 on 15, 17 and 18 Oct, in addition to the previously announced show on 14 Oct. At the time of writing, tickets are still available for 18 Oct.
Cat Burns is the latest artist confirmed to be performing at this year's BRIT Awards on 11 Feb. She is up for two awards on the night - Song Of The Year and Best Pop/R&B Act - having also been nominated for the Rising Star prize, which ultimately went to Flo.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Windsor Castle concert planned as part of King Charles coronation
Various bits of information have been released about the wider proceedings that will formally put a crown on the head of the new monarch of this here United Kingdom.
The coronation itself will take place at Westminster Abbey in London on Saturday 6 May, with a service that is likely to be somewhat shorter than the three hour ceremony that took place for the coronation of Elizabeth II back in 1953.
The concert at Windsor Castle will be staged the following day, Sunday 7 May. Among other things there will be a laser and drone lightshow, plus a coronation choir featuring a diverse mix of singers recruited from amateur choirs across the country.
Also on stage will be a number of "global music icons" yet to be confirmed. I'm putting in an early vote for Harry Styles and Megan Thee Stallion to co-headline. I mean, what better way to formally celebrate the arrival of Charlie Windsor to the British throne than with the Harry and Megan show?
Though, perhaps most importantly of all, the royal celebrations will also involve an extra bank holiday for British workers on the Monday, 8 May.
There'll be a scheme that day to encourage people to get involved in local volunteering, which may or may not include volunteering to stay in and watch whatever shows Netflix have commissioned of late to piss off the British royal family.
So, that all sounds like good fun doesn't it? God save the King!