|WEDNESDAY 26 JUNE 2019||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: As Universal Music continues in its attempts to cast doubt on recent reporting in the New York Times about the 2008 fire that damaged its Hollywood-based archive, the newspaper has published a list of more than 800 artist who allegedly lost recordings in the blaze. Based on internal UMG documents produced in the wake of the fire, the Times says that, of the "many tens of thousands of tapes" covered by the list, "nearly all [are] original masters"... [READ MORE]|
New York Times publishes list of over 800 artists potentially affected by Universal archive fire
The newspaper adds that this list is not even complete, rather it's an amalgamation of a number of lists put together by Universal in 2009 and 2010 as part of 'Project Phoenix', the music firm's attempt to work out what had been lost and then try to source alternative copies, where possible. By the label's own estimates, it reiterates, over 100,000 tapes were lost, containing up to 500,000 individual tracks.
That the fire happened on a Universal Studios backlot in 2008 is no secret, of course. It was also known at the time that the Universal music company still stored archive recordings at the Hollywood site, even though it was no longer in common ownership with the Universal film business. But the NYT's recent articles allege that the music major greatly played down the severity of the damage caused at the time, and has continued to cover it up to this day.
Although current Universal Music CEO Lucian Grainge recently admitted to his staff that "we owe our artists transparency" on the status of their archive material, he and the company's archiving exec Pat Krauss have both said that the original New York Times article on the fire is not accurate. For a Billboard article, Krauss even pulled out a John Coltrane master tape said to have been destroyed in order to prove his point.
In its new article, the New York Times says that it is likely that some of the tapes listed as potentially lost are indeed safe. It estimates that the aforementioned Project Phoenix was able to source around a fifth of the affected recordings - either original copies that had been out of the archive at the time or back up copies of reasonable quality stored elsewhere. But that still means a lot of masters were completely lost.
Following the publication of the first NYT article, several artists whose recordings appear on the lists commented on how they'd attempted to get hold of their masters at some point in the last decade, only to be told by Universal that they were lost. However, that they were destroyed in the fire was rarely explained. Speaking to the newspaper for its latest article on the fire, Bryan Adams recalls how in 2013 he wanted to put together a 30th anniversary release of his 1984 album 'Reckless'.
"I contacted the archive dept of Universal Music", he says. "I called everyone, former A&M employees, directors, producers, photographers, production houses, editors, even assistants of producers at the time. I can tell you with 100% certainty that I couldn't find anything at Universal that had been published to do with my association with A&M records in the 1980s. If you were doing an archaeological dig there, you would have concluded that it was almost as if none of it had ever happened".
In the end, he discovered a tape in his own vault and was able to produce a remastered release. However, he says that throughout his conversations with UMG staff "there was no mention that there had been a fire in the archive". This despite his name appearing on the label's own list of artists whose work was thought to have been lost.
Last week, a group of artists named in the original article, including Soundgarden, Hole, Steve Earle, and the estates of Tom Petty and Tupac Shakur, filed a class action lawsuit against Universal in relation to the fire. As well as claiming that the label breached its contractual duty by failing to keep their master tapes safe, they are also seeking a portion of monies Universal seemingly received from an insurance claim in relation to the fire and a negligence lawsuit it brought against NBC Universal.
While publicly playing down the extent of the fire damage in 2008, the artists' lawsuit claims, the label received large pay outs based on its own internal estimations of the damage. It then failed to share this with affected artists, or even to inform them that they had been affected. The lawsuit is demanding $100 million in damages.
It's thought that other lawsuits specifically relating to the 2008 fire could as yet follow. Meanwhile, other ongoing litigation could also force the music company to reveal more about the extent of the damage that occurred. A number of heritage artists in the US have already gone to court to test the reach of the so called 'termination' or 'reversion' right that exists under American copyright law, and whether this applies to master recordings.
The termination right says that 'authors' who assign their copyrights to another entity have a one-time opportunity to terminate that assignment and reclaim their rights after 35 years. This particular termination right comes from a piece of 1970s copyright law in the US, so only really kicked in earlier this decade.
On the songs side of the business songwriters reclaiming their US rights in this way has become routine. On the recordings side, however, many corporate rights owners have resisted efforts by artists to reclaim assigned rights.
This is based on an argument over the nature of record contracts and the status of the artist in copyright terms. Many labels insist that record deals are so called 'work for hire' agreements that basically make artists employees, so that the default owner of any copyrights they create is their employer, ie the label.
Lawsuits were filed against both Universal and Sony earlier this year attempting to gain court confirmation that artists are in fact able to regain their recording rights by employing the termination right. If they are, that would include the return of their master recordings. In those circumstances, the label would have to admit what tapes it does or doesn't have.
The potential outcome of the reversion rights cases is just one black cloud hanging over Universal parent company Vivendi's plan to sell up to 50% of its shares in the music company. The fallout from the NYT's articles on the big fire is another. Although last week, Vivendi CEO Arnaud De Puyfontaine told Variety that the new scandal surrounding the 2008 blaze was "just noise" and would have no effect on the share sale plan. However, it seems unlikely that "noise" is going to subside anytime soon.
Responding to De Puyfontaine's comments, Howard King, the lawyer leading the first lawsuit to be launched off the back of the New York Times' report, told Variety: "The likelihood that their life's works may have been destroyed by the gross negligence of Universal Music is far from 'just noise' to any potentially affected artist".
He went on: "It wasn't 'just noise' in 2009 when Universal Music sued NBC Universal, claiming that hundreds of thousands of irreplaceable masters had been lost in the devastating fire. It wasn't 'just noise' when Universal Music collected tens of millions of dollars, or more, in compensation for the lost masters. I believe that Mr De Puyfontaine wishes this would all disappear and not interfere with his financial planning. This wish will not come true".
Universal has not yet commented on the fire-specific lawsuit. However, with the publication of the extended list of affected artists by the New York Times, it seems likely that many more artists will now be asking questions, and potentially going legal, in the coming weeks.
Luis Fonsi renews Universal deal
"I'm happy to continue on this great adventure next to the people that have tirelessly supported me throughout my career over the past 20 years", says Fonsi. "My dreams started with this family and throughout the years we have been able to accomplish the unimaginable. The best is yet to come".
CEO of Universal Music for Latin America and the Iberian Peninsula, Jesús López, adds: "Everyone at Universal Music is deeply grateful for the trust Luis Fonsi has placed in us during his artistic career. We have many challenges and goals ahead and we will face them head on with the enthusiasm that an artist as unique as Luis Fonsi deserves".
Direct-to-fan music sales up 28%, reckons Kantar
Of course, the music festival season now runs for twelve months a year. But, just to be clear, the last twelve month festival season finished yesterday and the next one starts today. Actually, come to think of it, there wasn't a Glastonbury last year. So, I guess that must mean the last festival season was a 24 month one. No wonder it was starting to smell! Thank fuck Glasto is back so we can start everything anew.
Anyway, Kantar is among the companies exploiting this sudden interest in music festivals among the mainstream news providers. Among many other things, Kantar monitors the performance of entertainment retail and publishes regular data about music sales on the high street and via mail-order websites like Amazon.
With festivals the big talking point, this week it has released some interesting new data about the rise of direct-to-fan music sales. Which, of course, has nothing to do with Glastonbury or music festivals or live music at all. Except - I suppose - that an artist's direct-to-fan relationship usually starts at the gig, and initial D2F sales will often take place at the good old fashioned merch stall at the back of the gig venue.
"This week Glastonbury will not only give music fans the opportunity to dig out their bumbags, glitter and welly boots but also allow them a rare chance to get up close to their favourite artists", says Kantar, in something of a desperate bid to make these new direct-to-fan stats seem timely. "They'll undoubtedly feel connected to these world-famous acts as they sing along in front of them - but how many will go on to purchase their idols' work once the summer festival season comes to an end?"
"Building a close relationship between artist and fan away from the stage might be key", the research outfit goes on. "Purchases of music directly from the artist's website, rather than on the high street or another online store, are up by nearly 30% in the past year".
However weak the link to Glasto, Kantar's data is interesting. The direct-to-fan relationship remains a massive opportunity for the music industry. Some artists are already capitalising on it all, of course - sometimes in partnership with their label, more often led by management. Though for the industry at large it feels like there is lots of D2F revenue still to be tapped.
Direct-to-fan is much harder to monitor than traditional music sales, but Kantar has had a good go. It confirms that so called superfans are behind the increase in sales via artist websites, reckoning that 35-55 year old superfans buying CDs and vinyl account for 56% of D2F purchases. "This growth is even more remarkable when you consider the declining sales of physical music across the board", it adds of the top-line stat, "highlighting the commercial opportunities available for artists who invest in these relationships".
Kantar analyst Giulia Barresi goes on: "Direct-to-consumer music sales are a high point in an increasingly challenging entertainment market and despite being relatively small within the sector, they shouldn't be discounted".
"Buying straight from the source allows people to feel a closer connection to their favourite artists", Barresi says. "[Which is] something that can be lost when using a streaming service, where the entire world's back catalogue is at your fingertips. They can also benefit from a feel-good factor too, in knowing they are directly contributing to an artist's success".
Barresi also confirms that, despite the recent increases, there remain opportunities to really grow this segment of the music industry. "There's a big opportunity for musicians", she concludes. "Direct-to-consumer sales have already grown 28% year on year, but still only account for 5% of sales". Capitalising on that opportunity requires artists and their business partners to more proactively pursue the various opportunities of D2F.
Michael Jackson estate champion the star's charity work on ten year anniversary of his death
The ten year anniversary might have been commemorated in a more proactive fashion but for the 'Leaving Neverland' documentary that was broadcast earlier this year by HBO in the US and Channel 4 in the UK. That programme, of course, put a new spotlight on allegations of child abuse made against the pop star.
Despite the Jackson family and estate - and his fans - hitting out at the documentary and the two men who appear in it, the programme's airing has undoubtedly impacted on public interest in the musician's work. That public interest having initially boomed in the months after Jackson's death in 2009.
One group of British Jackson fans in particular have been fighting back ever since 'Leaving Neverland' was aired via the mjinnocent.com website. They were behind the adverts that appeared in London earlier this year that showed Jackson with the word "innocent" over his mouth, alongside the slogan "facts don't lie, people do".
Although Transport For London initially allowed the mjinnocent.com team to buy advertising spots on the capital's public transport network, it subsequently removed the ads "due to the public sensitivity and concern around their content".
The same group this week marked the ten year anniversary of Jackson's death with another series of posters. These don't overtly reference the abuse allegations, instead featuring the line "Remembering the man, the music, the magic: Michael Jackson". Although they do then point people to the mjinnocent.com site.
Presumably also seeking to counter all the bad press that the Michael Jackson brand has had to deal with this year, the estate's statement - although including some brags about the commercial success of the star's music - primarily hones in on his charity work. "We best remember Michael by paying tribute to his legacy of philanthropic work", the statement declares.
"The true measure of Michael was his giving to others which came in many forms", the estate writes. "He comforted the unfortunate at hospitals, in long term care facilities and at halfway houses. He equipped Neverland Ranch with medical facilities to accommodate patients seeking refuge from their lonely hospital rooms, and thousands came. He visited troops on bases around the world serving their country. Guinness World Records acknowledged his efforts with an award for 'most charities supported by a pop star'".
On more commercial matters, the statement bigs up Jackson's "sixteen number one singles and eight number one albums in the US" and "the fact that his album 'Thriller' is owned by more people on the planet than any album ever made and 'Thriller' the short film is the only music video to have been inducted into the National Film Registry".
But with the estate keen to focus on the "philanthropic work", it concludes by asking fans to mark the anniversary of Jackson's death by "[making] a difference in their community - whether it's planting a tree, volunteering at a shelter, cleaning up a public space or helping someone who is lost find their way. 'I believe each person can make a difference in the life of someone in need', he said. This is how we honour Michael".
Ten years ago today the CMU Daily contained no less than four stories all dealing with Jackson's death, the tributes that had flooded in, and the commercial impact of his sudden passing, not least on the 50 night O2 residency that was due to begin just weeks later.
The fallout from Jackson's premature death was significant. There were the criminal proceedings against his personal doctor Conrad Murray. The long-running legal battle between the Jackson family and AEG, promoter of those O2 shows. And the 'This Is It' movie that helped AEG recoup its losses from the cancelled residency.
Plus a flurry of lawsuits from Jackson's former collaborators and the rise of the Jackson estate as a lucrative business and staunch defender of MJ's legacy. Though that latter role has proven all the more challenging in the wake of 'Leaving Neverland'.
Last September, as part of CMU's 20th anniversary, we published a special edition of Setlist retelling the whole story called 'The impact of the death of Michael Jackson'.
Killswitch Engage announce new album and UK tour dates
"'Unleashed' is about inner passion and rage coming up to the surface", says frontman Jesse Leach. "We all have that wild[ness] within [us] that often stays dormant until a tragic event triggers and awakens it. This song is about that awakening within. I feel we were able to capture something raw and intense on this song and I'm stoked for everyone to hear it".
Of the album, he adds: "The new album 'Atonement' is a reflection of perseverance and passion through the trials and suffering of our existence".
The band will also be touring in October, here are the dates:
14 Oct: Norwich, UEA
Skepta announces November tour dates
"The internet is making everything and everyone politically correct but that takes away the artistry", he says of the inspiration for his new material. "'Ignorance Is Bliss' deals with the yin yang of life. True Skepta, saying it exactly how it is".
Tickets to see him saying it exactly how it is go on sale tomorrow at 9am. Here are the dates:
23 Nov: Manchester, The Depot (Warehouse Project)
Indie label Partisan Records has appointed Theresa Adebiyi, formerly with Ninja Tune, as its Creative Director. She is "incredibly excited" to join a label she has "long admired".
Adam Lambert has released new single, 'Comin In Hot'. The track is taken from the first half of his new album, 'Velvet', which is set for release in September.
Keith Urban has released the video for 'Drop Top', from his latest album 'Graffiti U'.
Bleached have released new single 'Rebound City'. Their new album, 'Don't You Think You've Had Enough?', it out on 12 Jul.
Thee Oh Sees have announced that they will release new album 'Face Stabber' on 16 Aug. Here's new track 'Henchlock'.
Nile Rodgers will be presented with the Artists' Artist prize at the Artist & Manager Awards staged by the Featured Artists Coalition and Music Managers Forum later this year. FAC CEO Lucie Caswell says: "[Rodgers is] still fresh, still kicking it and still making us dance. I am unbelievably excited to finally have the opportunity to thank Nile for his music and to honour it amongst his music maker peers". The Artist & Manager Awards take place on 14 Nov.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Sadiq Khan asks Liam Gallagher to help him tackle knife crime
Speaking on BBC Breakfast earlier this week, Gallagher said: "Every time you wake up in the morning, there's some sixteen year old kid been knifed to death. I've got kids that age, out and about and that, doing their thing, living, being young. That freaks me right out - it does worry me. I've got teenagers".
"I'd have a word with that mayor", he went on. "He seems to not be doing a good job, all them kids getting knifed and all that. The only thing that ever comes out of his mouth is, 'London is open'. What, open for knife crime and dying and stuff?"
Responding to those remarks over on Radio X, Khan said: "I can understand why any parent - and I speak as a parent of teenage children, as Liam Gallagher is - would be concerned about violent crime".
"We've got to make sure we use that energy to try and save lives in our city", he continued. "That's not just us from City Hall ... [I need all] those concerned to help me lobby the government. We've lost - over the last eight, nine years - 3500 police officers, 3500 community support officers. In the last three years, since I've been there, we've invested, unlike the previous eight, more than £230 million in our police from council tax increases and business rates increases".
Throwing it back to Gallagher, he concluded: "If Liam Gallagher and others want to work with me to lobby the government, honestly the more hands that get involved, the more voices that get involved, the better".
Khan might be waiting a while. In his BBC interview, Gallagher also said: "I don't hang out with politicians and I don't hang out with celebrities that hang out with politicians or these fake rock n roll stars that hang out with politicians. I just hang out with me and my missus and my kids and my mates".
I think that's a dig at his brother for once talking to Tony Blair more than two decades ago. But anyway, after he put himself forward as the future Prime Minister last week, it would be interesting to see Gallagher actually lobbying politicians directly. It's not like he could make British politics any worse.