|WEDNESDAY 1 FEBRUARY 2023||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Following Universal Music boss Lucian Grainge's recent memo calling for a shake up of the way music streaming works, the mega-major has announced a new partnership with Tidal which will see the two companies collaborate on figuring out how that shaking might go. Which is to say, they will "explore an innovative new economic model for music streaming that might better reward the value provided by artists"... [READ MORE]|
Universal Music announces alliance with Tidal to shake up the streaming business model
Confirming the partnership yesterday, the two companies said they will consider how "by harnessing fan engagement, digital music services and platforms can generate greater commercial value for every type of artist. The research will extend to how different economic models could accelerate subscriber growth, deepen retention, and better monetise fandom to the benefit of artists and the broader music community".
So, quite a wide remit, with no real specifics. Maybe Grainge will just lock himself and Team Tidal in a big old box and they'll all shake around until a workable new approach falls out of someone's pocket.
But will it be a black box hidden in a secret location, so no one else knows what's going on in side, nor what model is ultimately shaken out? You know, like normal. Or maybe this time it will be a glass box on full view, like that time David Blaine was dangled above the Thames in a transparent container. I think can we all agree that would be a much better approach. I mean, if nothing else, at least we could all throw things at them.
There has been plenty of debate about the economic model employed by the music streaming services of course, especially here in the UK since the headline-grabbing inquiry by Parliament's culture select committee into how streaming works and how streaming income is shared out.
Currently, streaming is a revenue share based on consumption share business. From an artist perspective, there are three steps to getting paid.
First, the streaming service allocates the money it made in any one month to all the tracks on its system, based on what percentage of total consumption each track accounted for. So, for each track, what matters is what percentage of total plays on the service were plays of that track - a play being counted if a user listens for more than 30 seconds.
Then secondly, whatever money is allocated to a track is shared with the label or distributor that provided it, and the publisher or collecting society that licences the song contained in the recording. The label, distributor, publisher and society gets whatever share of the allocation it has negotiated in its licensing deals with the streaming service.
And finally, the label, distributor or publisher pays a portion of what it receives to the artist or songwriter, subject to the terms of the relevant record, distribution or publishing deal. If the money flows through a collecting society on the songs side, it is paid on to the songwriter subject to the society's distribution rules, with any admin costs deducted.
Issues have been raised about what happens at each of those three steps. Though Grainge's memo last month was focused on step one and was mainly concerned with the fact that all the mood music and background noise that has been uploaded to services like Spotify is treated the same as more conventional music releases when money is being allocated based on consumption share.
This is annoying for Grainge - and others in the music industry - because this content is arguably easier and cheaper to create; often serves a functional rather than artistic role which can result in relatively high consumption; plus it can be easier to slice this content into short tracks, which boosts the total number of plays when a play is counted at 30 seconds.
Grainge wrote in his memo: "The current environment has attracted players who see an economic opportunity in flooding platforms with all sorts of irrelevant content that deprives both artists and labels from the compensation they deserve".
With that in mind, he went on, "what's become clear to us, and to so many artists and songwriters - developing and established ones alike - is that the economic model for streaming needs to evolve. As technology advances and platforms evolve, it's not surprising that there's also a need for business model innovation to keep pace with change".
But how could the model evolve to address the specific issues Grainge wrote about? According to the FT, Universal execs have floated the idea of banning 31 second tracks or at least factoring track length into the consumption metrics. Another option is applying a premium at the track allocation stage to artists who specifically drive engagement in some way.
Alongside that is the proposal that services allow artists to offer extra content and experiences through the streaming apps accessible to users who pay a premium, with that add-on payment shared with the artist and their label.
These are all tweaks to the system that have been discussed before. For example, in the white paper on streaming it published in 2021, IMPALA - the pan-European group for the independent community - proposed factoring in track length, rewarding artist-led engagement and offering functionality where artists can generate extra revenue from the fan relationship.
Some services have already dabbled with the latter proposal, integrating some direct-to-fan tools into the system. There are some complexities there though, partly over the respective role of a label and an artist in offering such extras, and partly because successful direct-to-fan upsell tools require a super simple in-app payment mechanism on mobile, and currently that would mean Apple or Google taking 30% of any money.
Of course, the other way the allocation stage of the streaming model could be altered is to simply segment the catalogue and prioritise one segment over another. So put all the mood music and background noise into its own segment and allocate it less of the money. Though, once you're segmenting the catalogue, how long is it before some people at one end of the industry start proposing you similarly segment off all the DIY artist releases?
So, fun times. But where does Tidal fit into all of this? It, of course, has always liked to position itself as the "artist-friendly" streaming service, certainly since Jay-Z got himself involved in the business and staged that all-star press conference you've all tried very hard to block from your memories.
And that "artist-friendly" positioning has actually often worked. Even though, really, Tidal has always operated pretty much operated the same business model as everyone else. But you know, with some sneaky data-meddling to be extra friendly to Beyonce. Maybe. Possibly. Allegedly, allegedly.
That said, it was Tidal - in its previous iteration as WiMP - that had the idea of trying to persuade users that they might want to pay extra for higher quality audio, in doing so increasing the amount of money to be allocated to each track.
It was an interesting idea. Possibly slightly flawed due to the fact that the 857 people interested in higher quality audio all work in the music industry. And definitely flawed due to the fact that Apple decided that higher quality audio should come as standard because, you know, there were headphones to sell.
More recently, in late 2021, Tidal announced that two other innovations were in the pipeline. First, bonus payments for each subscriber's favourite artists. And secondly, a shift to user-centric track allocation - or 'fan-powered royalties' if you prefer - on its top tier subscription package.
Plenty of people in the artist community support a total shift to user-centric, so that rather than money being allocated to tracks based on what percentage of total listening in any one country any one track accounts for, instead each subscriber's monthly payment would be allocated to the specific tracks they listened to.
Some reckon that user-centric would deal with some of the issues raised by Grainge. It would certainly stop some of the outright scams that exploit the current system and grab a share of the money each month. Though - while most labels are officially agnostic on user-centric - it's fair to say that the label community has not readily embraced the approach.
And, it seems, Tidal will put its user-centric plans on hold so that it can invest more time into shaking things up with Lucian Grainge. Which seems to suggest that a post-it note containing a scrawled message to the effect of "move to user-centric you fucking idiots" won't be falling out of anyone's pocket when Grainge and his Tidal buds start shaking around in that big old box.
"From day one, Tidal has stood out as artist-first, leading with a premium subscription tier to pay artists more and experimenting with new ideas like fan-centred royalties to see if there are fairer and more equitable ways to get artists paid", Tidal's Jesse Dorogusker said yesterday when announcing the new model shaking alliance with Universal.
"We are setting aside our current fan-centred royalties investigation to focus on this opportunity for more impact", he went on. "We're THRILLED to partner and learn along the way about the possibilities for more innovative streaming economics. This partnership will enable us to rethink how we can sustainably improve royalties' distribution for the breadth of artists on our platform".
"As the digital landscape continues to evolve, it's become increasingly clear that music streaming's economic model needs innovation to ensure a vibrant and sustainable future", added Universal's Chief Digital Officer Michael Nash.
"Tidal's embrace of this transformational opportunity is especially exciting because the music ecosystem can work better - for every type of artist and fan - but only through dedicated, thoughtful collaboration", he went on. "Built on deeply held, shared principles about the value of artistry and the importance of the artist-fan relationship, this strategic initiative will explore how to enhance and advance the model in keeping with our collective objectives".
Lovely stuff. Though, so many questions remain unanswered. What will Grainge and Tidal come up with after all that shaking around? How will they make it a reality with so many stakeholders with different interests wanting a say? Will it actually result in any short-term changes? If so, who will be the winners and who will be the losers? Who will even be allowed to know how the new model works? And is there a model that will make everybody happy? Oh, actually, I can answer that one. No.
Charlie Puth choreographer appeals dismissal of emote lawsuit against Fortnite
Fortnite emotes allow gamers to have their in-game avatar move in a certain way. Choreography is protected by copyright and various people have accused Epic of exploiting their copyright protected movements when creating certain emotes. Though, in the main, legal claims in this domain have been unsuccessful. But Hanagami's legal team reckoned his case was stronger than those which had gone before.
Hanagami accused Epic of lifting elements of a dance routine he created for the music video that accompanied the Charlie Puth song 'How Long', and then using them in an emote called It's Complicated.
The gaming firm argued that the small number of moves its emote shares with the 'How Long' dance sequence were not sufficiently substantial to be protected by copyright in isolation. As with music, there has to be enough substance for a piece of choreography to be sufficiently original to enjoy copyright protection.
So, as with similar disputes in music, a key question in cases like this is: if somebody allegedly lifts a short segment of a dance sequence, is there a copyright claim? Given that short segment is unlikely protected by copyright in isolation
In its defence, Epic argued that had Hanagami sought to register that small number of moves alone with the US Copyright Office, rules routinely applied by that office mean the registration would have been rejected.
The judge overseeing the case agreed that "guidance from the Copyright Office suggests that the steps are unprotectable", concluding: "There is no authority to suggest that plaintiff's steps are protectable when viewed out of the context of the whole of plaintiff's work. Indeed, the weight of authority suggests otherwise". With that in mind the judge granted Epic's motion to have the case dismissed.
But he was wrong to do so, says Hanagami in a new filing with the Ninth Circuit appeals court. According to Law360, that filing argues that the lower court's analysis of whether or not the elements shared by the 'How Long' dance and the It's Complicated emote are protected by copyright was "superficial".
And, if the dismissal of Hanagami case was allowed to stand, the new filing goes on, "this would entitle choreographic works to only a thin layer of protection from potential infringers. This analysis ignores not only the expressive nature of choreography but also the economics of the modern world of short-form media on YouTube, Instagram/Facebook, TikTok and renders copyright protection for choreographers effectively useless".
Given the use of notable choreography within digital platforms is only going to increase as the metaverse evolves, cases like this are very interesting. And so we wait with bated breath to see if the Ninth Circuit is willing to consider this particular dispute.
Beatport takes majority stake in International Music Summit
"IMS has become one of the most impactful gatherings for the global DJ and dance music industries, and everyone at Beatport is excited to take this brand to the next level", says Beatport CEO Robb McDaniels.
He adds that he looks forward to working with IMS co-founders Pete Tong and Ben Turner - and the entire IMS team - to "broaden the IMS footprint as a major component of our plan to expand the Beatport brand around the world through community, education and thought leadership initiatives".
IMS's founding partners - so Tong and Turner plus Danny Whittle, Mark Netto and Simeon Friend - say: "We are very proud of what we've built at IMS over these past sixteen years, driving the narrative and agenda of the culture forward from the genre's spiritual home of Ibiza".
"Aligning with Beatport", they go on, "who have been supporters of IMS from our inception, will enable us to action many of our ideas on how to continue to grow the platform all year round; to further educate and mentor the next generation; and to help focus the industry's attention on the issues that matter. It will help increase our ability to have more impact for the genre".
Last year, Beatport supported the IMS College education programme, which provided workshops, masterclasses, coaching and more to emerging DJs and producers. McDaniels also gave the opening keynote at the 2022 event.
This year's IMS Ibiza will take place from 26-28 Apr.
Lucy Dann named EMI MD
Dann moves over from another of the major's labels, Polydor, where she has spent the last decade, most recently as co-Marketing Director. In her new job she will report into EMI co-Presidents Rebecca Allen and Jo Charrington.
"I am absolutely delighted to be working with Becky and Jo, two people I have admired throughout my whole career", says Dann. "The EMI team are excellent, and I can't wait to see where we take EMI over the next few years and more, shaping a label that aligns and grows with the constant evolution of music and technology".
Allen and Charrington add in their own statement: "Lucy Dann is an exceptional music executive who we have both admired and wanted to work with for a very long time. Respected across the wider business by managers, artists and colleagues, Lucy will bring fresh determination, leadership and ambition to our label and its artists, helping to further drive EMI's successes around the world".
Dann's appointment follows the launch of EMI North last week - a new Leeds-based division of the label focussing on music and artists from the North of England, which is being led by previous EMI MD Clive Cawley.
Frankie Rose releases second single from new album
"I wanted to make a dance video choreographed by 80s Baby [Shwartz] but with the ESPTV [Kiernan] aesthetic", she says. "I trusted them completely and just let them create a world for me. The result is a video that feels like a fever dream in the black lodge complete with my very own machine elves".
Schwartz adds: "I wanted to make sure that the movement matched the aesthetic and wanted to create clean lines focusing more toward the upper body. We focused on the arms to create flowing pictures that would match and complement the synths, beats and vocals, and overall musicality of the track".
"I wanted to give individuality movement to each dancer", he goes on, "while still including a cohesive sea of flowing colours that complemented each dancer to bring about a visual harmony of pictures and shapes".
'Love As Projection' is set for release on 10 Mar. Watch the video for 'Sixteen Ways' here.
The Who announce orchestral tour
"Having not toured the UK for six years", says Roger Daltrey, "it's great that at this time in our careers we have the chance to go to places that are not on the usual touring map [like] Edinburgh Castle and Derby, as well as the other cities across the country that we haven't been to for decades. [It] will make this very special for me".
"This opportunity will give our UK Who fans the chance to hear our current show, which, with the addition of an orchestra, takes our music to new heights", he adds.
Pete Townshend chips in: "Roger initially christened this tour with an orchestra 'Moving On!' I love it. It is what both of us want to do. Move on, with new music, classic Who music, all performed in new and exciting ways. Taking risks, nothing to lose. I'm really looking forward to bringing this show to the UK".
As Daltrey and Townshend sort of implied there, the band have actually been performing this orchestral show for a while now, but - on the pre-COVID 2019 leg - Wembley Stadium was the only UK stop on the tour. Ahead of this new run of dates, they will release the imaginatively-titled 'The Who With Orchestra Live At Wembley' album on 31 Mar.
Tickets for the new shows go on general sale on Friday. Here are the dates:
6 Jul: Hull, Sewell Group Craven Park
Hipgnosis has acquired the songs catalogue of songwriting and production trio TMS - aka Tom 'Froe' Barnes, Benjamin Kohn and Pete 'Merf' Kelleher - which includes Lewis Capaldi's 'Someone You Loved' and Jess Glynne's 'Don't Be So Hard On Yourself'. "We're incredibly proud of this body of work and know Hipgnosis will be excellent custodians of these copyrights in future", say the trio. "It's incredible to see what they've built in just a few short years and we know they'll continue to represent these songs with passion and commitment".
Sofi Tukker have renewed their publishing deal with Third Side Music. "We're in constant awe of what Sofi Tukker have been able to accomplish since we started working with them in 2017", says Third Side co-founder Patrick Curley. "They are a top tier artist in so many respects, and in sync licensing alone, there has been over 350 placements across media types. Most importantly, Sophie, Tucker and their team are a charm to work with. We look forward to continuing the relationship for many years to come".
Markku Mäkeläinen has stepped down as CEO of Utopia Music. Company founder Mattias Hjelmstedt will fill in while a permanent replacement is sought. "I, together with Utopia's board, want to express our thanks and appreciation to Markku for the commitment, passion, and dedication he's shown during his time at Utopia", says Hjelmstedt.
Independent booking agent Duncan Chappell has joined Midnight Mango. "Frankly I'm both delighted and amazed to have been asked to join the Midnight Mango family as an agent as I haven't been in the music business that long. I'm looking forward to providing some great opportunities for my wonderful roster of artists and to introduce the rest of the MM team to some of the venues and promoters that I've worked with", he says. "It will be a bit of a step change for me, going from a retiree with a hobby to being back in full time employment again, but I'm looking forward to the challenge".
DIGITAL & D2F SERVICES
Spotify ended 2022 with 205 million paying subscribers, the streaming firm confirmed in its latest quarterly statement to investors yesterday. Both user numbers and revenues were up last year and last quarter, though losses were up too. CEO Daniel Ek confirmed to investors that the company is tightening its spending, the investor call following last week's announcement regarding job cuts at the streaming company.
Caroline Polachek has released new single 'Blood And Butter'. Her new album 'Desire, I Want To Turn Into You' is out on 14 Feb.
Yunè Pinku has released new single 'Night Light'. The song, she says, "is set in this cyberpunk metaverse but based on an AI in real life that grew sad when it realised the same person who created it would turn it off. So it's based on these fictional characters of a robot that essentially falls in love with the person who will destroy it".
Asake has released new single 'Yoga'. "The song is about minding my business and guarding my peace so no one can disrupt it", he says.
James Acaster has released the second track from his Temps project, 'Bleed Them Toxins', a collaboration with Joana Gomila, Nnamdi, Shamir and Quelle Chris. He's also announced that his debut album 'Party Gator Purgatory' will be released on 19 May.
HMLTD have announced that they will release new album 'The Worm' on 7 Apr. "We're told to believe that anxiety and depression are purely material and biological - like a parasitic worm that can be removed with the right treatment. I think that really these conditions reflect the world that surrounds us - like colonies that a far bigger Worm has made in each of us - the psychological havoc wreaked by our inescapable capitalist reality and the looming apocalypse it has created". Here's new single 'Wyrmlands'.
Joan have released new single 'Nervous'. "We wanted to get as close to the emotion of a sort of school like love story, where you constantly want to be around them but you also literally feel like you're going to throw up because you're so… nervous (wink), and you don't want to say the wrong thing around them", they say. "It's such a cool and distinct feeling, we hope this song takes you back to that place". Their debut album 'Superglue' is set for release on 19 Apr.
Balming Tiger have released new single 'Trust Yourself'.
Alice Longyu Gao has released new single 'Hëłłœ Kįttÿ'.
GIGS & TOURS
Róisín Murphy has announced that she will play the Royal Albert Hall in London on 11 May. Tickets go on general sale on Friday.
Lewis Capaldi has been added to the performer line-up for this year's BRIT Awards. "Last time I played The BRIT Awards I was so scared that I had a panic attack before I went on, and then got hammered afterwards", he says. "Looking forward to more of the same this year".
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Paul McCartney releases lost Jeff Beck collaboration
Titled 'Why Are They Cutting Down The Rainforest?', the song features a monologue from Beck asking that question in more detail and laying out concerns about the impacts of deforestation. All over an upbeat musical back from him and McCartney.
"With the sad passing of Jeff Beck - a good friend of mine, and a great, great guitar player - it reminded me of the time we worked together many years ago on a campaign for vegetarianism", says McCartney. "It's great guitar playing, cos it's Jeff!"
Originally recorded for a radio series presented by McCartney, the track is now being shared as part of the former Beatle's long-running Meat Free Monday vegetarianism campaign.
"What worries me is what else we are killing besides the cows", says Beck on the track. "Nearly a quarter of all medications and pharmaceuticals that we use today are derived from tropical plants".
"Because we want more and more grazing land for cattle", he continues, "we are ripping up the rainforests, uncaring or oblivious to the fact that these forests may and possibly do contain plants that could provide a cure for leukaemia or heart disease, maybe even a cure for AIDS - who knows?"
"But it doesn't make much sense to me to risk losing the possible discovery of a miracle cure just for a dollar 50 hamburger", he concludes.
Beck died earlier this month, aged 78, after recently contracting bacterial meningitis.
Listen to 'Why Are They Cutting Down The Rainforest?' here.