|TUESDAY 18 APRIL 2023||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Universal Music has again called on the streaming platforms to play their part in ensuring that generative AI tools are not infringing the copyrights of the music industry. Though this time it stresses that that also involves removing music created by copyright infringing AI technologies, as well as stopping said technologies from scraping the music stored on their servers... [READ MORE]|
Universal Music again demands streaming platform support over AI-created music as fake Drake goes viral
The latest statement has been issued after another AI-created Drake track caught everyone's attention. I guess, given Drake's status as one of the biggest artists in the world today, it's unsurprising that music-making AI is being used to create new Drake tracks. Though, I think we can all agree, the human Drake has already created far more Drake tracks than we really need, and we definitely don't need the robots joining in.
At the weekend, Drake responded to an unofficial AI-created track in which his voice seemed to be performing a version of Ice Spice's 'Munch (Feelin U)', stating on Instagram that "this is the final straw".
However, Universal's statement was prompted by a track uploaded by someone going by the name Ghostwriter, in which a fake Drake performs a song called 'Heart On My Sleeve' accompanied by an also AI-generated The Weeknd. After quickly going viral on TikTok, the track also appeared for a time on the streaming services. Until Universal Music - as the label of both artists - seemingly got it taken down.
"UMG's success has been, in part, due to embracing new technology and putting it to work for our artists", the major said in a subsequent statement, "as we have been doing with our own innovation around AI for some time already".
"With that said, however, the training of generative AI using our artists' music (which represents both a breach of our agreements and a violation of copyright law) as well as the availability of infringing content created with generative AI on [the streaming services], begs the question as to which side of history all stakeholders in the music ecosystem want to be on: the side of artists, fans and human creative expression, or on the side of deep fakes, fraud and denying artists their due compensation".
"These instances demonstrate why platforms have a fundamental legal and ethical responsibility to prevent the use of their services in ways that harm artists", it then insisted. "We're encouraged by the engagement of our platform partners on these issues - as they recognise they need to be part of the solution".
The music industry remains adamant that when generative AI tools are trained by mining data associated with existing songs and recordings - in order to compose and record new works, or create vocals in the style of a specific artist - licences are required from whoever owns the copyright in that existing music.
A failure to secure such a licence therefore constitutes copyright infringement. With that in mind, Universal Music recently sent a letter to the streaming services urging them to ensure that the music on their platforms isn't scraped by the makers of any generative AI technologies, stating: "We will not hesitate to take steps to protect our rights and those of our artists".
All that said, as always there are plenty of ambiguities in copyright law in this domain, especially once you go global. If it turns out that, in at least a few jurisdictions, some data mining is possible without licence, that will raise some interesting questions, including what happens when music created by AI trained in those countries is made available across the world.
Then there's the question as to whether an artist can protect their distinct vocal style over and above preventing the mining of their copyright protected recordings. That takes you beyond copyright and into image and publicity rights. And, in that domain, the recently filed lawsuit by Rick Astley - even though not in itself an AI music case - could prove interesting.
Either way, Universal continues to make it clear that it expects its licensing partners in the digital music marketplace to be close allies when it comes to monitoring and policing the creation and distribution of what seems likely to be an ever-increasing number of AI-created songs and recordings in the style of human music-makers.
Soundgarden settle legal dispute with Vicky Cornell
That new material was at the heart of the legal battle, with a dispute over who owns the recordings and how they might be released. 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 new music.
A second lawsuit then followed in 2021 in relation to another dispute over the valuation of Chris Cornell's share in the band and their business. The two lawsuits were then combined, and a magistrate judge provided an opinion on the various disagreements, more or less siding with the band and concluding that Vicky Cornell had not provided sufficient evidence to back up her allegations.
Though, during a court hearing last month, the main judge overseeing the case urged the band's legal team to sympathetically consider her position. Revealing that he was a Soundgarden fan, he encouraged both sides in the dispute to reach a settlement, noting that the ongoing litigation was a "terrible distraction" from the band's legacy.
Perhaps that judicial intervention worked. A statement on Instagram yesterday declared: "Soundgarden and Vicky Cornell, on behalf of the estate of Chris Cornell, are happy to announce they have reached an amicable out of court resolution".
"The reconciliation marks a new partnership between the two parties", it added, "which will allow Soundgarden fans around the world to hear the final songs that the band and Chris were working on. The two parties are united and coming together to propel, honour and build upon Soundgarden's incredible legacy as well as Chris's indelible mark on music history - as one of the greatest songwriters and vocalists of all time".
Oliver Tree signs to Warner Chappell
"Oliver is an international superstar whose music immerses you in emotional expression full of joy and thought-provoking lyrics", says David Goldsen, Head Of A&R at Warner Chappell Australia. "He brings a truly unique style to everything he does, from writing and producing his own music to directing his music videos and unforgettable live performances. With his creative foresight, I couldn't be more excited for what the future has in store".
President of Warner Chappell North America, Ryan Press, adds: "We strive to work with artists and songwriters who push boundaries and move our culture forward with their creativity, and that's exactly what Oliver Tree is doing with his career. He has an innovative and future-forward approach that inspires all of us at Warner Chappell, and we're looking forward to working together to create more hits".
Tree's track with David Guetta, 'Here We Go Again', was released last month. Listen to it here.
PRS For Music partners with Orfium to expand reach in Africa
"The African music market is rapidly progressive, driven by a burgeoning homegrown music scene and a new generation of talented music creators", says Sami Valkonen, PRS For Music's Chief International Business Officer.
"Orfium has both the expertise and tools necessary to ensure that songwriters, composers and publishers are paid when their music is being used across the African continent", he continues. "This agreement was designed to be flexible, ensuring it can adapt and offer innovative solutions in markets where we are experiencing considerable change and growth".
Orfium CEO Rob Wells adds: "We're incredibly excited to partner with PRS For Music. Orfium exists to support and improve the global entertainment ecosystem so that creators everywhere can be paid fairly for their work".
"Over the last three years, we have invested heavily in building a state-of-the-art rights management platform to support our partners in the licensing and remuneration of music rights in the entertainment industry", he goes on.
"Orfium looks forward to working with PRS as their trusted partner to support this incredible region and contributing to Africa's future as a high-growth music market".
The new partnership will sit alongside PRS's existing agreement in that part of the world with South African collecting society SAMRO, and will cover the public performance of music, as well as the use of songs by radio stations, cable TV, and both local and some international digital music services.
Utopia Music confirms further job cuts
Co-founder and Executive Chairman Mattias Hjelmstedt said in a memo - published by Billboard - that "we've very carefully reviewed our organisation against our refocused product and commercial roadmaps, and specific needs, and must share the unfortunate news that, as part of this strategic shift, we need to say goodbye to around 15% of our Utopian colleagues".
It's the second round of downsizing at Utopia in six months. Following extensive growth through acquisition, Utopia announced in November last year that it was looking to reduce its workforce costs by about 20%. CEO Markku Mäkeläinen subsequently stepped down, with Hjelmstedt basically taking over that role as Executive Chairman.
More recently, the company has started selling some of the businesses it bought during that acquisition spree, most notably music publisher and rights administration firm Sentric Music, which was acquired by Believe last month. Roberto Neri - who headed up the Utopia division of which Sentric was part - then announced he was also joining Believe to help oversee its wider ambitions in music publishing.
Of all the companies Utopia acquired, Sentric was most relevant to its much stated desire to ensure that artists and songwriters get "fair pay for every play". Though Utopia has also been busy developing its own products in the rights and royalty management domain, beyond the companies it acquired.
It's not always been entirely clear what those products were going to be, although its website does now talk about helping rights-owners access unpaid royalties from user-generated content platforms and providing insights for those investing in music rights.
In his memo, Hjelmstedt alludes to disagreements internally about decisions made during that period of rapid growth. "It's been very hard to see how Utopia was treated last year", he writes, "and you already know how I feel about decisions taken that put us in a difficult situation".
Noting the downsizing that is currently occurring at companies across the tech sector, he then says that Utopia faces similar challenges, and that that requires "active decisions" to be taken, "however hard they may be, to ensure we can deliver our vision to serve the music industry with technology for processing royalties, distributing music, and facilitating fair pay for every play while reducing complexity for our customers".
"Adjusting to these changes has been a big, but necessary undertaking", he adds. "We've sharpened our strategic focus these past three months through targeted sales – bringing in further capital as an additional benefit – and we appointed a new, mature leadership team that's equipped to move Utopia towards profitability".
Then referencing a recent report on Swedish business news site Breakit that said Utopia's subsidiary in that country was facing demands for tax payments and that some employees had claimed they were owed wages, Hjelmstedt writes: "The legacy from last year is in the process of being cleaned up. All outstanding tax debts have been cleared, including our financial obligations in Sweden. We continue to actively work on this process to ensure that we never find ourselves in this position again".
The job cuts won't affect the distribution companies Utopia previously acquired, which include Proper Music and Absolute.
Barclaycard confirms new brand partnership deal with Live Nation's festivals
Also part of the new partnership are two bursary programmes, one supporting emerging artists and the other up-and-coming chefs and caterers, the latter scheme obviously acknowledging the wide range of food providers that pop up at music festivals these days. Each year those schemes will support "five artists and five emerging food businesses to help them adapt and prepare for their future as they transition into the next phase of their careers".
Says Barclaycard's Head Of Sponsorship Dan Mathieson: "We are delighted to be renewing our long-standing partnership with Live Nation, cementing our support for the UK's incredible music scene, and giving our customers even more opportunities to benefit from using their Barclaycard. At the same time, I'm also really proud to be announcing two new community programmes that will help accelerate the music and food stars of the future".
Isle Of Wight Festival Director Caroline Giddings adds: "We're looking forward to working with the Barclaycard team to enhance the Isle Of Wight Festival experience for our fans. Each year we look to take this historic festival to the next level and having the support of partners like Barclaycard allows us to do just that. We can't wait to welcome everyone to the island in June".
And Festival Republic MD Melvin Benn says: "Partnering with Barclaycard across Latitude will add immense value to our incredibly vibrant festival and helps us meet our audience's ever-improving standards. With this partnership, Barclaycard is supporting the arts, community and entrepreneurialism through new food and artist programmes - all of which are key themes for Latitude. We welcome them to the festival and look forward to the perks and surprises their team will share with our attendees onsite".
AEG Europe has appointed Lynsey Wollaston as Vice President and General Manager for European Festivals. "With her extensive industry leadership and experience, Lynsey brings huge value to our team", says CEO of AEG European Festivals division Jim King. "As we gear up for the busy festival season ahead, I look forward to working with Lynsey to deliver the best-in-class events for which we are renowned, and to growing the festivals division of the business".
Spotify has promoted Leroy Harris to Head Of Marketing for the UK and Ireland. "Leroy joined Spotify three and a half years ago as artist marketing lead, and our business has benefited hugely from his energy and creativity in that time", says Spotify UK & Ireland MD Tom Connaughton.
Concord has announced some executive shuffling. President Of International Publishing John Minch is set to move into a new role overseeing the song rights owned by the company, under the new title Executive Director, Publishing. Meanwhile, Jeff Van Driel is set to move from the Nashville office to London to take up the position of General Manager, International Operations.
Artist and label services company Idol has appointed Thomas Sharp Maxwell as General Manager of its North American operations. "Over the past few years Thomas has had a central role in building Idol's global presence", says company president Pascal Bittard. "We're excited to see the US team continue to grow under his leadership and develop its network of partnerships with forward-thinking labels and artists that share our independent mindset".
Sophie Ellis-Bextor has released new single 'Lost In The Sunshine'. She says of the song: "'Lost In The Sunshine' is about a lazy, hazy, hot, romantic, perfectly sunny day with the one you love".
Christine And The Queens has released new single 'True Love', featuring 070 Shake. New album 'Paranoia, Angels, True Love' is out on 9 Jun.
Former Dillinger Escape Plan vocalist Greg Puciato, producer Will Putney, and ex-Every Time I Die members Jordan Buckley, Clayton 'Goose' Holyoak and Stephen Micciche have formed new band Better Lovers. "Jordan sent me some already finished instrumental tracks and they hit me at just the right time", says Puciato of how it all came together. Here's the band's debut single '30 Under 13'.
Muna have released new single 'The One That Got Away'. "This song is just rubbing your hot ass in the face of someone who messed up their chance of being with you", says the band's Katie Gavin. "It's a bit vengeful and mean, but also fun. Fuck it. Once I sent Naomi and Jo the demo they really took the cockiness in the lyric and vocal performance and carried it to the extreme with the production of the track. It became this super bombastic, Janet Jackson-era track".
Dream Wife have released new single 'Orbit', taken from their new album 'Social Lubrication', which is out on 2 Jun. They've also announced UK and Ireland tour dates in October, which will finish up at Electric Brixton in London on 19 Oct.
Caterina Barbieri has announced that she will release 'Myuthafoo' - the sister album to 2019's 'Ecstatic Computation' - on 16 Jun. A reissue of the earlier album will then follow on 7 Jul with an extra track added. Here's new single 'Math Of You'.
Teri Gender Bender has released new single 'Like No One Else', taken from new EP 'Catspeak', which is out on 12 May. She also has another EP, 'Outsiders', scheduled for release on 7 Jul and UK tour dates supporting The Mars Volta in June.
Lambrini Girls have released new single 'Lads Lads Lads'. Their debut EP 'You're Welcome' is out on 19 May, with UK tour dates in May and June. They will also open for Iggy Pop at London's Crystal Palace on 1 Jul.
Freya Beer has released a new double A-side single featuring the songs 'Fantasy' and 'Galore'. She is set to begin a UK tour next week.
GIGS & TOURS
Queens Of The Stone Age have announced three UK shows in June, playing The Piece Hall in Halifax on 20 Jun, Dreamland in Margate on 22 Jun, and Cardiff Castle on 23 Jun. Tickets go on general sale on Friday.
Limp Bizkit have announced that they will play London's Gunnersbury Park on 13 Aug. Support will come from Pendulum, KennyHoopla, Joey Valence & Brae and Deijuvhs. Tickets go on sale on Friday.
Snow Patrol guitarist Nathan Connolly has announced UK tour dates in June in support of his debut solo album 'The Strange Order Of Things', which is out on Friday. Tickets also go on general sale on Friday.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
BTS's J-Hope enters military service
He announced a month ago that he had decided to become the second member of the group to sign up to South Korea's mandatory military service. Not least because he is running out of time to meet the deadline to do so before he turns 30.
"I love you Army", he announced in a message written on a wall and shared on Instagram. He's referring to the BTS fanbase there, of course. Not the actual army. He hasn't had time to fall in love with the army yet.
Maybe he will though. Maybe he'll stay on permanently after his two years of mandatory service are up. Although that's not his current plan, as he also added: "I'll be back safely".
Anyway, he's off, so we should probably go and check what the other members of BTS are doing. Well, Jungkook has reportedly just donated a little over three quarters of a million dollars to the Seoul National University Children's Hospital. That's nice of him.
"I hope it will help sick children and they will be able to smile healthily", he said, according to Yonhap.
Meanwhile, Suga is preparing to put out the ninth episode of his online talk show 'Suchwita'. Who is his guest? It's only bloody RM from BTS! Here's a teaser.
Oh, and it's also probably worth mentioning that there's a brand new song featuring all seven members of BTS coming out soon. What?! How can it be possible? I know, amazing news.
The song will serve as the opening theme for animated film 'Bastions' and is set for release on 14 May - the same day as the film itself. You can hear a little snippet here.