|FRIDAY 27 JANUARY 2023||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Rick Astley has sued Yung Gravy over the track 'Betty (Get Money)', which borrows heavily from the former's hit and Rickrolling meme classic 'Never Gonna Give You Up'. Though it's not a copyright case, with Astley claiming that his publicity rights were infringed when Young Gravy's team employed a soundalike to recreate the 'Never Gonna Give You Up' vocals within 'Betty (Get Money)'... [READ MORE]|
Rick Astley says Yung Gravy track infringed his publicity rights
Part of the recent trend of new pop songs overtly and heavily interpolating old pop songs, Yung Gravy's people got all the required permissions from the writers and publishers of 'Never Gonna Give You Up' to incorporate the 1987 song into the 2022 release.
Indeed, as a result of licensing the interpolation, the writers of 'Never Gonna Give You Up' - the British 80s pop-making team that were Mike Stock, Matt Aitken and Pete Waterman - get all the songwriting credits for 'Betty (Get Money)' on the database of US collecting society MLC.
However, according to Billboard, Astley's lawsuit explains that Yung Gravy wasn't able to get permission to actually sample the original recording of 'Never Gonna Give You Up'. As a result, the rapper recreated the track hiring singer Popnick to imitate Astley's voice on the vocals.
Now, with the song rights licensed via the deal with Stock, Aiken and Waterman, and with Yung Gravy's recording being entirely new, no copyrights were infringed by the making and release of 'Betty (Get Money)'.
Meanwhile, from a copyright perspective, Astley himself had no say over the creation of the new track. Because he's not a writer of or copyright owner in the 'Never Gonna Give You Up' song. And even if he had some control over the sound recording - maybe a veto right in contract in relation to sampling - the recording wasn't used.
But, the new lawsuit argues, because Yung Gravy hired Popnick to imitate Astley's "signature voice" - in such a way that many people assumed it was Astley's vocals on the 2022 track - maybe his publicity rights under Californian law were infringed.
"A licence to use the original underlying musical composition does not authorise the stealing of the artist's voice in the original recording", write Astley's lawyers. "So, instead, they resorted to theft of Mr Astley's voice without a licence and without agreement".
Astley's lawsuit relies on a ruling in the US Ninth Circuits Appeal Court the year after the release of 'Never Gonna Give You Up' that involved a different Betty. In that case Bette Midler sued after Ford used a soundalike to record vocals for an advert. Midler likewise had no copyright claim, but successfully argued that the distinctive sound of her voice was itself protected under law.
In a statement to Billboard, Astley's lawyer says: "Mr Astley owns his voice. California law is clear since the Bette Midler case more than 30 years ago that nobody has the right to imitate or use it without his permission".
Given the recent popularity of interpolation in pop music, not to mention the increased importance of publicity and image rights as the metaverse evolves, and the AI tools being developed that can recreate the sound of a person's vocals, there are lots of reasons why the Astley v Yung Gravy case could be very interesting indeed if it makes its way to court.
Here's some further legal insight on what might be discussed along the way.
Man who sued over Cardi B mixtape cover featuring his tattoo wants another trial
Kevin Brophy sued Cardi B - real name Belcalis Almánzar - in 2017. A photo of his distinctive tattoo was Photoshopped onto the cover of the 'Gangsta Bitch Music Vol 1' mixtape, so that it appeared on the back of a man who was positioned to look like he was performing oral sex on the rapper.
Neither Almánzar nor her team got permission from Brophy to use the image of his tattoo. He argued that people assumed it was him in the photo, and - given the explicit nature of the artwork - that had resulted in him facing frequent "uncomfortable comments, questions, and ridicule from community members and family".
Legally speaking, he reckoned his publicity rights had been infringed by the authorised use of his image.
In the resulting court case there was much debate over whether Almánzar had any real involvement in the creation of the artwork; whether anyone had actually connected Brophy to the image before he started talking about it; and - perhaps most importantly - whether the use of Brophy's tattoo design on the mixtape cover was 'fair and transformative use' and therefore allowed under US free speech laws.
The jury hearing the case ultimately sided with Almánzar, concluding that Brophy's publicity rights had not been infringed by the mixtape artwork. At the conclusion of the trial things seemed amicable between the two sides in the dispute, with Brophy reportedly shaking Almánzar's hand and confirming he respected her as an artist.
But, it seems, that didn't mean the legal dispute was at an end. In a new legal filing, Team Brophy want last year's judgement set aside and another trial to consider the case, because of these "prejudicial errors" which they claim occurred first time round.
"First, plaintiff was deprived of his fundamental and substantial right to cross-examine Cardi B at trial", Brophy's new filing states.
"Defendants were permitted to elicit testimony from her on direct examination, and plaintiff was not permitted to cross-examine her, leaving the credibility of a key party witness to remain unchallenged and unimpeached. When the right to cross-examine has been denied, or even unduly restricted, harm is presumed, the prejudice is undeniable, and new trial is required".
Secondly, Brophy takes issue with a surprise decision during last year's trial to "exclude crucial and relevant testimony of Cardi B from a defamation trial which took place in federal court in Atlanta, Georgia in January 2022". That was the rapper's legal battle against YouTuber Latasha Kebe, testimony from which the Brophy side wanted to bring up in court as part of their arguments.
"The claims in that case, in which Cardi B, as a plaintiff, sued for false statements made about her on the internet, are strikingly similar to the claims in this case", the new legal filing says. "Plaintiff sought to examine Cardi B on her sworn testimony regarding the alleged injury she suffered due to the way she was being publicly portrayed".
The court granted an oral motion from Almánzar's lawyers to block all mention of her testimony in the defamation trial "without reviewing the testimony plaintiff sought to present and which defendants sought to exclude. The exclusion was in error, and substantially prejudiced plaintiff's presentation of his case".
In addition to the two allegedly prejudicial errors, Brophy's new filing also states that "over the course of the trial, abundant evidence was presented demonstrating that defendants knowingly misappropriated plaintiff's likeness, that plaintiff did not consent to that misappropriation, and that plaintiff suffered significant harm".
"Despite this evidence", it goes on, "the jury delivered a verdict for defendants. The jury's verdict was against the weight of evidence, and a new trial is warranted".
And, not only that, "the conduct of Cardi B on the witness stand not only prompted prejudicial error in denying cross-examination, but also substantially and prejudicially impacted plaintiff's presentation of his case. Whether viewed independently or taken as a whole, the above errors and conduct of a defendant party witness rendered the trial fundamentally unfair to plaintiff, and a new trial should be ordered".
We await to see if the court agrees.
Warner Music says 4500 artists benefiting from unrecouped advances programme, though no extension of the scheme yet
Under conventional record deals, labels can recoup any advances paid to an artist - and often some other upfront costs too - out of the artist's share of income generated by their recordings. Which means that the artist won't receive any new money into their bank account until all of those recoupable costs have been covered.
With streaming greatly boosting the value of the record industry's catalogue recordings, many in the artist and management community began arguing that unrecouped balances should be written off after a certain time period so that all heritage artists can share in that boost.
After all, they argued, because artists usually get a minority share of the money their recordings generate, a label often goes into profit on its investment in any one artist long before that artist 'recoups'.
Some indies - most notably the Beggars Group - already had a policy of writing off unrecouped balances after a period of time. Then, in 2021, Sony Music announced it was introducing a similar policy, paying through royalties to unrecouped artists who signed their original deals before 2000.
That commitment came towards the end of the UK Parliament's inquiry into the economics of music streaming. MPs welcomed that development and urged Warner Music and Universal Music to follow Sony's lead. Which they both did last year via their respective Environment Social And Governance reports.
It's in its latest Environment Social And Governance report that Warner provides an update on its 'legacy unrecouped advances programme'. It says: "In 2022, we launched our legacy unrecouped advances programme, meaning we no longer apply unrecouped advances to the future royalty earnings of eligible artists and songwriters who signed with us before 2000 and didn't receive an advance during or after 2000".
"In its first year", it goes on, "the programme has seen approximately 4500 artists and related producers benefit globally, and we expect this number to grow as we connect with all eligible participants. We've also begun to reach out to Warner Chappell Music songwriters who could benefit from this programme, with over 1600 accounts eligible globally".
Which is all great, although last year Sony stepped up its commitment in this domain by saying it would pay through royalties to any unrecouped artist who signed their record deal more than 20 years ago, thus ensuring that a new batch of heritage artists benefit from that commitment each year. But currently Warner's commitment still only applies to pre-2000 deals.
Artists and managers are also calling on the majors to follow the Beggars Group with another artist-friendly commitment, which is to pay a minimum modern royalty rate across their catalogues. Some labels, including the majors, generally pay heritage artists whatever the CD royalty rate was in their old record contracts on streaming income, which is usually considerably lower than the streaming rate that an artist would expect in a new record deal.
The majors have so far resisted the calls for a catalogue-wide minimum royalty rate, arguing that the commitment to pay through to unrecouped artists is in itself a significant artist-friendly gesture. Artists and managers don't agree and - while nevertheless welcoming the commitments on unrecouped balances - are also increasingly scrutinising how those commitments are working.
They have also been pushing for Warner and Universal to follow Sony's lead in making the commitment on unrecouped artists a rolling commitment. Which means artist and manager groups will be disappointed that the update on Warner's Legacy Unrecouped Advances Programme doesn't include an extension in line with what Sony introduced last year.
You can access Warner's ESG report - which also runs through the music major's various environmental, diversity and social projects - via this link here.
Universal Music announces EMI North
"I'm delighted to finally open the doors to EMI North with a very simple goal: to support and invest in local talent, helping them to find new audiences and build their businesses", says Clive Cawley, who is President of the new imprint, which will be run out of Duke Studios in Leeds.
The aim of EMI North is to discover and connect with music talent in the North of England, while also providing regional opportunities for those looking to work in the industry. "We have been overwhelmed by the reaction from the creative community in Leeds and beyond and are raring to go", Cawley adds.
Confirming the new Northern venture, EMI Co-Presidents Rebecca Allen and Jo Charrington say: "Discovering and nurturing new talent from right across the UK is the lifeblood of what we do and there's nobody better than Clive to be at the helm of this exciting new chapter for our historic label".
Lovely stuff. By the way, I'm from the North, so that flippancy in the first sentence is all fine. Well, I'm from Cheshire. Newcastle people tell me that's the Midlands. But it's definitely the North. I mean, I grew up watching Granada telly, and that makes you Northern. Yorkshire TV and Tyne Tees also qualifies you.
Artists welcome progress on venue merch commissions, but call for more venues to drop their merchandise fees
Lawrence spoke as part of the hearing in the US Senate about the ticketing business, which was mainly focused on the dominance of Live Nation/Ticketmaster in the live sector, and the need to better regulate ticket-touting Stateside. However, in his testimony, Lawrence discussed how artists interact with the live music industry more generally, outlining the various issues that they have to deal with.
One of those issues is venues charging a commission on any merchandise an artist sells during their shows. This has been a long-standing grievance within the artist community, but has become an even bigger deal since the pandemic, with surging costs greatly reducing the profit margins on concerts. For many artists, that makes merch sales all the more important to ensure touring is commercially viable.
In the UK, the Featured Artists Coalition launched its 100% Venues campaign a year ago, after Tim Burgess of The Charlatans sparked an online debate about merch commissions. It launched a directory that lists all the UK venues that don't charge such commissions, which includes most grassroots venues. And then it called on other venues to drop their merch fees and get themselves a directory listing.
The campaign extended to North America late last year via an alliance with the Union Of Musicians And Allied Workers in the US and rapper Cadence Weapon in Canada. They are hoping that Lawrence raising the issue in Congress - and the speedy response of Ineffable Live - will persuade other venues across North America to likewise stop taking a cut of an artist's merch income.
Cadence Weapon tells CMU: "I have personally felt the pain of hitting the road with countless expenses, only to show up to a venue and be told that they'll be taking 20% of my merch sales. With the help of UMAW in the US and FAC in the UK, we have built a database of venues and festivals who say no to taking a merch cut from bands".
"I hope that the wonderful decision by Ineffable Music Group to end the practice will encourage other similar companies to do the same", he continues. "A healthier music ecosystem is possible, one where the wellbeing of bands is more important than the bottom line".
Meanwhile, musician and UMAW member Damon Krukowski adds: "As an independent artist touring a mostly artist-friendly circuit, I only ever ran into merch cuts at the most corporate venues or festivals we happened to play. Post-pandemic, I was shocked to walk into a 250 cap independently-run room and be told the house now demanded 25% of our merch sales".
"The worst practices in the live music industry have spread downward, and we've heard that at the top they have gotten even more outrageous - up to 35% or more", he goes on. "UMAW is raising its collective voice in the USA, alongside FAC's pioneering work in the UK and our comrade Cadence Weapon in Canada, to call a halt to this unfair tax that venues and promoters levy on performing artists at every level".
Back in the UK, FAC CEO David Martin hopes that the momentum built in the UK and beyond by the 100% Venues campaign over the last year will see many more companies follow the lead of Ineffable Live, and others, in getting rid of the merch fees.
"The FAC launched 100% Venues in early 2022, providing a focal point for artists' frustrations about certain venues and their policies on merchandise commission", he tells CMU. "One year on, the topic has become a key issue for the music industry on both sides of the Atlantic, drawing the attention of Congress and seeing frustration and opposition from fans, who spend their money in the expectation that it will support their favourite artists".
"Having partnered with UMAW in the US and Cadence Weapon in Canada to launch a North American leg of the campaign, we are only seeing the support for our calls grow", he adds. "It is now time to end these outdated practices and work towards a healthier and more equitable live touring ecosystem".
And, having first brought wider attention to this issue via a tweet in late 2021, Tim Burgess welcomes the progress made so far, but hopes much more can yet be achieved. "Until artists are paid a percentage of the bar take, we should fight the demands of venues to take a percentage of the merch sales at a gig", he says.
"We are making headway with the directory that venues can sign up to, which shows which don't take commission, but there's still a way to go - fans think they are helping bands by buying merch at gigs but often the commission is most of the profit - and in terms of vinyl, it's more than we actually make".
New music photography awards launched
Six awards will be presented in total as part of the So.co Music Photographer Of The Year Awards, including two where anyone can put forward photos and photographers for consideration.
Though, not all the awards will be specifically celebrating those involved in photographing musicians and shows, with prizes also set to be presented to the artists and venues being photographed, with a "Must See" Artist Of The Year category and an Independent Venue Of The Year prize.
Says So.co CEO Vince Bannon: "At So.co, we believe the art of music photography should be celebrated. We started So.co to do just that, I'm therefore THRILLED to announce our inaugural So.co Music Photographer Of The Year awards and super excited to see where the event takes our fantastic community of creators".
Meanwhile, the firm's Head Of Partnerships UK, Adam Perry, adds: "Shining a light on the amazing work of music photographers around the world has always been what So.co is all about. From tiny club gigs to the biggest festivals, these creatives work tirelessly to create the image of music, and with the So.co Photographer Of The Year Awards, we want to recognise the talent, the dedication and the relentless pursuit of the perfect image that drives the photographers that we all love".
People can put forward photos and photographers for consideration now, with the awards set to be presented on 27 Mar.
Concord Music Publishing has acquired the majority of the songs catalogue of country songwriter Corey Crowder. "Corey is a proven, consistent, country hit-maker," says Brad Kennard, SVP A&R at Concord Nashville. He adds that this here deal represents "a big leap forward for Concord's footing within the active country market. We are committed to representing significant real estate in the format. Further evidenced by locating Concord's global headquarters here, we aim to continue our aggressive growth in Nashville".
Reservoir has announced a new deal with Dion, covering song rights in his past and future catalogue as well as sync rights in his recordings. "I am most pleased to enter into this great new relationship with Reservoir", he says. "I know how much the Reservoir team appreciates my work, and I am looking forward to some exciting times ahead with them".
Scooter Braun is now sole CEO of Hybe America, reports Variety. He was named co-CEO with Lenzo Yoon - who came over from the company's South Korean HQ - when his Ithaca company merged with Hybe in 2021.
Sas Metclafe has announced that she will step down as Kobalt's Chief Creative Officer at the end of February. She was the company's first employee back in 2001. "I am very proud of what I've accomplished at Kobalt", she says. "When I look back, I'm in awe of how much great music the Kobalt creative team has ushered into the world. But what makes me most proud is working alongside so many talented music lovers and helping them develop into great creative and A&R minds - I'd argue they are some of the best in the music industry today".
Concord Music Publishing has hired Adam Gardiner as SVP International Sync. He joins from Universal Music's Globe, where he was Head Of Film & TV. "Concord has an incredible roster of frontline writers and a catalogue that's packed full of iconic songs. I've always been extremely passionate about working closely with songwriters and here I'll get the chance to do it with some of the best", he says.
Universal Music in the US has promoted Roey Hershkovitz to VP Sound & Picture and Head Of West Coast Studios. "Roey has that rare combination of deep creative relationships and instincts, technical chops and a deep passion for both music and visual content", says Christopher Jenkins, EVP Digital Studios. "I'm THRILLED that Roey will be able to apply his unique skills in this wider role".
The Kid Laroi has released new single 'Love Again', the first from his upcoming new album 'The First Time'. You can catch him performing live on Fortnite tonight at 11pm UK time.
Gorillaz have released new single 'Silent Running', featuring Adeleye Omotayo. Damon Albarn describes the song as evoking "that sort of mesmerising dreamlike state you get in when you're just following some train of thought".
Rita Ora has released new single 'You Only Love Me'. "With 'You Only Love Me' and my upcoming album, I wanted to capture the vulnerability I've experienced as I opened myself up to love and entered a new phase of life", she says. "Learning to let go of the past to make way for new experiences is a deeply personal process and one I felt compelled to document through my music - the journey was not always easy, but I've come out of it stronger and filled with more love than I ever thought possible".
Tom Grennan has released new single 'Here'. "With what's going on in the world, with so many people struggling, affected financially, by COVID, by loads of different things, it's one of those songs that helps you believe that there is somebody in your life that is going to be there for you in the struggle", he says. "There's the battle of everything. But when it's shared with somebody else, you're doing it together, not just on your own. So that's what it's about: if I'm here for you, then please be here for me". Grennan's new album 'What Ifs & Maybes' is out on 9 Jun and he will be touring the UK in March.
Zara Larsson has released new single 'You Can't Tame Her'.
The Orb have announced that they will release their eighteenth studio album 'Prism' on 28 Apr, and released new single 'Living In Recycled Times', featuring Rachel D'Arcy.
Fever Ray has released new single 'Kandy', taken from upcoming new album 'Radical Romantics', which is out in March. It's one of four tracks on the LP co-written with their brother and former The Knife bandmate Olof Dreijer.
Patrick Wolf has released new single 'Nowhere Game', taken from his new EP 'The Night Safari', which is out on 14 Apr. "The song to me is a slow realisation of being trapped in any manifestation of vicious cycle and a long way yet from knowing how to ask for help", he says. "The viola and violin parts on 'Nowhere Game' and across the EP are played by myself for the first time since my first two albums, proof to me that I had broken one of my own vicious cycles in the end and returned to my craft".
Katie Gately has announced that she will release new album 'Fawn/Brute' on 31 Mar - the follow-up to 2020's brilliant 'Loom'. "When I got pregnant I started to get creative again", she says. "I had a lot of energy at first, but later on, my pregnancy was stressful and worrying, so the music got darker and darker: I was making angry music while I was supposed to be feeling maternal". The album's two title tracks - 'Fawn' and 'Brute' - are out now.
San Soucis has released new single 'Merchants'. She says of the track: "'Merchants' is a moment in time, something in between an epic journey and a psychedelic one".
Björk's daughter Ísadóra has released her debut solo single 'Bergmál'.
Lvra has released new single 'Anxiety'. She will release a new mini-album, titled 'Soft Like Steel', on 22 Mar. "I've lived my life as an overthinker, my mental balance completely tipped over by even the most minuscule of events", she says. "Music allows my brain to focus on something else, and creating gives me something to channel the energy into. Often I'm trying to turn negative emotions into a source of strength and I feel like 'Anxiety' was borne out of my desire to live and accept this part of me. It's kind of ambiguous whether or not it's the voice inside my head that's taunting me or some kind of F U to the voice inside my head".
GIGS & TOURS
Madonna has added a fifth O2 Arena show to her 40th anniversary tour later this year. With the other dates set to take place in October, this one has been added to the end of the run on 5 Dec. Tickets, as they do say, are on sale now.
Will Joseph Cook has announced UK tour dates in July this year, finishing with a show at Village Underground in London on 6 Jul. Tickets are on sale now.
Stormzy will perform at this year's BRIT Awards, it has been announced. He is also shortlisted for the Album Of The Year, Artist Of The Year and Hip Hop/Grime/Rap Act trophies at the event, which will take place on 11 Feb. The line-up for the show is now complete, with Harry Styles, Lizzo, Sam Smith and Kim Petras, Wet Leg, Cat Burns and David Guetta with Becky Hill and Ella Henderson also set to put in appearances.
The nominations have been announced for this year's Young Music Boss Awards. "Our aim at YMB is to empower and support young music professionals", says YMB founder Jusnah Gadi. "The idea to host an awards evening was driven by the apparent lack of visibility of so many incredible creatives and entrepreneurs doing massive things to energise and innovate the industry. We hope this event helps to bring them to the forefront". You can see all the nominations and vote here.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Glen Matlock "got a bit fed up" of seeing Iggy Pop's penis
Now, if that's true for me, the numbers must be through the roof for people who regularly attend his shows. But just imagine what it must be like if you play in his band. Actually, don't, because Glen Matlock of Sex Pistols fame played with Pop for a whole year in 1979 and still hasn't quite shaken those memories off.
"The problem with flashing your willy on stage is that you have to get ready to flash your willy on stage", he tells The Times in a new interview. "And he always did it in front of me. I got a bit fed up with seeing it, to be honest. It's not that impressive".
Unimpressive, perhaps. But does the fact that we all expect to see it somehow make it legendary? I don't know. The way we're talking about it, it almost seems to have its own life separate from Pop himself. Not literally separate, obviously. No one give it a TV show or anything.