|THURSDAY 13 APRIL 2023||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: It has emerged that Universal Music recently sent a letter to the big streaming services expressing concerns that the makers of generative AI tools might be scraping those platforms' catalogues in order to train their technologies. The major urged Spotify and others to ensure that any such activity is blocked... [READ MORE]|
Universal Music urges the streaming services to ensure their platforms aren't being scraped by music-making AI tools
Although not new, generative AI tools have become a big talking point in the music industry of late, partly because those technologies are getting a lot more sophisticated, and partly because of the hype surrounding platforms like Chat GPT.
AI technologies that can compose, produce and record music pose a number of important copyright questions, including around the copyright status of music created using AI, and also what licences are required when such technologies are trained by crunching data associated with existing songs and recordings.
There remains some debate as to whether copyright law in some countries actually allows such training without licence, or even whether some training of AI technologies could be covered by the US principle of fair use.
The copyright industries are generally adamant that any crunching of data associated with existing copyright protected works can only be done with the permission of the copyright owner, and that any AI tool developer that doesn't get that permission is liable for copyright infringement.
All that is likely to be tested in court in the months and years ahead, with the cases involving Getty and visual generative AI platform Stability.AI - which are being pursued through both the UK and US courts - definitely ones to watch.
However, even once any questions regarding the possible ambiguities in copyright law have been sorted out, there remains the challenge of tracking what databases and catalogues of content have been mined by what AI technologies.
Which is becoming a particular concern within the music industry at the moment, with suspicions high that a number of music-making AIs have been trained via unlicensed data mining.
"We will not hesitate to take steps to protect our rights and those of our artists", Universal's letter to the streaming services declared, according to the FT. But doing so will likely require some detective work as well as legal wrangling.
When asked about the letter to the streaming services yesterday, Universal told Billboard: "We have a moral and commercial responsibility to our artists to work to prevent the unauthorised use of their music and to stop platforms from ingesting content that violates the rights of artists and other creators. We expect our platform partners will want to prevent their services from being used in ways that harm artists".
Ditto settles Opulous dispute with Lil Yachty
The rapper - real name Miles McCollum - went legal in January last year via the courts in California, claiming that Opulous had used his name and brand as part of its launch communications in 2021, even though he had never agreed to get involved in the new venture.
Ditto was also named as a defendant - as was Ditto and Opulous founder Lee Parsons - on the basis that they had both posted about those launch communications on their respective social media channels.
McCollum's lawsuit conceded that he and his management team had met with Parsons to discuss Opulous, which encourages fans to invest in new music in return for a royalty right linked to any tracks they support, all secured via NFTs on the blockchain.
However, said lawsuit insisted, they never agreed to work with the NFT start-up, or for Lil Yachty's name to be linked to it in formal communications.
In a media statement responding to the lawsuit, Opulous insisted that it had, in fact, secured the necessary approvals before linking Lil Yachty to its NFTs platform. However, it was Ditto and Parsons that formally responded through the courts.
They both tried to get the case dismissed on jurisdiction grounds, arguing that Ditto is a UK-based company and Parsons is a British citizen with no formal connections to California.
However, the judge ruled that Ditto - with US addresses on its website, employees recruited in the US and American events promoted on its social media - fell under the jurisdiction of the Californian courts. As did Parsons, because he had been personally involved in the meetings with McCollum to discuss Opulous.
This meant that the legal battle was set to proceed. But no more. It seems both Ditto and Parsons have now reached an out of court settlement with McCollum and his team.
A short filing with the court earlier this week states: "Defendants Ditto Ltd [trading as] Ditto Music and Lee James Parsons submit this notice of settlement to notify the court that the above-entitled matter has been settled. The parties request 45 days to confirm the settlement in writing and file a dismissal of the action".
The legal filing doesn't mention Opulous itself. When Ditto and Parsons formally responded to the lawsuit last year we were told that the Opulous company - being formally based in Singapore - had yet to be served with any legal papers in relation to the litigation.
Decca signs Damian Lewis
Apparently that album, called 'Mission Creep' and out on 16 Jun, is in part inspired by the time when, shortly after leaving school, Lewis busked his way around Europe. Though the idea to actually make a record came about much more recently during lockdown.
Says the man himself: "I suddenly had a lot to say. People will judge if it's any good or not, but for me, it felt entirely natural".
Add Decca Co-Presidents Tom Lewis and Laura Monks: "We are so delighted that Damian chose Decca. His songwriting is poetic, poignant and deeply personal. The album, recorded just down the road in Kentish Town, has a raw and refreshing honesty to it. Damian really opens his heart and invites us in. It is a thing of great beauty".
First single 'Down On The Bowery' is out now, and Lewis will also play some tunes at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival on 1 May, the Black Deer Festival on 16 Jun and at London's Union Chapel on 11 Jul.
Hip hop and rap continued to grow UK album consumption share in 2022, says BPI
According to that number crunching, which counts both streaming and sales data, hip hop and rap had a 12.4% share of album consumption in the UK last year, up from 11.9% in 2021 and its highest ever annual share, more than triple what it achieved back in 2015.
Music from domestic talent like Central Cee, Dave and Stormzy helped with all that, of course, alongside releases from the likes of Drake, Kendrick Lamar and Eminem.
As for other genres, rock's share of album consumption was 37.4%, with pop at 27.2%, R&B at 7.9%, dance at 3.3%, and MOR and easy listening at 3%.
If it's singles consumption share you're interested in, pop got 31.9%, rap/hip hop 18.9% and dance 10.6%. So rap and hip hop accounts for more consumption when it comes to singles compared to albums, although it was in album consumption where we saw the growth in 2022.
Make of all that whatever you will. Feel free to wonder how these genres are even defined for number crunching purposes if you like. Maybe even muse about what 'album consumption' and 'single consumption' even means in the streaming age.
Or, you know, you could just take these stats as a free gift and think no more about it. Or hum a catchy tune to pass the time. That is also an option.
Says BPI Chief Strategy Officer and Interim Chief Executive Sophie Jones: "As 2023 marks the 50th anniversary since the birth of hip hop and rap, the genre is showing immaculate timing by celebrating another milestone in its remarkable history and claiming a historic annual share of the UK albums market".
"Hip hop and rap has been hugely popular with British music fans since The Sugarhill Gang's ground-breaking hit 'Rapper's Delight' at the end of the 70s", she reckons. "But while at one time most of its successes here were exported from across the Atlantic, the UK today has a thriving scene of its own, led by brilliant artists such as Dave, D-Block Europe, Little Simz and Stormzy, to name a few".
"They and many others in the genre are taking full advantage of the opportunities provided by streaming", she goes on, "which, with record label support, has placed them at the centre of British music culture and is delivering them hugely-deserved success".
Lovely stuff. These and more stats can be found in the BPI's 'All About The Music 2023' book, which is out now.
Warner Mexico launches new female-led label Gorgona
The major explains that "despite Mexico being the home of many great female artists, the presence of women in other key senior industry roles has historically been low - this has been exacerbated by the social context of a country with very serious labour inequality issues".
"This concern led to the formation of Warner Music Mexico's Gender Equality Committee", it goes on, "which is composed exclusively of women from across the company. They wanted to be proactive and create a space that would bring more visibility to female executives and help their career development".
"Thus came the idea", it adds, "of creating a label in which absolutely all roles in the supply chain - from songwriting to pitching to digital music services - would be carried out by women".
The new label has already held a songwriting camp for female music-makers, while its first record is the recently released 'Cypher 1: Ella', a collaboration between Mabiland, Emjay, Mare Advertencia and Delfina Dib.
Says Andrea Fernandez, A&R Manager at Warner Music Mexico and the new label's creative leader: "The atmosphere in our first camp was very friendly because everyone felt that their opinions and voices were validated in the studio".
"They had practically never attended a camp where the participation of women was greater than that of men", she adds. "We came out with a network of creative women who were able to get to know themselves and their work and produced spectacular songs".
Tim Westwood questioned by police over alleged sex offences
According to the BBC, the police force is now investigating five accusations of misconduct that have been made against the DJ, with formal questioning taking place on 15 Mar and 4 Apr. However, he has so far not been arrested.
The police investigation follows a media exposé last year in which a number of women made allegations of sexual misconduct against Westwood.
Some of those women said that, after they agreed to meet with the DJ to discuss their careers in music, he had pressured them into sex. Others claimed that he had groped them as they posed for photographs at events.
Many of the alleged incidents took place between 1994 and 2013 when Westwood worked for the BBC. The broadcaster initially said it was unaware of any complaints having been made about the DJ while he was still presenting shows on its radio stations.
However, it subsequently admitted that some old complaints had now been found in the files. BBC bosses then instigated an independent review which is currently ongoing, and which is investigating the extent to which former BBC management were aware of the past allegations and how they dealt with them at the time.
The alleged offences being investigated by the Metropolitan Police reportedly date from between 1982 and 2016. Westwood has previously denied all the allegations of misconduct that have been made against him.
Foo Fighters tease new music
The band posted a short snippet of music on social media yesterday, in a video overlaid with the words "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" I'm thinking that's the title of a new song soon to be released, but I guess we'll just have to wait and see.
Hawkins died while on tour with the band in South America just over a year ago, aged 50. The band's other members then returned to the stage with a variety of guests for two tribute shows in London and LA in September.
On New Year's Eve, they posted an update announcing that they had decided to continue as a band.
"Without Taylor, we never would have become the band that we were", they said. "And without Taylor we know that we're going to be a different band going forward".
"We also know that you, the fans, meant as much to Taylor as he meant to you", they added. "And we know that when we see you again - and we will soon - he'll be there in spirit with all of us every night".
John Lydon sues over ownership of Public Image Ltd logo
According to Law360, the dispute has kicked off because Lydon did a deal with streetwear brand Supreme to create clothing that contains his band's logo.
Lawyers for Morris - whose links with Lydon go back to the Sex Pistols in the 1970s - then issued a cease and desist notice earlier this year claiming that the Supreme garments feature his original artwork and therefore infringe his copyright.
However, Lydon's lawsuit claims, while he and Morris collaborated on creating the PIL logo back in the day, it was agreed that Lydon would be the sole owner of the copyright in the artwork. Therefore he can license third parties to use the image without involving Morris.
Lydon wants the UK high court to confirm that he is the sole owner of the copyright in the logo and that his use of it is not infringing any other copyrights Morris may own.
Let's just hope this ends up in court, because we know that full on Lydon legal battles can be rather entertaining.