|FRIDAY 3 MARCH 2023||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Universal Music boss man Lucian Grainge has again talked about his desire to change the subscription streaming business model which, he reckons, has evolved in a way that under values all the musical brilliance of the world's most magnificent music-makers. By which he means those music-makers magnificent enough to think about signing up to a Universal label, presumably. Maybe. Who knows?... [READ MORE]|
Universal Music chief talks more about the need to revamp the streaming model
Grainge's new musings on the business model employed by streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music came during an investor call yesterday that accompanied the music major's latest pretty positive financial report.
He was building on comments he made to Universal employees in a memo earlier this year in which he set out some of his concerns with the current streaming model and the way monies generated by the streaming services are shared out across the industry. That memo also included some albeit pretty vague suggestions as to how said model might be changed.
Plenty of people right across the music community would agree with Grainge that there are definitely some issues with the current streaming model, though whether they'd agree on what the main issues are and how to solve them is debatable.
Following that memo in January, Universal announced it was teaming up with Tidal to investigate what changes could be made. And yesterday Grainge told investors that the company was also working with Deezer on a similar investigation.
Deezer, of course, has long been a big advocate of the user-centric approach of allocating streaming monies to each track in the system. Currently services pool all the money and data generated in each market, and allocate each track a portion of that money depending on what percentage of total streams it accounted for. Under user-centric, each subscriber's payment would be specifically allocated to the tracks they streamed.
There is plenty of support for user-centric among the artist and songwriter communities. However, the labels - although officially agnostic as to whether the current system or a user-centric system is better - are generally not that keen on shifting over to user-centric payments. And, indeed, when Tidal recently announced its research alliance with Universal, it also confirmed it was dropping its previously announced experiment with the user-centric approach.
So what new approaches is Universal going to be testing with Tidal and Deezer? Well, neither Grainge nor Universal's Chief Digital Officer Michael Nash offered any specifics when questioned by investors on yesterday's call.
Though better rewarding the artists who drive consumers to the streaming services was mentioned a few times. Which could mean providing artists with other ways to generate income through the streaming apps by offering premium content. Or it could mean allocating a bigger slice of the digital pie to the artists with higher profiles who, some might argue, play a key role in helping the streaming firms excite and engage new subscribers.
Alluding to the former of those options, Nash did talk about "superfan monetisation", which suggests he'd like Spotify et al to offer new direct-to-fan type tools for artists and their business partners.
Which seems like a good idea. Though having a system where artists can upsell premium content through a streaming app probably needs the issue of Apple and Google taking 30% of any in-app purchases to be dealt with first.
And then we can start debating whether premium content of that kind should be label-led, or whether artists and their managers could utilise those extras without cutting the label in. Fun times.
Certainly some artists might question whether the likes of Universal really need to participate in any new revenue opportunities that the streaming services may or may not offer in the future. You know, given that the major's CFO Boyd Muir confirmed yesterday that 2022 was "another year of sustained growth at UMG".
"We saw revenue growth of 14% in constant currency; adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation growth of 12% in constant currency; and free cash flow growth of 70%", he added, "positioning us well for 2023, as we continue to work towards our mid-term targets".
With the financial report accompanying those remarks confirming that further growth in subscription streaming very much contributed to the positive stats Muir ran through, some members of the music community might argue that the current streaming model seems to be working pretty damn well for the biggest music rights company in the world.
Final report published by inquiry into Manchester Arena bombing
Those comments came as the inquiry into the bombing that occurred at the end of an Ariana Grande show on 22 May 2017 published its third and final report. This one considers the radicalisation of the bomber, Salman Abedi, and whether or not the attack could have been prevented by the security services and counter-terrorism policing.
When it comes to the work of MI5 and the counter-terrorism police, not all of the findings of inquiry Chair John Saunders are included in the public version of the new report, to ensure the ongoing work of those agencies is not hindered.
However, Saunders confirmed in a statement that he had "found a significant missed opportunity" occurred in the months before the bombing when MI5 officers failed to act on certain information they received which "might have prevented the attack".
"It is not possible to reach any conclusion on the balance of probabilities or to any other evidential standard as to whether the attack would have been prevented", he wrote. "However, there was a realistic possibility that actionable intelligence could have been obtained which might have led to actions preventing the attack. The reasons for this missed opportunity included a failure by the security service, in my view, to act swiftly enough".
That said, Saunders added: "While I have been critical of some of the ways that the security service and counter terrorism police dealt with the information that they had or could have had in this case, I also recognise the very difficult job they have to do and I acknowledge their success in uncovering a large number of plots against people in this country".
However, the inquiry Chair did add that he will make a number of confidential recommendations to the relevant authorities "to try and ensure that improvements are made in the way that the security service and counter terrorism policing deal with the intelligence that they get".
Responding to Saunders' comments, MI5 Director General Ken McCallum said that he regretted that the intelligence alluded to by the inquiry Chair had not been gathered and utilised. "Gathering covert intelligence is difficult", he added, "but had we managed to seize the slim chance we had, those impacted might not have experienced such appalling loss and trauma".
The families of the victims of the 2017 bombing also issued a statement in response to the new report. They said: "Today's report has been deeply painful to read, but also eye-opening".
"On the issue of the preventability of this attack, inevitably the report provides less information than we would have wanted. But it is now very clear that there was a failure to properly assess key intelligence about Salman Abedi; a failure to put it into proper context; and - most catastrophic of all - a delay in acting on it".
"As a result of these failures", they continued, "at the very least, a real possibility of preventing this attack was lost. This is a devastating conclusion for us. The failures exposed in this report are unacceptable".
Alluding to other findings in the new report, their statement added: "It is clear that Salman Abedi should have been referred to [the] Prevent [counter-terror programme]. It is clear that the education system needs to be more vigilant in picking up signs of radicalisation. It is clear that Didsbury mosque turned a blind eye to extremism in its midst".
"Sir John's report today contains many lessons; we must heed every one of them and make the necessary changes urgently", they concluded.
You can access the new report here. An earlier report focused on the response of venue personnel and local emergency services to the 2017 bombing, with Saunders making a number of recommendations for reform in that domain as well.
EMMA unveils EMMpower programme
Supported by the European Union's Creative Europe scheme, the EMMpower programme will include research, mentoring, training, networking and events. The market spotlight series will focus on a different European music market each month with experts from that market providing plenty of insight. The first session later this month will focus on Germany, with the UK in the spotlight in April.
Meanwhile the EMMpower Mentorship Programme will connect early-career managers with more experienced peers. Building on EMMA's previous mentorship work, participants in the new programme will also have access to monthly online workshops.
Confirming all this, EMMA Chair Per Kviman says: "Music managers are the incubators, developers and business-builders of Europe's creative talent. In a fragmented digital market, where most artists and songwriters operate as self-contained businesses, the role of the manager has never been so important or so all-encompassing".
"Through rigorous research and by providing strategic mentoring and professional development", he goes on, "the EMMpower project is aiming to support music managers throughout Europe and to create new networks and communities. I believe this is a landmark opportunity for every type of music entrepreneur and on behalf of EMMA would like to thank the team at Creative Europe for the responsibility they have invested in us".
There is more information about all this here.
EMMA is a pan-European network bringing together organisations that represent artist managers in Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden and the UK. And now Denmark too, with the newly formed Danish music managers association Danske Artist Managers having just joined up.
Glastonbury announces Vodafone partnership (and some headliners)
And if you're wondering, as you might reasonably do, what the fuck that means, well, "as official connectivity partner, Vodafone has exclusive rights to the festival and throughout the partnership will use its network to deliver innovative experiences using cutting-edge technology".
So good news for fans of innovative experiences and cutting-edge technology.
Also, "Vodafone's award-winning network will be boosted to the highest capacity ever, making it super reliable to keep friends and families connected to each other, whether they're on site in Somerset or watching from home".
So prepare yourself for some high capacity, super reliable connections.
Oh, and "Vodafone customers will be able to gain access to tickets to a sold-out festival via its VeryMe Rewards programme available on the MyVodafone app. VeryMe promotions and experiences will also be available to everyone who is at the festival".
So get ready for some VeryMe good times. And if you're now asking what the fuck that means, well, maybe you should learn to ask fewer questions.
"Our new partnership with Glastonbury adds another iconic British brand to our partnership portfolio", says Max Taylor, Vodafone's Chief Commercial Officer.
"Vodafone customers will gain access to the best events of the summer through VeryMe rewards and keep them connected to their loved ones on Vodafone's reliable, award-winning network", he goes on. "We can't wait to get started and deliver on our ambition of making Glastonbury the most connected festival in the world".
"We are so pleased to have Vodafone on board as a new partner for the festival", adds Glastonbury's Emily Eavis. "The commitment they have made to supporting our festival in its technical and network requirements as well as other projects throughout the year is great, and we look forward to working with them in the years ahead".
So, lots to get excited about there, I'm sure we can all agree.
I mean, you can, if you want, get excited about Arctic Monkeys and Guns N Roses being announced as 2023 Glasto headliners - and Lizzo, Lana Del Rey, Lil Nas X, Manic Street Preachers, Wizkid and Blondie all also being confirmed to play - but let's never forget that it's Vodafone that is the festival's official connectivity partner.
Pulp bassist Steve Mackey dies
In a post on social media, Mackey's wife Katie wrote: "After three months in hospital, fighting with all his strength and determination, we are shocked and devastated to have said goodbye my brilliant, beautiful husband, Steve Mackey".
"Steve died today, a loss which has left myself, his son Marley, parents Kath and Paul, sister Michelle and many friends all heartbroken", she went on. "Steve was the most talented man I knew, an exceptional musician, producer, photographer and filmmaker".
"As in life, he was adored by everyone whose paths he crossed in the multiple creative disciplines he conquered", she added. "I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to all the NHS staff who worked tirelessly for Steve. He will be missed beyond words".
Pulp themselves led the tributes to Mackey, stating: "Our beloved friend and bass player Steve Mackey passed away this morning. Our thoughts are with his family and loved ones. Safe travels, Steve. We hope to catch up with you one day".
They also posted a picture of Mackey taken in the Andes when the band toured South America in 2012. "We had a day off and Steve suggested we go climbing in the Andes", they explained. "So we did and it was a completely magical experience. Far more magical than staring at the hotel room wall all day (which is probably what we'd have done otherwise)".
"Steve made things happen", they concluded, "in his live and in the band. We'd very much like to think that he's back in those mountains now, on the next stage of his adventure".
Having become part of the Sheffield music scene in the 1980s, Mackey joined Pulp in 1989, spending the next thirteen years in the band as they became one of the key acts of the Britpop era, achieving commercial success throughout the 1990s with albums like 'His N Hers', 'Different Class' and 'This Is Hardcore'.
After the band went on hiatus in 2002, Mackey wrote and produced music with a number of other artists and bands, including MIA, The Long Blondes, Florence + The Machine and Arcade Fire, as well as also continuing to collaborate with Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker.
He also worked on various other creative projects, which included film and photography work, as well as co-curating the music programme for London's Frieze Art Fair.
Although Mackey rejoined his Pulp bandmates for their reunion in 2011 and 2012, he wasn't planning on taking part in the reunion shows scheduled for this summer.
Wishing the band well at those shows, he told fans last autumn: "I'm exceptionally proud of the body of work we've created together ... however I've decided to continue the work I'm engaged in - music, film-making and photography projects".
Finesse Foreva founders named Music Entrepreneurs Of The Year by Young Music Boss Awards
The flagship prize is sponsored by the Association Of Independent Music, and the trade group's Entrepreneur & Outreach Manager Ben Wynter says: "We are THRILLED to see AIM Members SK and TK of Finesse Foreva be recognised for their ground-breaking work crossing over drill music to the mainstream as well as achieving the genre's first UK number one".
"They epitomise the entrepreneurial spirit with their tenacity and drive which has seen them collaborate with some of the biggest names in UK and US music", he goes on. "They truly are deserving recipients of this award".
As well as working with artists and producers like Russ Millions, Skengdo & AM and JB, the Finesse Foreva founders also run a number of community outreach projects including their own music business education programme.
YMBA founder Jusnah Gadi adds: "Recognising entrepreneurial and executive talent is a key aspect of incentivising future generations of the music business. TK and SK demonstrate everything the YMBA Music Entrepreneurs Of The Year Award aims to exemplify, it is an honour to award this to them".
The YMB Awards take place on 20 Apr at Woolwich Works - more info here.
The Arthurs dished out at ILMC
Says ILMC Managing Director Greg Parmley: "Congratulations to this year's deserving Arthur winners, and many thanks to all the live music professionals at the 2023 ILMC gala dinner who helped make it the biggest edition in our long history. It was a particular pleasure to recognise Karsten Jahnke with the prestigious Bottle Award, with him having celebrated a phenomenal 60 years in business in 2022".
The Bottle Award is basically a lifetime achievement type prize, going to "an individual who has contributed greatly to the live music industry". And, as Parmley noted, that prize this year when to German promoter Jahnke of Karsten Jahnke Konzertdirektion.
The other winners were as follows:
The Venue Award (First Venue To Come Into Your Head): Barclays Arena, Hamburg
The Festival Award (Liggers' Favourite Festival): Montreux Jazz Festival
The Production Services Award (Services Above & Beyond): Beat The Street
The Promoter Award (The Promoters' Promoter): Kelly Chappel, Live Nation
The Agent Award (Second Least Offensive Agent): Alex Bruford, ATC Live
The Professional Services Award (Most Professional Professional): Katie Moore, Live Nation
The Ticketing Professional Award (The Golden Ticket): Marcia Titley, Eventim Norway & Sweden
The Assistant Award (The People's Assistant): Kai Henderson, AEG Presents
Young Executive Award (Tomorrow's New Boss): Dan Rais, CAA
The Industry Champion Award (The Unsung Hero): Holger Jan Schmidt, Yourope
Ken Bruce's premature Radio 2 exit "unfortunate", reckons his former and future colleague Simon Mayo
Although, Mayo conceded, Bruce's exit would have probably been even swifter if it was a commercial radio station he was leaving.
Bruce announced in January that he was leaving the BBC after 45 years with the broadcaster - including 30 consecutive years fronting the morning show on Radio 2 - in order to join Bauer-owned commercial station Greatest Hits Radio.
The original plan was that Bruce would complete his current contract with the BBC, meaning his final show would be on 24 Mar. However, last week the DJ announced on Twitter that - at the request of BBC bosses - his final show would actually air today.
That announcement resulted in a flurry of criticism on social media from Bruce's loyal listeners, who reckoned it was disrespectful for BBC bigwigs to force such a long-standing Radio 2 DJ out of the door three weeks early.
In an interview with the 'Today' programme on Radio 4, Bruce himself reiterated that his earlier than expected departure was the BBC's decision.
He said: "My belief is that, when I'm given a contract, I work to it and complete it. Over the last 46 years, I haven't had very much time off, I've attempted to turn up whenever I'm required to turn up. So my natural feeling as a broadcaster is if I've got seventeen days to do, I want to do them".
He conceded that "it's entirely within the BBC's right to ask me to step away a little early", but added, "for the sake of seventeen days, which was all that was remaining, it seems a shame".
Since it was confirmed that Bruce was moving from Radio 2 to Greatest Hits Radio, the latter has been heavily promoting its new recruit, obviously keen to encourage a decent number of his current listeners to follow the DJ to the commercial station.
That likely impacted on the BBC's decision to end Bruce's tenure at Radio 2 early, with bosses reckoning that him continuing to pop up on the BBC station was basically providing free promo for his new employer.
That is something Simon Mayo - another former Radio 2 presenter now to be found on Greatest Hits Radio - noted in an interview with the Beeb Watch podcast yesterday.
"If you're on social media, the Greatest Hit Radio Twitter icon is Ken Bruce. Ken is an advert for Greatest Hits Radio now, so I can understand why [BBC execs] might have thought ‘we need to hasten these things'".
And had Bruce been leaving a commercial radio station to present a high profile show for a rival broadcaster, he would likely have "been out the door sooner", Mayo added. Which is almost certainly true. Nevertheless, Mayo said he thought that Bruce's rushed exit was "unfortunate because it does feel messy".
Bruce starts his new show on Greatest Hits Radio in April. Vernon Kaye will take over the morning show on Radio 2 in May.