|WEDNESDAY 8 FEBRUARY 2023||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Over 700 people from across the music community have signed an open letter calling on the UK government to help tackle discrimination and harassment in the music business by making amendments to the law. The letter has been published as Parliament's Women And Equalities Select Committee stages another session discussing misogyny in music... [READ MORE]|
700 music people call on government to help tackle discrimination and harassment in the music industry
The letter - addressed to Minister For Women And Equalities Kemi Badenoch - has been organised by the Independent Society Of Musicians, which last year published a second edition of its 'Dignity Of Work' report based on a survey of 660 people working in music who were asked about discrimination and harassment in the sector.
That survey, the ISM said at the time, "painted a picture of unsafe workplaces where perpetrators face no repercussions and there is a scandalous lack of action by contractors and employers".
There are a number of changes to the law that would help address some of those issues, the new letter explains. That includes amending the 2010 Equality Act to "ensure that all those working in the music sector are protected and provide clearer definitions around worker status".
Ministers should also look into reintroducing "rights around third party harassment to protect those who experience discrimination from audience members, clients or customers" and "the use of discrimination questionnaires to make it easier to challenge potentially discriminatory behaviour at work".
And the government should seek to "extend the time limit for bringing discrimination cases from three months to six months" and "implement the recommendations of the Women And Equalities Select Committee report into sexual harassment in the workplace".
Most of those changes would help tackle discrimination and harassment in all sectors and workplaces, of course, though a particular focus here is providing additional protections for freelance workers, because there are a particularly high number of freelancers in the music industry, and especially within music-maker community.
ISM notes: "While some of the proposals would give additional protection to workers and freelancers generally, music has its own circumstances due to the predominately freelance nature of the workforce ... the recognition of the unique challenges music has is why the letter has received such significant support from across the sector".
The letter has been signed by hundreds of musicians and people working in music, as well as the CEOs of numerous industry organisations in the music and the wider creative industries, including the Musicians' Union, Equity, UK Music, PRS, PPL, Help Musicians, Black Lives In Music, the Association Of British Orchestras, Creative UK, the Featured Artists Coalition, the Association Of Independent Music, the Ivors Academy, the Music Publishers Association and the Music Managers Forum.
Commenting on the letter, ISM CEO Deborah Annetts says: "For over 700 individuals to come together and publicly demand change in this way is extraordinary and shows how deeply held the desire for improvement is. The music sector has today sent a strong message to the government and I hope that Kemi Badenoch listens and acts".
"The open letter calls for five changes which if implemented would make a big difference to music workplaces and the incredible music workforce, going a long way to make our sector safer and more inclusive for everyone", she adds. "The ISM wants to see a music sector free from discrimination and harassment and I thank everyone who has supported this letter".
ISM President Vick Bain - who is also founder of The F-List organisations - adds: "The number of signatories to our open letter sends a clear message to Kemi Badenoch. Music is an industry where people achieve phenomenal things and, to keep producing wonderful music, we need action to make our freelancers and music workplaces safer".
"The response to our work to eradicate bullying and harassment has been phenomenal, and that's because it sadly resonates with the music workforce. I'm grateful to every individual who has signed their name and the many leaders who have spoken up for change but now we need the government to act too".
Bain is among those to speak at today's select committee hearing. She will answer MPs' questions alongside Vanessa Threadgold from Cactus City Studio, Melinda Kelly from Safe Gigs for Women, and Nadia Khan from AIM and Women In CTRL. You can follow the session here.
Ed Sheeran lawyers want video of his mash-up performances excluded from Thinking Out Loud song theft trial
So, yes, while last year's big song theft legal battle involving Sheeran was in the UK courts, this year we're back in the American system with the long running litigation over his song 'Thinking Out Loud'. On that track, Sheeran is accused of ripping off Marvin Gaye's 'Let's Get It On' by the family of the earlier song's co-writer Ed Townsend.
With the UK dispute - where Sheeran was accused of borrowing a key element of 'Shape Of You' from earlier Sami Chokri track 'Oh Why' - a central component of the case was whether or not Sheeran and his songwriting collaborators had even been aware of Chokri's record before writing their song.
The Chokri side ultimately failed to demonstrate that they had, with Sheeran et al claiming that they hadn't actually heard 'Oh Why' until after the song theft lawsuit was filed.
With the US litigation, however, it can probably be taken as read that Sheeran was aware of 'Let's Get It On' before writing 'Thinking Out Loud' and prior to any legal filing. Not least because there's a YouTube video of him playing his song at a concert in 2014 and inserting a bit of Gaye's song into the middle of the performance.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, lawyers working for Townsend want to show that YouTube video to the jury when this particular song theft legal battle finally gets to trial later this year. However, the Sheeran side has formally objected to that plan.
Given that whether or not Sheeran had access to 'Let's Get It On' before writing 'Thinking Out Loud' is not really a consideration here, the focus of this dispute is whether the elements shared by the two songs are too short, generic and commonplace to be protected by copyright in isolation. This is often the focus of song theft cases, especially when someone is accused of ripping off a famous older hit.
Indeed, it was the focus of the big old 'Blurred Lines' song theft case in which Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams were also accused of ripping off one of Gaye's songs. The Gaye estate - who are not involved in the 'Thinking Out Loud' litigation - were successful in the 'Blurred Lines' legal battle, of course.
However, in subsequent high profile cases, the US courts have been very cautious about extending copyright protection to short, generic and commonplace musical segments that a new song may have in common with an old song.
Obviously, the Sheeran side is hoping that cautious trend will go in their favour. Although at first instance the case will go before a jury, who are prone to be somewhat less cautious. And a video of Sheeran himself mashing together his song with Gaye's song is probably the kind of thing that could swing a jury in a dispute like this.
This is why Sheeran's lawyers have asked the judge to not allow that video to be played in court. Although they have legal arguments to back up that request other than just "it'll help the other side win". Showing the video would mislead the jury, they claim, because it implies Sheeran is actively copying the earlier song, when he is just acknowledging that his and Gaye's song share the same musical building blocks.
As do many other songs, Sheeran's legal team told the court earlier this week, according to Billboard. "There are dozens if not hundreds of songs that pre-date and post-date 'Let's Get It On' utilising the same or similar chord progression", they wrote. "These medleys are irrelevant to any issue in the case and would be misleading [and] confuse the jury".
The lawyers also add that allowing the video to be shown could have a wider impact on the music industry, discouraging artists from performing medleys of this kind at their shows.
However, Townsend's legal team remain hopeful that the judge will ignore these arguments and allow them to show the video at trial, given the very same judge previously noted - when refusing to dismiss the lawsuit - that the video could impress a jury. We shall see.
Utopia sells ROSTR back to its founders
Utopia, of course, grew significantly in 2021 and 2022 through a number of acquisitions, buying - among other things - music-centric finance platform Lyric Financial, music distributor Proper Music, artist services business Absolute, and music publisher and royalty admin service Sentric Music.
Another company that it acquired along the way was ROSTR, the music industry directory and data platform founded by Mark Williamson and Adam Watson.
Utopia said yesterday that it bought ROSTR "with the intent to strengthen its direct offering towards creators". However, "as part of the company's strategic reorganisation, Utopia will now focus on serving creators through third parties via its B2B offerings".
That "strategic reorganisation" included the creation of two divisions - Utopia Music Tech and the Utopia Royalty Platform - and a downsizing of the Utopia workforce late last year. More recently it was announced that CEO Markku Mäkeläinen had stepped down, with company founder Mattias Hjelmstedt taking on that role on an interim basis.
On the latest development, Hjelmstedt said: "Our Utopian vision is that the music industry can fully monetise the use of music in all its forms and continue to grow as a result. We're working hard to make this a reality, by focusing our efforts on building the financial infrastructure and B2B services for the music industry to process and pay out royalties quickly and accurately".
Speaking about ROSTR specifically, he went on: "Utopia and ROSTR came together with a shared mission of making a better world for music, although we'll be pursuing this mission on separate paths, we know ROSTR is an invaluable resource for the music industry and we wish Mark, Adam and the whole ROSTR team the best of luck".
Over on the ROSTR side, Williamson added: "When we were given the opportunity to re-acquire ROSTR, we had to take it; we have unfinished business helping to build a more connected entertainment industry. We'd like to thank Utopia for the last year and wish them all the success going forward".
Rejig announced for Concord top team
Pascucci will be succeeded as CEO by Bob Valentine, who is currently the firm's President. As well as being involved in this new advisory board, the departing CEO will also remain as a member of the music company's board of directors. Meanwhile, Whalley will remain involved on a day-to-day basis with Loma Vista Recordings, the label he founded in 2012 and which first allied with Concord back in 2014.
Confirming his departure, Pascucci said he was "proud" of what he and his team have accomplished over the last decade, adding: "We have built a company that matters in the music industry, a place that cares about its employees, artists and writers, and that is well-positioned for the future. I look forward to continuing on the board of directors, to help guide the company forward under Bob's leadership, while also having more time to focus on my interests in film and social impact initiatives".
Valentine added: "Scott has led Concord through an immense amount of growth and change over the last decade, and I couldn't be prouder of the company that he and Tom have helped to flourish. I'm excited to lead Concord's next chapter, and I'm happy that Scott and Tom will continue to provide their insights and advice along the way".
Music Venue Trust accuses live giants of "sitting on their hands doing nothing" as another grassroots venue closes
The grassroots music venue was one of those that the organisation was attempting to buy through its Own Our Venues project.
"It is with deep sadness that we have to announce that Sunbird Records in Darwen has had to cease trading and is consulting with liquidators", says the MVT statement.
The venue was originally launched by Jonathan Lindley in 2016. He sadly died last year and, since then, the MVT continues, "the local community he left behind has been doing everything it can to try and keep Jonathan's legacy alive, and Music Venue Trust has been supporting their efforts to try and make Sunbird Records sustainable and viable".
However, it goes on, "the economic conditions are just too hard. The cost of keeping this venue alive simply cannot be met from the activities it stages. Sunbird Records is a classic example of what the MVT annual report lays out; a grassroots music venue that is absolutely essential to its local community, does everything that the music industry desperately needs it to do, but simply cannot make ends meet".
In that annual report published last month, the MVT explained that falling audience numbers and rising costs in the wake of the COVID-caused shutdowns are leaving small venues "operating on razor thin margins" and often "struggling to survive".
An additional frustration is that Sunbird Records was one of the nine venues which the Music Venue Trust has been attempting to buy the freehold of through its Own Our Venues campaign. Launched in May last year, the aim was to raise £3.5 million through crowdfunding and other investment by the end of 2022. Although a significant amount has been raised, that target is yet to be reached, with the closing date for crowdfunding now extended to the end of March.
"We are incredibly sad that we have not been able to save Sunbird Records", says MVT in its new statement. "We are still working out what we do now; the Own Our Venues project has raised 50% of the capital it needs to start buying spaces. Maybe we can find a way to buy this building and support the local community to create a new operating organisation that can bring music back to Darwen".
"It's incredibly hard to bring a venue back when it closes, it's one of the reasons we fight as hard as we can to stop it happening", it adds. "We honestly don't know. We know that the will among the local community is there and we will do everything we can to try to make it happen".
The organisation then goes on to blame complacency at the upper end of the live music industry for the current plight of small venues, where many of tomorrow's big names will learn their craft and find an initial fanbase.
"It is painfully ridiculous that Sunbird Records is closing, unable to afford to pay the bill to keep the lights on, in an industry that is turning over more than £5 billion a year", it says. "An industry that is planning to open eight new arenas, but cannot find a way to raise the £10,000 to £20,000 a year it needs to keep a vital space like Sunbird open".
"An industry that is paying its top executives multi-million pound sums while the absolutely essential building blocks it needs to keep bringing that money in simply evaporates beneath it, uncared for and ignored. It's not good enough and it has to change. If our music industry cannot find a way to keep the lights on at Sunbird Records then it isn't fit for purpose".
"Grassroots music venues are closing at the rate of one a week and too many companies and individuals in the wider music industry are sitting on their hands doing nothing", it concludes. "We have to do better than this".
Shortly after the Music Venue Trust posted its statement, Jonathan Lindley's son Steven posted a comment saying that "interest has now been shown in taking over and reopening Sunbird by some of Jonathan's original collaborators".
As MVT notes in its statement, this can be a tough task once a venue has already fallen into administration. However, it does provide one more piece of hope for the venue before it is lost for good.
In the meantime, you can find out more about the Own Our Venues campaign here.
NME partners with Bose on C23 mixtape championing new talent
That programme will be called C23, referencing the NME's somewhat influential C86 compilation all the way back in, well, 1986, which showcased a stack of artists signed to independent labels at the time. It was called C86, of course, because the compilation was on cassette and it featured music from 1986.
The C23 project, celebrating new music from 2023, will also involve the release of a mixtape on cassette. But normal people will listen to all the featured tracks on their streaming service of choice. Or on vinyl. There'll be a limited edition C23 vinyl release as well if that's of interest to you.
"The C23 mixtape is a definitive showcase of the future of music", says NME, "featuring fifteen exclusive tracks by fifteen of the most exciting emerging artists from around the world. This essential compilation is set to introduce a new generation of music fans to an inspirational collection of artists, celebrating Bose and NME's joint commitment to the discovery of incredible new music". Lovely stuff.
There'll be a special showcase at South By Southwest too, did I mention that? I think that's where the cassette versions of the C23 mixtape will be distributed. So if you want the full retro experience with all this, you'll have to go to Austin.
Adds Holly Bishop, COO at NME Networks: "The C86 mixtape was a seminal moment in the history of NME, so we are THRILLED to partner with Bose to bring back the iconic C-series in the shape of C23. Both NME and Bose are committed to new music discovery, with C23 shining a bright light on some of the most exciting emerging artists on earth. We can't wait for the world to hear it".
Meanwhile, Bose CMO Jim Mollica says: "Great music is a powerful force - it evokes memories, serves as an outlet of self-expression, and brings people together. Our goal is to be a brand that champions both emerging musicians and music lovers that enjoy the thrill of discovering new music - and the C23 compilation is the perfect way to connect those communities and their shared passion".
The C23 mixtape will be available in its various formats from 15 Mar.
Hipgnosis has acquired the songs catalogue of Tobias Jesso Jr, in a deal covering his solo work and songs for artists including Adele, Harry Styles, Pink, Sia and Florence And The Machine. The deal follows Jesso's win of the first Grammy for Songwriter Of The Year at the weekend. "Tobias is amongst the most important songwriters in contemporary music today as demonstrated by his winning the 2023 Grammy Award for Songwriter Of The Year, in its inaugural year", says Hipgnosis CEO Merck Mercuriadis. "I fell in love with his songs right from the get go with 'Goon' eight years ago and he never fails to deliver".
Boosey & Hawkes has signed a new deal with Daft Punk's Thomas Bangalter to publish the music from his ballet score 'Mythologies'. "I consider music composition to be an experimental and empirical attempt to solve a mysterious equation", he says. "Yet the result remains transcendent, far beyond the limits of experience".
Sentric Music has signed producer Mason - real name Iason Chronis - to a publishing administration deal. "Sentric are a young and dynamic independent company who completely get where I'm coming from creatively", he says. "We have been working on new material together to test the water and it's been a great experience. I'm excited to see what we can do together in the next few years".
Warner Music India has acquired a majority stake in Indian digital media company Divo. "I'm so delighted that we're able to bring the Divo brand under the Warner Music India banner", says Warner Music India MD Jay Mehta. "This move will strengthen our presence in the south of the country, enabling us to have a truly strong pan-India presence. Divo's extensive portfolio will not only bolster our core music offering in South India, but its entire artist-influencer ecosystem will further enhance our overall entertainment footprint".
Warner Music Group has hired Ariel Bardin as President Of Technology. "Ariel understands how technology can serve creativity to have real, long-lasting cultural and commercial impact", says the major's new CEO Robert Kyncl, who previously worked with Bardin at YouTube. "He has a tremendous appreciation for artistry, deep technical expertise and a proven track record in execution at the highest level. We're fortunate to welcome him to our team".
Kelela has released new single 'Enough For Love'. Her new album 'Raven' is out this Friday.
Drahla are back with new single 'Lip Sync'. Say the band: "'Lip Sync' is an autobiographical account of self deflection. It explores the idea of syncing to social norms, conversation and expressions to converse without being fully present - taking on a converged guise to fit different interactions".
Penelope Trappes will release new album 'Heavenly Spheres' on 14 Apr. Of making the record, she says: "I immersed myself in solitude and often deafening silence, and co-existed with an enormous amount of history and books. I grew to love this unfamiliar space as I recorded sound outside of my normal way of working, took long and sometimes psychedelic walks, channelled ghosts on tape, and ended up with about 35 pieces of music and sound art. This album is eight of those pieces which I fell in love with". Out now is new single 'Entangled'.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Person who tried to sell BTS member Jungkook's lost hat charged with embezzlement
The unnamed person put the hat up for sale online in October last year for ten million won (approximately £6500). In the listing, the seller said that the item had been left at the ministry building in Seoul when Jungkook visited to apply for a passport.
They then claimed that they were now the hat's rightful owner as it had not been claimed six months after being reported as lost property.
The listing attracted a lot of negative attention from BTS fans, who seemingly did not agree with the seller's view on the hat's change of ownership. As a result of this, the seller deleted the listing the following day and handed themselves in to the police.
Following a police investigation, the suspect was referred to prosecutors in November last year. Yesterday, according to Yonhap News, they were formally charged with embezzlement. Prosecutors are seeking for the person to be fined and not face any prison time.
And the good news is that prosecutors reportedly plan to return the hat to Jungkook.