|WEDNESDAY 8 MARCH 2023||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Another set of proposals have been introduced in US Congress in response to ongoing concerns about foreign governments having access to American user data via technology companies based in their countries, with the highest profile cause of concern at the moment being good old TikTok... [READ MORE]|
US government welcomes latest proposals in Congress to address ongoing TikTok data concerns
Politicians in multiple countries have expressed concern about what access the Chinese government may or may not have to TikTok user-data via its China-based owner Bytedance. For its part, TikTok continues to deny that there are any data security issues on its platform, though those denials don't seem to be reassuring any of its critics so far.
Yesterday in the US Senate, Democrat Mark Warner and Republican John Thune introduced what they are calling the Restricting The Emergence Of Security Threats That Risk Information And Communications Technology Act - or the RESTRICT Act if you prefer.
According to an official statement, the proposed new laws would "comprehensively address the ongoing threat posed by technology from foreign adversaries by better empowering the Department Of Commerce to review, prevent and mitigate information communications and technology transactions that pose undue risk to our national security".
Commenting on the proposals, Warner stressed that the RESTRICT Act is not just about empowering the US government to take action against Bytedance and TikTok. Although, he admitted, that is a particular priority right now.
"Today, the threat that everyone is talking about is TikTok and how it could enable surveillance by the Chinese Communist Party, or facilitate the spread of malign influence campaigns in the US", he said.
"Before TikTok, however, it was Huawei and ZTE which threatened our nation's telecommunications networks", he noted. "And before that, it was Russia's Kaspersky Lab, which threatened the security of government and corporate devices".
"We need a comprehensive, risk-based approach that proactively tackles sources of potentially dangerous technology before they gain a foothold in America, so we aren't playing Whac-A-Mole and scrambling to catch up once they're already ubiquitous".
The RESTRICT Act is not the first set of proposals seeking to address these concerns in Washington. Last week the Foreign Affairs Committee over in the House Of Representatives approved similar proposals recently introduced in that chamber of Congress.
They would require and empower the US President to put restrictions in place on a platform if it was shown it had transferred user data to any foreign person working for or under the influence of the Chinese government.
And last year there were proposals with cross party support in both chambers of Congress that would also allow restrictions to be put in place on apps like TikTok.
All these recent proposals in part would remove the legal ambiguities which meant that an attempt by former US President Donald Trump to ban the use of TikTok in the US was unsuccessful, with his ban never going into effect because of challenges in the courts that continued until he left office.
TikTok's response to all these proposals has generally been to point to ongoing conversations between the company and the US government regarding measures that might allay the concerns of politicians, the argument being that those conversations should be allowed to continue and reach a conclusion.
Though yesterday Jake Sullivan, National Security Advisor to President Joe Biden, welcomed the new RESTRICT Act, stating: "This legislation would empower the United States government to prevent certain foreign governments from exploiting technology services operating in the United States in a way that poses risks to Americans' sensitive data and our national security".
"This bill presents a systematic framework for addressing technology-based threats to the security and safety of Americans", he said. "This legislation would provide the US government with new mechanisms to mitigate the national security risks posed by high-risk technology businesses operating in the United States".
And "critically, it would strengthen our ability to address discrete risks posed by individual transactions, and systemic risks posed by certain classes of transactions involving countries of concern in sensitive technology sectors. This will help us address the threats we face today, and also prevent such risks from arising in the future".
He then concluded: "We look forward to continue working with both Democrats and Republicans on this bill, and urge Congress to act quickly to send it to the President's desk".
All these proposals will no doubt come up when TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew appears before the Energy And Commerce Committee in the House on 23 Mar. Fun times.
SM Entertainment confirms support for Kakao's latest share buying plan
SM management previously agreed a deal with Kakao - which has its own entertainment business and operates the streaming service Melon - which would have seen the former issue new shares to be sold to the latter.
However, SM's founder and - until recently - biggest shareholder Lee Soo-man opposed that deal and last week successfully blocked the issuing of new SM shares through the Korean courts.
Lee also sold most of his SM shares to rival K-pop powerhouse Hybe, best known as home of BTS, making it clear that - if SM was going to forge an alliance with a competitor - he'd prefer it to be Hybe rather than Kakao.
Hybe's deal with Lee gave it a 14.8% stake in SM, although Hybe bosses said they were interested in buying shares from other shareholders with the aim of securing a 40% controlling stake in their rival.
However, with its original deal with SM cancelled because of last week's court ruling, earlier this week Kakao said it was now also interested in buying SM shares with a similar ambition to acquire around 40% of the business. But Kakao is offering a higher price than Hybe.
In a statement about its new bid for SM shares yesterday, Kakao said that it needed to become the largest shareholder in its rival in order to "stably maintain" a partnership that will allow the two companies to better compete in the global entertainment market.
According to Korea JoongAng Daily, Kakao's statement continued: "Kakao respects SM Entertainment's unique tradition and identity and will guarantee autonomous management [and] continuation of artist independence in their activities".
"When SM Entertainment's global influence in music and artist intellectual property fuses with Kakao Entertainment's expertise in the intellectual property businesses, we'll be able to strengthen our global competitiveness by expanding our intellectual property businesses across a variety of sectors as well as in music", its statement added.
SM's management quickly confirmed that they supported Kakao's bid to become the firm's biggest shareholder. According to CNN, they said that Kakao was their preferred partner because of its "respect for the current management's efforts to address factors that have hindered SM Entertainment's growth".
"Unlike Hybe", they went on, "which seeks to take control of SM's board of directors through a hostile takeover, Kakao respects SM's unique tradition and identity, and will ensure the company's independent operation, as well as SM artists' continuous activities".
Focus Wales teams up with Trac Cymru and Tŷ Cerdd on Welsh Music Abroad initiative
The three organisations said in a statement that, having collaborated for many years, work on this new initiative began earlier this year. The launch of Welsh Music Abroad comes ahead of the Welsh music showcase Focus Wales will host at South By Southwest in Austin, Texas next week.
Commenting on the initiative, Focus Wales co-founder Andy Jones says: "Sharing our experience, knowledge and collective networks, our aim is to create increased international opportunities for all artists and industry working within the music sector in Wales, to further their artistic development, and ultimately create more sustainable careers for those wishing to work within the sector".
Meanwhile Tŷ Cerdd Director Deborah Keyser adds: "Supporting Welsh artists to develop their craft and meet new audiences is central to our work at Tŷ Cerdd. We're committed to creating inclusive pathways to international opportunities through our close connections with global networks - and our recent collaboration with Focus Wales and Trac Cymru has amplified that work. It feels the right time to launch Welsh Music Abroad, as a strong statement that we are working together to support artists' mobility and sustainability".
And Trac Cymru Director Danny KilBride says: "For three SMEs in a small country, the only way we can work effectively is in partnerships - be that with each other or with Welsh and international organisations. In each of our sectors we've built up a huge knowledgebase of how to help our emerging and established musicians and music businesses. It's never about export alone. It's always about an exchange - of values, of music and culture. Like our football team's motto 'gorau chwarae cyd chwarae', we play better when we work as a team".
There is more information about the new initiative at welshmusicabroad.com
MU hits out a proposed cutbacks as BBC announces plans to revamp its classical music output
However, accompanying moves to reduce the number of salaried positions in those orchestras and to phase out entirely the BBC's in-house chamber choir have understandably got the most attention, especially from the Musicians' Union.
Alongside talk of "creating agile ensembles that can work flexibly and creatively", "reinforcing the distinctiveness of the BBC's five unique orchestras" and "doubling funding for music education", the Beeb admitted that its plans involve "reducing salaried orchestral posts across the BBC English orchestras by around 20%".
And also "taking the difficult decision to close the BBC Singers in order to invest more widely in the future of choral singing across the UK, working with a wide range of choral groups alongside launching a major choral development programme for new talent".
However, it said, with the new plans the BBC will "invest more widely in the sector across the UK, whilst delivering savings that ensure we deliver high quality orchestral and choral music within a sustainable financial model".
Saving money is part of the aim here - with the BBC at large needing to cut its costs - however, it insisted, "even were there no financial challenges, we believe these steps are the right ones to take to help ensure the future success of the sector".
Charlotte Moore, the BBC's Chief Content Officer, said of the plans: "This is the first major review of classical music at the BBC in a generation. This new strategy is bold, ambitious and good for the sector and for audiences who love classical music".
"That doesn't mean that we haven't had to make some difficult decisions, but equally they are the right ones for the future", she added. "Great classical music should be available and accessible to everyone, and we're confident these measures will ensure more people will engage with music, have better access to it, and that we'll be able to play a greater role in developing and nurturing the musicians and music lovers of tomorrow".
The cutbacks are, of course, a cause for concern for the Musicians' Union and its members. Confirming yesterday that the union is now in urgent talks with the BBC, MU General Secretary Naomi Pohl said: "The BBC is the biggest employer and engager of musicians in the UK and it plays a unique role in the ecosystem of our music industry".
"From Glastonbury to the Proms, from Jools Holland to BBC radio, its coverage, support and promotion of British musical talent nationally and internationally is unrivalled", she added. "It is because we appreciate the BBC's role so much that these proposed cuts are so utterly devastating".
"The BBC performing groups are vital to the BBC in our view", she went on. "They are busy, they perform a wide range of roles across numerous high-profile programmes and events, and they also already contribute to music education".
"The hundreds of singers and musicians they employ will be very concerned about their futures today and we will support them and stand with them to push back against these proposals. We will fight for every job. This will mean working with the BBC to look at alternative measures, representing affected individuals and also calling on the government to step in with more support".
"Musicians have suffered greatly during the pandemic and with the rising cost-of-living", she continued. "As a profession and as an industry, we remain in crisis. The government could protect organisations and jobs in the short term by extending the increased rate of orchestral tax relief beyond April. Going forward, they must also increase funding so that organisations can preserve jobs and continue to deliver the world-class music that Britain is renowned for".
IMPALA pays tribute to journalist Juliana Koranteng
As a journalist, Koranteng reported on trends and developments in the music, media, tech and wider creative sectors, including for trade magazines, and publications produced by various industry conferences and events. She also ran her own London-based B2B content media agency JayKay Media.
Among her many projects, Koranteng hosted IMPALA's 20MinutesWith podcast, which saw her interview people from across the independent music community as the trade group celebrating its 20th year.
"IMPALA dedicates International Women's Day to Juliana Koranteng, journalist and media specialist, [and] a prominent voice in the music sector who sadly passed away last month after a short illness", the organisation said this morning.
"At IMPALA, we got to know Juliana not only as a journalist, but also as a diversity advisor", it continued, "as well as curator and host of the podcast series launched for our 20th year anniversary, 20MinutesWith. Juliana interviewed over 30 key players in the independent music sector to shine a light on the people that drive the sector and projects inspiring change".
IMPALA Executive Chair Helen Smith added: "We remember Juliana's big smile, infectious laugh and searching questions as an inspiration to all of us. Juliana had always been a strong advocate for equity and championed the principle behind the theme of this year's International Women's Day - embrace equity".
As part of the 20MinutesWith podcast series, on one edition Koranteng discussed her own career and work with the independent music sector. You can access that edition here.
Wise Music Group has announced one of those global exclusive publishing agreements between its Chester Music business and British-Indian-American musician Anoushka Shankar. "Anoushka Shankar is a multi-faceted talent with huge potential in global media markets as well on the world's greatest stages", says CEO Marcus Wise. "We look forward to supporting her growth in these areas as both an artist and a composer".
Also at Wise Music Group and Chester Music, a global exclusive publishing deal has been announced with American composer and sound artist Ellen Reid. Says Chester Music MD Wiebke Busch: "The team at Chester Music is honoured to welcome Ellen Reid, composer and sound artist of a unique dimension! We are inspired by her creative energy and honoured to be part of her creative journey".
The UK's Entertainment Retailers Association yesterday published its annual Yearbook full of stats and insights for all fans of stats and insights whose fandom for stats and insights is skewed towards stats and insights about music, video and gaming in the UK. Download yourself a copy here.
Angel Olsen will release an EP called 'Forever Means' on 14 Apr. First track 'Nothing's Free' is already streaming - here's the official lyric video.
DevilDriver have announced that new album 'Dealing With Demons Vol II' will be released on 12 May. Check the video for lead single 'Through The Depths'.
GIGS & TOURS
Another 150 artists were added to the line-up of The Great Escape yesterday. Yes, 150! Among them The Murder Capital, JGrrey, Hak Baker, Sophie May, Mae Stephens and L Devine. Get yourself a delegate pass to access all of that plus the TGE Conference including the CMU+TGE Sessions. TGE 2023 is happening from 10-13 May.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
US judge and Soundgarden fan encourages settlement in ongoing dispute between band and Chris Cornell's widow
At the heart of this legal battle are various recordings Cornell made prior to his death in 2017, and a dispute over who owns said recordings and how they might be released.
Though in a lawsuit filed in 2019, Vicky Cornell also accused the other members of Soundgarden of withholding royalties due to her late husband's estate and making false statements in a bid to force her hand over the recordings.
A second lawsuit was then filed in 2021 in relation to another dispute over the valuation of Cornell's share in the band and their business.
The two lawsuits were then consolidated by the courts, with a magistrate judge subsequently publishing an opinion on the dispute which more or less sided with the band, concluding that Cornell had not provided sufficient evidence to back up her allegations.
The ongoing case - and the conclusions of that magistrate judge - were discussed at a session yesterday overseen by judge Robert S Lasnik, a self-declared fan of Soundgarden and the Seattle grunge scene they emerged from.
According to Law360, he told legal reps for both Cornell and the band that the litigation was a "terrible distraction" from the legacy of Soundgarden, adding: "I hope the lawyers will take a look at this and say, 'Is there really that much dispute here about what should happen and can we give people what they are entitled to and move on?'"
Despite the magistrate judge basically siding with the band, Lasnik also encouraged their lawyers to sympathetically consider Cornell's position.
"She has her reasons for doing what she's doing to protect herself and her children", he said. "You may disagree with those, and the band members may see it in a completely different way, but we have to get past the personal attacks if we want to really try to come to a resolution that provides for the best for her and her children and the best for the band".
Lawyers on both sides should also consider the band's fans, he added - including himself, presumably - who just want to hear the tracks Cornell worked on prior to his death. Lasnik then mused: "I am hoping you will heed my observation that this [legal battle] doesn't do anyone any good in the long run".
It remains to be seen if the judge's words can help facilitate any kind of settlement.