|THURSDAY 16 MARCH 2023||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Jeremy Hunt delivered his first full budget statement as the UK government's Chancellor Of The Exchequer yesterday, with plans to boost pensions, provide better childcare support and ease the cost of living crisis. These have drawn both criticism and praise. However, within the music industry, various organisations have been lining up to deride the politician for his failure to support the struggling live music sector... [READ MORE]|
Music industry criticises lack of support in Chancellor Jeremy Hunt's first full UK budget
These have drawn both criticism and praise. However, within the music industry, various organisations have been lining up to deride the politician for his failure to support the struggling live music sector. The Music Venue Trust says that this will "inevitably mean that 2023 will be the worst year for [grassroots music venue] closures since the creation of MVT in 2014".
The live music industry has been calling for some time now, on successive chancellors, to put in place a variety of measures that would help venues and other live music companies survive the cost of living crisis and fully recover from the impact of the COVID-caused shutdowns. That included various proposals that were put forward after Hunt delivered a 'mini-budget' in November.
Hunt is now accused of missing "a golden opportunity" in his latest financial statement. There has been some praise - we should probably add - for his plans to extend tax relief for orchestras. But, when this is seemingly the only provision to specifically support music in the budget, it is nowhere near enough, or so say various music industry representatives.
"The government has missed a golden opportunity to support the hardest hit in our sector, as well as turbocharging the whole industry to programme more gigs, shows and festivals up and down the country", says Jon Collins, CEO of live sector trade group LIVE. "This would deliver millions into local economies and support the Chancellor's ambition for the UK to be a dynamic enterprise economy".
"The government could have backed the grassroots of the UK's live music sector", he went on, "including a whole host of budding artists, SMEs and independent venues, as they recover from the damage inflicted by the pandemic; a recovery hampered by double digit inflation and the subsequent cost of production and cost-of-living crisis".
"At the same time", he went on, "the government could have taken steps to accelerate activity for more established artists, suppliers and venues that would have poured millions into local economies across the UK".
Musicians Union General Secretary Naomi Pohl comments: "We are grateful that the government has listened to the MU and others in the creative sectors and extended the higher rate of tax relief for theatres and orchestras for another two years".
"The cuts announced to the BBC Orchestras and Singers last week, along with those brought in by Arts Council England in the autumn, are a stark reminder of the difficulties currently being faced by arts organisations, so this extra injection of cash is a vital lifeline for an incredibly successful sector".
"As noted by the Chancellor today, the creative industries are growing at twice the rate of the economy and the uplifted rate has been driving a much higher rate of activity and employment in the sector than would otherwise have been possible", she goes on. "That said, at the MU we hope that the money provided by this extension of tax relief does filter down to the musicians, performers and other creatives who drive this exceptionally successful sector".
The Association Of Independent Music's CEO Silvia Montello says: "Although it's encouraging to see the government extend help to small businesses, the lack of support for the UK music industry in today's budget is worrying. The business currently faces an array of challenges - from increased costs of touring, to the negative effects of leaving the EU and continued economic pressures on our SMEs".
She added that a lack of support more widely across the music industry was failing the independent music sector and reducing diversity among performers, stating: "Our competitive position within the global music market is in decline and requires urgent investment across our industry. This means introducing greater support for diverse and developing talent, much of which is nurtured within the independent sector that represents nearly 30% of the UK recordings business and 80% of new music releases".
"Key measures must include fiscal incentives for music - on par with those already implemented across film, TV, animation and video games industries - to stimulate content creation and sector growth, and increased support for the live sector, such as reducing VAT on gig tickets in line with other European countries", she continues.
"AIM would welcome the introduction of an 'arts pupil premium' to help lower the socio-economic barrier to music education in schools, and the creation of a national music export office to reflect the UK music industry's position as a net exporter and help British talent continue to build global audiences".
"As part of the UK's commitment to growing AI and emerging technologies, it's vital that music IP and copyright protections remain robust, to protect the income and livelihoods of our recorded music creators and performers", she concludes.
As ever, some of the most damning criticism came from the Music Venue Trust, which laid out the bleak situation facing many of the grassroots music venues it represents - particularly in the face of surging energy prices, as support in that regard is reduced at the end of this month
"Music Venue Trust recently presented to Department For Digital, Culture, Media & Sport and HM Treasury details of the negative impacts that failure to extend the enhanced business energy relief scheme would have on grassroots music venues from 1 Apr 2023", it says.
"Already in 2023 one grassroots music venue is closing every week. The budget was an opportunity to ensure that this number of closures did not explode from the 1 Apr when grassroots music venues will be hit by excessive and unaffordable energy bills. The Chancellor has failed to respond to the evidence we submitted. There is no additional support for music venues and the inevitable result will be mass closures of venues".
"We note that, as per the last five years of budgets, significant opportunities to support the grassroots music venue sector have been overlooked", it goes on. "This network of venues across the country is a prime opportunity to improve productivity, enhance local jobs, and support struggling communities. We welcome the support for theatres, museums, art galleries and orchestras, but once again we note that all the Chancellor's announcements on tax relief for these sectors exclude grassroots music venues and artists".
"We also note that the opportunities to support research and development in this sector has been once again missed; the research and development tax reliefs announced are not relevant to the grassroots music venue sector", it adds. "We remain keen to work with the government to unlock the opportunity that the grassroots music venue sector presents. We hope that in the near future a budget statement will be made that recognises and acknowledges the economic, cultural and community opportunity these venues present".
"Regrettably", it concludes, "the failure to act on energy bills must inevitably mean that 2023 will be the worst year for closures since the creation of MVT in 2014. In the absence of any action to this challenge by the government we will once again be reaching out to the energy supply companies to try to avert closures".
"It is plainly in no one's interest to allow buildings that house grassroots music venues to become abandoned as the cost of energy needed to open those spaces to the public and performers cannot be met by any venue operator".
Finally, UK Music Deputy Chief Executive Tom Kiehl ran though all the various proposals for government support that the cross-sector trade group believes are necessary, proposals which it recently set out in an eight-point plan.
"We are glad the government has listened to the calls from UK Music and our members for the orchestra tax relief to be extended", says Kiehl. "However, there is still a serious threat from the planned BBC cuts to orchestras which we want to see reversed".
"We remain firmly opposed to the need for a broad exception to copyright for text and data mining and are unconvinced of the need for new legislation in this area", he continues. "We will continue to engage constructively with the government's plans to provide clarity on the application of intellectual property law to the AI sector".
"With the continued pressure on venues and studios, it's disappointing that the government did not offer any further direct support on business rates, VAT and energy bills", he adds.
Returning to that eight-point plan, he states: "We would urge the government to back the remaining parts of our eight-point plan that UK Music and our members have drawn up to help turbo-charge the music business and drive economic growth".
"The music industry can play a vital role in helping spearhead growth, but we need government help to deliver thousands of new jobs, to boost UK exports and support music education. As the collective voice of the music industry, UK Music devised the eight-point blueprint for the government to help ensure the sector retains its competitive edge and continues to grow".
In addition to its proposal relating to tax relief for orchestras, UK Music's plan also called for: more support to venues, studios and other music spaces facing soaring energy bills; a cut to business rates for venues and studios; a reduction on VAT for tickets to 5%; a new tax relief for the music industry as a whole; the launch of a British music export office; an arts pupil premium to support students wishing to access music education; and a support package to hep the music industry deal with the extra costs of leaving the EU.
Record industry groups welcome ongoing anti-piracy work by Brazilian authorities
That includes getting stream-ripping apps removed from app stores, shutting down a "major web ring" involved in 72 music piracy domains, and tackling groups involved in leaking new music ahead of its official release.
A new round up of Operation 404 activity says that, since being launched, the anti-piracy campaign has resulted in the "suspension of nearly 1000 domains, removal of 720 infringing music apps and delivery of 96 search warrants".
Brazil's Ministry Of Justice And Public Security also continues to collaborate with counterparts elsewhere in the world, including the City Of London Police's IP Crime Unit in the UK and the Peruvian Copyright Office, INDECOPI.
The latter collaboration, the new update says, has resulted in the shutdown of "a major web ring which had more than 72 domains dedicated to music piracy, including MP3 download and stream-ripping sites".
Meanwhile, recent work back in Brazil has seen "the removal of 63 additional stream-ripping mobile apps from Brazilian app stores and initiated actions against a major group responsible for pre-release infringements".
All this ongoing work has been welcomed by the International Federation Of The Phonographic Industry, where Director Of Global Content Protection And Enforcement, Melissa Morgia, says: "As a result of the coordinated work of the Brazilian authorities, together with the relevant agencies, Operation 404 continues to make important progress by disrupting unlicensed music services on a large scale".
"We thank and commend all the authorities and agencies involved in carrying out these actions", she adds, "for their ongoing collaboration and support in protecting music creators' content".
Meanwhile, at Brazilian record industry trade group Pro-Música Brasil, Director Paulo Rosa says: "Operation 404 has established itself, with its many waves throughout the last five years, including this last one, as a key element in enforcing music creators' rights and protecting such rights from criminal organisations that are operating in the online environment. I join IFPI in thanking all authorities and agencies involved".
Hybe founder comments on US ambitions and failed SM bid
South Korea-based Hybe, of course, made a big entry into the US market in 2021 by acquiring Scooter Braun's company Ithaca Holdings, bringing with it label group Big Machine and Braun's own artist management business. Then last month it announced a deal to buy QC Media Holdings, the Atlanta-based company which owns the Quality Control Music label that boasts a roster including Migos, Lil Baby, Lil Yachty and City Girls.
Confirming that that's just the start of Hybe's ambitions in the Americas, Bang told reporters - according to Reuters - "We will announce a substantial number of acquisitions and investments within this year as part of our efforts to widen our presence in the US". And, as part of all that, Hybe is looking to acquire "top-tier" labels in the Latin music market too, Bang added.
However, while that might all be super exciting, the real excitement of late has been watching the sparring between Hybe and South Korean internet firm Kakao as they battled it out for control of another big K-pop business, SM Entertainment.
The management at SM initially negotiated a deal with Kakao which included the issuing of new shares in their company. But SM founder Lee Soo-man opposed that deal, and enlisted the help of Bang and Hybe in a bid to stop it. Lee sold most of his SM shares to Hybe, which then announced a plan to buy more SM shares until it had a 40% controlling stake in the business.
SM management hit out at that proposal, dubbing it a "hostile takeover". They argued that the proposed alliance with Kakao was the best option for SM's artists and shareholders.
Lee also went to court to seek an order blocking the issuing of new SM shares. Which he got, forcing the initial SM/Kakao deal to be abandoned. But then Kakao announced its own plan to buy up 40% of SM stock, offering existing shareholders a higher price than Hybe had. Not wanting to get into a costly price war, Hybe then bailed on its plan to control SM.
At this week's press conference, according to Koreaboo, Bang revealed that Hybe had made unsuccessful approaches to SM about an acquisition before. However, within Hybe there were always differing opinions on whether expansion through an SM acquisition was the best option.
But, he said, when Lee approached him about a new bid to take control of SM, he concluded that many of the issues that had previously made a Hybe/SM alliance less attractive had now gone away, so maybe the time was right to have another go at making that alliance happen.
However, he conceded, the "competitive and overheated battle" for control of SM that followed "was not expected". Once that was underway, Bang decided that it simply wasn't a battle that Hybe wanted to be fighting.
Various and Stellar team up to launch new music publishing venture
Various Artists actually already has a publishing division called Various Songs, while Stellar Songs is part of Tim And Danny Music - founded by Tim Blacksmith and Danny D - which also has a management company called Delirious Blacksmith Management. So both partners in the new venture know lots about both management and publishing.
Talking about Alternative Songs, David Bianchi - co-Founder and CEO of Various Artists - says: "Tim and Danny are very old friends and collaborators; we have worked closely together for over a decade and this a further strengthening of our existing ties".
"To be able to partner on the launch of Alternative Songs is a joy", he goes on. "By combining our resources, enthusiasm and music industry experience, and by working closely with Mike Smith and his team at Downtown, we aim to create a unique environment in which songwriters can be creatively and commercially successful".
The there mentioned Mike Smith, Chief Creative Officer at Downtown Music, says he's "delighted to formalise my long-standing relationship with Various Artists and Stellar Songs".
"I have known Danny D since his days as an artist when we published him at EMI Publishing and have always found him to be one of the most creative people in the music business and always with the best interests of the songwriter/artist close to his heart", he continues.
"I've also been lucky to work with David Bianchi and his team on many different projects over the years and have always found it to be a rewarding experience; their ability to make things happen in the music industry is second to none".
And finally Danny D says: "I'm simply over the moon about this partnership as we all have the same goals, vision and work ethic which has brought us together over the years".
"I first worked with Mike when I signed my first publishing deal with EMI many moons ago and his all-round success as an executive is something to be admired", he adds.
"I first met David when we signed Charli XCX and it's been an absolute joy working with him and the whole team since day one. Together we're all looking to make the experience for our writers a great one topped with success!"
The Cure's Robert Smith criticises Ticketmaster over fees for US tour tickets exceeding face value prices
The band, he said, had opted to sell tickets though Ticketmaster's Verified Fan system in order to limit the number that ended up on the big bad touting sites (or 'scalping' sites if you prefer, given these are US shows). Despite seeing positives with that approach, Smith said that he was also angry about the high fees charged by the Live Nation-owned ticketing platform.
"I am as sickened as you all are by today's Ticketmaster fees debacle", he wrote on Twitter last night. "To be very clear: The artist has no way to limit them. I have been asking how they are justified. If I get anything coherent by way of an answer I will let you all know".
Prior to the tickets going on sale, Smith explained to fans why the band had chosen to sell exclusively though Ticketmaster, saying: "We had final say in all our ticket pricing for this upcoming tour and didn't want those prices instantly and horribly distorted by resale".
He said that Ticketmaster had assured the band that, by using its Verified Fans system, they could reduce the number of tickets that would end up being touted via North America's "multi-billion dollar" resale market by as much as 80%.
As a result, he continued, the band "were convinced that Ticketmaster's Verified Fan page and face value ticket exchange ideas could help us fight the scalpers".
"We know it is a far from perfect system", he went on, "but the reality is that if there aren't enough tickets on sale, a number of fans are going to miss out whatever system we use. At least this one tries to get tickets into the hands of fans at a fair price".
This all comes at a time when Ticketmaster is facing heavy criticism in US political circles for some of its ticket-selling practices.
That criticism spiked after all the issues that occurred when tickets for Taylor Swift's upcoming tour were put on sale via the Verified Fan system last year - an incident that resulted in a hearing in US Congress where the ticketing business in general and Ticketmaster in particular were both in the spotlight.
One practice that has come in for significant criticism of late is Ticketmaster's 'dynamic pricing' system, which prices tickets based on demand. Smith also had some harsh words for that, confirming that the band had refused to implement said system because it seemed like a "scam".
As well as taking aim at Ticketmaster itself over dynamic pricing and so called platinum tickets, he also berated other artists who have chosen to employ the practice.
"We didn't agree to the dynamic pricing/price surging/platinum ticket thing because it is itself a bit of a scam", he wrote. "I had a separate conversation about platinum to see if I had misunderstood something, but I hadn't! It is a greedy scam and all artists have the choice not to participate. If no artists participate, it would cease to exist".
Fans themselves didn't get off entirely scot-free either when it came to Smith's ticketing-related criticisms. Explaining that the band's team were removing tickets from the secondary sites wherever possible, he added: "I am compelled to note down my obvious recurring elephant in the room thought that if no one bought from scalpers then…"
The Cure's US tour is set to begin in May and run through to the beginning of July.
450+ composers criticise proposed cuts to BBC's orchestras and choir
The BBC recently announced a big revamp of its classical music output. Among other things, that includes a plan to cut the number of salaried roles within the broadcaster's in-house orchestras in England by 20%, while the BBC Singers chamber choir will be phased out entirely.
Coleman's letter addresses the affected performers, stating: "The BBC's new strategy for classical music has been met with dismay not only by you, as employees directly affected, but also by us composers and music creators".
"The BBC is by some distance the largest commissioner of contemporary classical music in the UK, and the performing groups perform our work faultlessly in concert halls, schools and on live broadcasts across the country", he goes on. "Only last year, The Ivors Academy commissioned a report that found 62% of Ivors Composer Awards past winners and nominees had been commissioned by the BBC or a BBC ensemble".
"This commitment is epitomised by the BBC Singers", he adds, "who have delivered world-class performances of new music for almost a century. They occupy a unique place not only within the BBC, but in our national musical life as a whole, as the UK's only full-time choir".
"While the complete disbanding of the BBC Singers is understandably the focus of headlines", he then says, "the proposed 20% reduction in the salaried workforce of three of the BBC's world-renowned performing ensembles causes further concern".
"Like their counterparts in the BBC Singers, musicians in the orchestras play a huge amount of new music with precision and verve. From the Symphony Orchestra's excellent Total Immersion series, to the Scottish Symphony's cutting edge Tectonics festival, the BBC ensembles serve composers in a way most other ensembles do not".
"Against the context of previous cuts to arts and music programming on BBC television and radio, the cutback of salaried performers threatens to undermine the consistent volume and quality of new music performances by these groups".
Coleman then concludes: "On behalf of colleagues represented by The Ivors Academy, I urge the decision makers at the BBC to think again. Your decisions will profoundly affect not only your loyal workforce of highly-trained, dedicated musicians, but have damaging consequences now and long into the future for composers, creatives, our music sector and culture".
You can see the long list of composers supporting Coleman's letter here.
Both the Musicians' Union and the Independent Society Of Musicians are also actively campaigning against the proposed cuts at the BBC. Both are urging their members to confirm their opposition to the cuts to their local MPs, with template letters available for MU members here and ISM members here. Meanwhile conductor Jack Apperley has set up an online petition here.
Dev Hynes puts spotlight on diversity and evolution of classical music in new Radio 3 show
Called 'Composed With Devonté Hynes', the programme also aims to "showcase how classical music is constantly evolving", with the official blurb adding: "From shining a light on overlooked composers through to navigating the beauty and tension of modern music, the series will be an intimate glimpse into the mind and influences of one of the most exciting and boundary-pushing artists of the last decade".
The twelve part weekly series will start airing on Radio 3 this weekend, though the first three episodes are already available on the BBC Sounds app. And as the show premieres on air, Hynes will play two dates at the Barbican in London on 18 and 19 Mar where he will be joined by the London Symphony Orchestra to perform "contemporary classical music that confronts the complexities of 21st Century identity and defies the expectations of orchestral music".
Commenting on all this, Hynes says: "I am honoured to present this series dedicated to my influences within the classical world. I hope people will enjoy how wide a genre it is, and discover artists, lots of whom are still active, who I feel deserve a lot more attention than is given".
Radio 3 Commissioning Executive Philip Raperport adds: "Too often, classical music is at risk of being pigeon-holed, despite the incredible diversity that the genre offers. We wanted to provide audiences with a new kind of classical listening experience, one that showcases how artists across the musical spectrum have identified with and been inspired by classical".
"We are so THRILLED that Devonté Hynes, one of the most exciting musicians working in the industry today, is leading on this and we can't wait for listeners to dive into Dev's world", he goes on.
You can listen to the first three editions of the new programme here.
Metallica's Lars Ulrich says negative reaction to Lou Reed collaboration was down to "ignorance" of fans
Because maybe listening to that album again after all this time would reveal something quite interesting and worthwhile that we all missed first time round. Would it though? Well, Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich reckons it might.
"We had a chance to get to a creative place we'd never been [to before] and the lyrics inspired that", says Ulrich about the album in an interview published in a new book about Reed's life and work, 'The Art Of The Straight Line', reports Loudwire.
"Lou took us out of our comfort zone", he continues. "The lyrics were angry, spiteful, awkward and beautiful, and all made sense. It was a cohesive work that had almost every human emotion".
"What the fuck is it about 'Lulu' that it got that kind of [negative] reaction?" he then asks. "I can't quite figure it out, but years later, it's aged extremely well. It sounds like a motherfucker still".
"So I can only put the reaction down to ignorance", he reckons. "It took our fans to a place I wish they would go more often. Maybe it would be a better time to release it now with what's going on outside in the world, the chaos".
"I don't know, but I am very proud of this record", he goes on. "James [Hetfield] and I would be figuring out ways through a piece of music and then Lou would look over and go, 'that's it, I'm not doing another fucking take of that'. That's not the way we usually worked, but it was so beautiful and great, the whole thing".
So, maybe it's time to reappraise 'Lulu' and listen with fresh ears. Although, as I said, I've already done that quite recently, and it still sounded pretty dreadful to my (possibly ignorant) ears. Sorry Lars.
Metallica have a new album, '72 Seasons', out on 14 Apr. 'The Art Of The Straight Line' is out now - more info here.