THURSDAY 5 JANUARY 2017 COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM
TODAY'S TOP STORY: So, CD sales were down, downloads tanked, streaming boomed and the vinyl revival marched on in the UK last year, a set of trends that make it very tempting to just re-run our report on 2015 sales figures. If you're super busy, basically, it was more of the same. But let's assume you've actually got time on your hands. After all, this isn't really a working week, is it? I mean, you've been telling everyone in the office what a massive inbox backlog you're now tackling, but we all know you're still basically on Christmas break because, frankly, the new working year doesn't properly begin until next week. And what, exactly, can't wait until next Monday... [READ MORE]
TODAY'S CMU APPROVED: Before we get back to business as usual in the CMU Approved column next week, let's take a moment to reflect on 2016. Oh sure, I get it, you're keen to get going with 2017, a year when it will no longer be possible for celebrities to die and all political upheaval will cease. There were some good things about the last twelve months though. Not least the quality of the new music it brought. [READ MORE]
 
LATEST CMU PODCAST: CMU's Andy Malt and Chris Cooke review key events in music and the music business from the last year in this bumper double edition of the CMU Podcast. We discuss the continued growth of the streaming market, the increasingly proactive campaign against secondary ticketing, the safe harbours debate, and our five favourite 'and finally' stories of 2016. The CMU Podcast is sponsored by 7digital. [READ MORE]
 
LATEST CMU TRENDS: There have been a lot of developments in the debate around ticket touting since the UK music community launched its FanFair campaign earlier this year. Bot bans are now set to be introduced in the UK and US, while Italian lawmakers are looking to outlaw touting entirely. We review the recent developments. CMU Trends articles are available to premium subscribers. [READ MORE]
TOP STORIES Music retail revenues up 4.6% in 2016
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LEGAL BMI goes to court over interim royalty rate proposed by US radio
New scandal for Russian collecting societies
New York appeals court decides there isn't a performing right on golden oldie recordings after all
Mavin Gaye's family submit opposition to Blurred Lines appeal
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DEALS Private equity firm Blackstone to buy US collecting society SESAC
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OBITUARIES George Michael 1963-2016
Rick Parfitt 1948-2016
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ONE LINERS Universal, Ed Sheeran, Of Mice And Men, more
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AND FINALLY... Actual facts refute Trump's claims of inauguration singer sales boost
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ATC LIVE - MANAGEMENT ACCOUNTANT (LONDON)
ATC Live is recruiting for a Management Accountant to take responsibility for our daily artist accounting process. This is a new post within the finance team at ATC; the successful candidate will have final responsibility for all daily accounts processes associated with our artist's bookings.

For more information and to apply click here.
   
THE TICKET FACTORY - SPORTS & ENTERTAINMENT MANAGER (LONDON)
The Ticket Factory is looking for a new Sports & Entertainment Manager. This is a great opportunity to join a dynamic part of the live entertainment industry, enjoying the fun along the way and driving the future of The Ticket Factory in the capital.

For more information and to apply click here.

   
IDOL UK - GENERAL MANAGER (LONDON)
IDOL is seeking a new General Manager to look after its UK operations that recently reached a new milestone with the signing of a partnership with a key independent actor of the market. Reporting directly to the Paris-based Head Of International, the candidate will manage a label manager and gradually develop the UK team according to the activity growth.

For more information and to apply click here.

   
ELEVEN SEVEN MUSIC - DIGITAL MARKETING & SALES MANAGER (LONDON)
Eleven Seven Music Group are seeking a Digital Marketing & Sales Manager to join their team in London. Eleven Seven Music Group is an independent record label headquartered in New York City with offices in Los Angeles and London.

For more information and to apply click here.

   
OUTPOST GROUP - MUSIC SERVICES ACCOUNT MANAGER (LONDON)
We are looking for a sharp, motivated and ambitious music industry professional to lead a new music services company, to launch early 2017. You will need a minimum of two years experience in a music role with good all-round knowledge of the music business, particularly PR.

For more information and to apply click here.

   
CR2 RECORDS - DIGITAL CONTENT/RIGHTS MANAGER (LONDON)
Cr2 Records is looking for an experienced Digital Content / Rights Manager to manage the scheduling and delivery for digital releases to all retailers ensuring quality control and accurate, timely delivery. The applicant will also be responsible for producing detailed sales data and also registering all repertoire with relevant collection societies for both copyright and publishing.

For more information and to apply click here.

   
THE O2 - MARKETING MANAGER, BRANDS & ATTRACTIONS (LONDON)
We are now looking for a Marketing Manager – Brands and Attractions, to join the Marketing team based at The O2. You will play a pivotal role in bringing to life the brand proposition across all veins of the business, driving footfall to the venue and driving ticket sales for Up at The O2.

For more information and to apply click here.

   
GIGREV - BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT MANAGER (LONDON)
The Business Development Manager will be responsible for leading the charge in researching, generating, and contacting potential clients that benefit GigRev’s services. Our client base is artists, bands and vloggers.

For more information and to apply click here.

   
THE O2 – SPECIAL EVENTS TICKETING MANAGER (LONDON)
We are looking to hire a Special Events Ticketing Manager on a six month fixed term contract. You will manage the event ticketing process for special events to include but not limited to exhibitions, corporate/private events (arena and non-arena) and external site wide events.

For more information and to apply click here.

 
THE O2 – MARKETING ASSISTANT (LONDON)
We are looking for a Marketing Assistant, to join the Marketing team based at The O2 for a one year fixed term contract. You will support all areas of Marketing and Communications across the AEG Europe businesses, including, The O2, AEG Live and Thames Clippers.

For more information and to apply click here.

 
ATC LIVE - GENERAL MANAGER (LONDON)
ATC Live is a live booking agency based in Camden, London, created to provide artists with a new style of representation, bringing an unparalleled level of creative and strategic thinking to our artists. Due to expansion we are looking for a General Manager.

For more information and to apply click here.
 
RECRUIT YOUR TEAM RIGHT HERE: 020 7099 9060 or ads@unlimitedmedia.co.uk
18 Jan 2017 CMU Insights @ IMRO Seminar: Fan Engagement
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Jan-Mar 2017 CMU Insights Seminar: The How The Music Business Works Programme
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23 Jan 2017 CMU Insights Seminar: Making Money From Music
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24 Jan 2017 CMU:DIY x Urban Development: Making Money From Music
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30 Jan 2017 CMU Insights Seminar: How Music Rights Work
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6 Feb 2017 CMU Insights Masterclass: The Key Developments In Music Rights
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6 Feb 2017 CMU Insights Seminar: How Music Licensing Works
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8 Feb 2017 CMU:DIY x Barod: Making Money From Music
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13 Feb 2017 CMU Insights Seminar: The Music Rights Sector
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15 Feb 2017 CMU:DIY x Barod: How Music Rights Work
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16 Feb 2017 CMU Insights @ Output 2017
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20 Feb 2017 CMU Insights Seminar: Merch, Live & Brands
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21 Feb 2017 CMU:DIY x Urban Development: Getting Started And Building A Team
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22 Feb 2017 CMU:DIY x Barod: How Music Licensing Works
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23 Feb 2017 CMU Insights @ IMRO Seminar: The Digital Music Market
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27 Feb 2017 CMU Insights Seminar: Building A Fanbase - Social Media Tools
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1 Mar 2017 CMU:DIY x Barod: The Digital Music Market
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6 Mar 2017 CMU Insights Seminar: Building A Fanbase - Music Media
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8 Mar 2017 CMU:DIY x Barod: Physical, Sync, Merch, Brands & Gigs
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13 Mar 2017 CMU Insights Seminar: Building A Fan-Orientated Business
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Music retail revenues up 4.6% in 2016
So, CD sales were down, downloads tanked, streaming boomed and the vinyl revival marched on in the UK last year, a set of trends that make it very tempting to just re-run our report on 2015 sales figures. If you're super busy, basically, it was more of the same.

But let's assume you've actually got time on your hands. After all, this isn't really a working week, is it? I mean, you've been telling everyone in the office what a massive inbox backlog you're now tackling, but we all know you're still basically on Christmas break because, frankly, the new working year doesn't properly begin until next week. And what, exactly, can't wait until next Monday?

So, go on, make yourself a big cup of tea, stick one of the stale mince pies that have been in the kitchen since the Christmas party into the microwave, because that way you won't notice just how stale it is, and then let's waffle our way through some of the stats unleashed by the BPI and Entertainment Retailer's Association this week, shall we?

Good. Recorded music's retail revenues were up 4.6% in 2016, according to ERA, so well done everybody. In fact, fuck it, splash out on some fresh mince pies. I bet they're on offer at Tesco Metro. And let's note that retail revenues for the video and gaming markets only grew by 2.2% and 2.9% respectively, so they can fuck off. I mean, overall they both bring in way more money than recorded music, but it's all about growth these days isn't it? One mince pie per percentage point growth, that's the going rate.

Recorded music's growth was all about the streams of course, with subscription revenues up 65% year-on-year. Which is pretty damn impressive and just the kind of boom that definitely justifies dedicating several thousand column inches and entire sections of your news programmes to the vinyl revival. Because, vinyl, woo!

Downloads were still down loads, which is good news for fans of that joke, with good old fashioned iTunes et al bringing in 26.8% less cash last year. Meanwhile CDs, the decline of which had slowed considerably in the UK in recent years, saw a bigger decline in 2016 than 2015, with revenues slipping 13% last year. But hey, what about that vinyl revival!

Overall, UK revenues from music retail, including physical, downloads and streams, came in at more than £1.1 billion, up from just over £1 billion in 2015. In case you're interested, the home video market was worth over £2.2 billion and gaming £2.9 billion, but we've already told those guys to fuck off, so they're not around to gloat.

Even if they are, well, let's move onto the stats put out by record industry trade group the BPI earlier this week, because those put the focus on consumption rather than revenue, which nicely fuzzes everything up. Especially given that the figures rely on a metric no one really understands that equates streams to album sales.

When you mush the figures together in that fashion, creating a nice if slightly abstract beige goo, you find that 123 million album units were (sort of) shifted in 2016, which is 1.5% more than in 2015 (and 2015 was, for reporting purposes, a 53 week year).

If you find the whole combining streams and sales thing a bit confusing, don't worry, that makes you a normal person. Well done. Have another mince pie and read what BPI boss Geoff Taylor has to say: "Growth in UK music consumption in 2016 was fuelled by the explosive rise in audio streaming, which has increased 500% since 2013, and relative resilience from physical formats. So that's good. Are you going to eat all those mince pies, or is one going spare?"

Ah, look at that, Geoff joining in with the running theme of this report. Let's celebrate with some vinyl revival waffle. "Led by sales of David Bowie, demand for vinyl jumped to levels not seen since the start of the 90s, and fans also bought and collected music on CD that they are discovering and enjoying through streaming services in ever larger numbers". Oh Geoff, you just reminded me that David Bowie's still dead. And I was this close to giving you my spare mince pie.

"We believe this performance is indicative of the promise of a new era for music", the BPI boss muses on, "where recorded music's investments in a digital future fuel compelling benefits for fans, artists and the entire music ecosystem". Ah, the entire music ecosystem. Hello entire music ecosystem. Happy new year. I really should have said that before now, shouldn't I? Though no 'happy new year' from Geoff I note.

"Happy new year everybody", says ERA CEO Kim Bayley. Ah, look at that. That's nice isn't it? Can I interest you in a stale mince pie Kim? "The music, video and games industries were understandably nervous about the advent of new digital services". Yeah, I know, but what about this mince pie? "These figures provide resounding evidence of the benefits of our members' investment in innovation". Do they? Well, well done them. About this mince pie.

"To have added over £1 billion in new revenues in just four years is an incredible achievement". Oh, yeah, the wider entertainment retail sector has seen its revenues grow by a billion in four years. "To put it another way, take away the digital services and the entertainment market would be barely a third the size it is today". Yeah, but no one's suggesting we do that, are they? That's it, I'm giving this mince pie to Geoff.

Anyway, what about that vinyl revival, hey? 3.2 million records shifted, a 53% year-on-year rise and, according to the BPI, "the highest annual total in a quarter of a century since 1991, when Simply Red's 'Stars' topped the annual best-seller charts". Ah shit, you just reminded me Mick Hucknall's not dead yet. Fuck you BPI, I'm keeping this mince pie.

BACK TO THE TOP OF THE BULLETIN

BMI goes to court over interim royalty rate proposed by US radio
US collecting society BMI got the new year off to a fabulous start by filing papers with the federal rate court over the royalties paid by the American radio industry represented by the good old Radio Music License Committee.

Both of the big two collecting societies representing the performing rights in songs Stateside - so that'll be BMI and ASCAP - spent a bunch of last year negotiating with the RMLC over the rates its member radio stations will pay between 2017 and 2022. ASCAP announced a new deal with the radio group last month which, it said, would provide the songwriters and music publishers it represents with "enhanced financial benefits".

However, BMI is yet to reach a deal, and with 2017 ignoring that fact entirely and insisting on getting underway last weekend anyway, the RMLC put in a request for an interim rate to be paid while negotiations continue. It's that rate that BMI is opposing.

The RMLC wants an interim royalty rate below what it paid previously, proposing its members hand over 1.4% of revenues to BMI, instead of 1.7%. The radio bods justify this lower rate - which is indicative of what they'd like the final royalty agreement to be - on the basis of BMI's market share.

Market share is relevant here because, unlike in most other countries, there are multiple collecting societies representing song rights in the US. This means songwriters must decide which society to join and licensees (for now at least) need deals with all four if they want to play any song.

Which in turn means that, where a licensing deal is a revenue share arrangement, licensees not only need to negotiate what cut of their revenues should go to the music rights community at large, they must also negotiate how that money is divided between the different societies.

The RMLC is basically arguing that - by its calculations - BMI's market share has declined since the last time the two parties negotiated a deal. That claim, which BMI disputes, will be partly based on key songwriters switching societies and partly on the fluctuating popularity of each societies' respective repertoire.

Criticising both the RMLC's proposed interim rate and its workings out earlier this week, BMI said in a statement: "The RMLC has justified its proposed rate based upon incomplete and incorrect information regarding BMI's radio performances. BMI disagrees fundamentally with the RMLC's proposal and, consistent with past practices, is asking the court to maintain its most recent rate while new terms are negotiated".

Meanwhile BMI's licensing man Mike Steinberg added: "We attempted to negotiate in good faith with the RMLC for many months, and just before the end of the year, the RMLC presented an interim rate that significantly undervalues the work of BMI's songwriters. Given the unmatched calibre of BMI's repertoire, our superior market share on radio, and the ever-increasing value that BMI music brings to the radio industry across all its platforms, we believe the RMLC's proposal falls well short of what is in the best interests of our affiliates".

BMI wants the rate court that oversees collective licensing in the US to set an interim rate of 1.7% while it continues to negotiate with the RMLC. It remains to be seen if a voluntary deal can be reached between the two organisations in the long-term, or whether this dispute is simply a forerunner of a full-on battle in the rate courts down the line.

One complication in terms of assessing the market share of songs in the US where collective licensing is concerned is the creation, since the last time BMI and ASCAP did deals with the RMLC, of Global Music Rights, Irving Azoff's mini performing rights organisations that has signed up a small roster of big name songwriters.

A key aim of GMR is to drive up the royalty rates paid to songwriters in the US, which many in the songwriting community reckon remain unfairly low, mainly as a result of compulsory licensing and collecting society regulations in America.

The objective is to pressure big users of music, like radio, to allocate more of their revenue to the songs they exploit, though inevitably if licensees end up paying premiere league writers more, they'll seek to offset that extra cost by paying lesser known writers less.

Meanwhile, GMR is on its way into battle with the RMLC itself, in a bust up that will likely overshadow any ongoing beef between the radio stations and BMI. It has also been proposing interim rates to radio stations so that they can continue to play the work of GMR-repped songwriters, who were still technically covered by the radio industry's ASCAP and BMI deals until the end of last year.

GMR said in a statement just before Christmas: "Today, GMR has offered a licence to all radio stations represented by the RMLC allowing the stations to play GMR's repertoire in exchange for specified licence fees. This licence extends through 30 Sep 2017 and gives everyone additional time to negotiate long-term licences with GMR".

It went on: "GMR offered this licence to the RMLC last month, but the RMLC refused it and, instead, chose to sue and seek an injunction. With today's agreement, the RMLC has withdrawn its request for an injunction and radio stations across the country will have the opportunity to offer their listeners GMR's quality music".

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New scandal for Russian collecting societies
If you've been enjoying the controversies surrounding the Russian collecting society RAO over the last eighteen months, well, here's a new controversy, and this one involves Russia's other music rights organisations RSP and VOIS too. Woo!

According to Billboard, during the Christmas break all three collecting societies were accused by the Russian banking watchdog of involvement in a scam that funnelled in the region of $70 million out of the now defunct Mostransbank. The finance authority alleges that the societies had fake loan agreements with the lender via which money was transferred into makeshift companies.

All three societies strongly deny the allegations. The song rights focused RAO says it had an account with Mostransbank but no loan agreements. Meanwhile a rep for both the recording rights focused VOIS and private copy levy collector RSP told Billboard that both organisations had reported irregularities with their Mostransbank accounts in 2015, and that they now looked forward to cooperating with law enforcement officials as they investigate the circumstances that led to the collapse of the banking business.

As previously reported, RAO was accused of embezzlement in September 2015, resulting in its General Director Sergei Fedotov being arrested and jailed. That scandal led to new proposals that a government agency take over the collective licensing of music rights in Russia in place of the industry's three societies.

The music community has in the main opposed that proposal, with reps from the Russian divisions of Warner Music, Universal Music and Sony Music amongst those to speak out against government-controlled collective licensing in an open letter that claimed going that route would contravene global copyright treaties.

Though, last month the RAO itself proposed that a government-owned media company take control of the organisation, telling Billboard that such a move was now desirable because the society is "facing administrative and financial issues".

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New York appeals court decides there isn't a performing right on golden oldie recordings after all
If you thought that the radio royalty element of the good old pre-1972 copyright debate in the US was all over, think again. Just before Christmas an appeals court in New York decided that satellite broadcaster Sirius XM doesn't have to pay royalties to artists and labels when it plays 1960s recordings.

Members of the Copyright Technicality Fan Club will recall that this all stems from the fact US-wide federal copyright law only protects sound recordings released since 1972, with older tracks getting their protection from state-level copyright law.

US copyright law is unusual in that there is no general 'performing right' as part of the sound recording copyright. So whereas elsewhere in the world AM/FM radio stations that play music need licences from both labels and music publishers (covering, respectively, recording and song copyrights), in the US broadcasters only need the latter. Except online and satellite broadcasters, because federal copyright law does provide a 'digital performing right' to sound recording owners.

But what about those often quite dated state copyright laws? They are often ambiguous about performing rights and sound recordings, but certainly don't include any specific rules about online and satellite stations. Meanwhile, AM/FM stations have never paid royalties to labels for the records they play, however old the tracks may be. To that end both Sirius and Pandora decided that, while they must pay royalties to labels and artists for post-1972 catalogue, when they play older tracks no royalties are due.

Some in the artist and label community reckoned that royalties should be paid on those older tracks. Flo & Eddie - former members of 'Happy Together' band The Turtles - went legal on the matter, launching litigation in three states and arguing that there was, in fact, a performing right for sound recordings in state level copyright law.

Though given state laws make no distinction between AM/FM and satellite/online radio services, that would mean traditional radio stations should have been paying royalties to labels whenever they played golden oldies all these years, which they had not.

Nevertheless, when the matter reached the Californian courts, Flo & Eddie won, setting a landmark precedent that led to multi-million dollar settlements between the record industry and Sirius and Pandora, and in November between Sirius and Flo & Eddie.

The duo initially enjoyed success on the issue in the New York courts too, where one judge specifically pondered whether the fact the labels had never demanded royalties from traditional radio stations for playing 1960s tracks implied there was, in fact, no sound recording performing right under the state's copyright system. That judge decided that the failure by the labels to claim royalties shouldn't make any difference.

However, Sirius appealed the New York case, and an appeals court there last month reached a different conclusion on that last point. It would be "illogical", said one appeals judge, to decide that a performing right had been lingering there in New York copyright law all these decades yet no rights owner or court had ever sought to enforce it. Illogical I tell you! And judge Leslie Stein even sneaked a little joke into her ruling, so she must be right.

"It would be illogical to conclude that the right of public performance would have existed for decades without the courts recognising such a right as a matter of state common law, and in the absence of any artist or record company attempting to enforce that right in this state until now", wrote Stein.

She added that she agreed with legal reps for Sirius that there was a "broad understanding" in both federal and state law that the sound recording copyright does not include a general performing right.

That's because artists and labels get lots of lovely promotion when their music is played on the radio, so shouldn't be paid for it too - that being the US radio industry's longtime argument as to why it shouldn't give cash to the labels. And just because slumping record sales possibly lower the value of all that free promo, that's no reason for judges to infer a new right for the labels, the judge went on.

"Common sense supports the explanation that the record companies and artists had a symbiotic relationship with radio stations, and wanted them to play their records to encourage name recognition and corresponding album sales", she wrote. And, she continued - oh, and by the way, the joke's coming up - "those participants have co-existed for many years and, until now, were apparently 'happy together'". Ha, ha! Happy together! See. That's Flo & Eddie's most famous hit. Good times. Yeah, OK, I oversold it slightly by saying there was a joke in here. Sorry.

"While changing technology may have rendered it more challenging for the record companies and performing artists to profit from the sale of recordings, these changes, alone, do not now warrant the precipitous creation of a common law right that has not previously existed", she continued. "Simply stated, New York's common law copyright has never recognised a right of public performance for pre-1972 sound recordings. Because the consequences of doing so could be extensive and far-reaching, and there are many competing interests at stake, which we are not equipped to address, we decline to create such a right for the first time now".

One of the far-reaching consequences with inferring a general performing right for pre-1972 sound recordings is that AM/FM stations could be sued back into the dim and distant past for playing 1960s tracks without licence. Indeed music firm ABS Entertainment launched such a case against CBS last year, the media firm having to employ a technicality that even the CTFC's most ardent members felt was a little bit cheeky: that CBS stations played remastered versions of golden oldies, and the remastering reset the copyright at a point sometime after 1972.

A total of six judges considered the appeal in the New York Flo & Eddie dispute, with four siding with Sirius. Though one of the other judges who concluded there wasn't a general performing right for pre-1972 sound recordings was keen to state that that didn't mean on-demand streaming services could side-step paying royalties to the labels on golden oldies as well.

Technically a stream requires making a copy anyway - so even without a state-level general performing right or a federal-level digital performing right, Spotify and Apple Music would still require a licence from the labels. Though you could say that, technically speaking, personalised radio services are also making copies in the delivery of a stream, yet in the US it has generally been agreed that Pandora et al are only exploiting the (digital) performing rights of the copyright.

Anyway, the big question now is what does this mean for Sirius, Pandora, the record labels, and any heritage artists who joined Flo & Eddie's class action?

The settlement between Sirius and Flo & Eddie acknowledged that the duo's court cases in New York and Florida were still subject to appeal, and the size of the damages settlement agreed was dependent on the outcome of those cases. It's not clear if this new ruling has any impact on the separate settlements between Sirius, Pandora and the major record companies.

Meanwhile, if California says there is a performing right for recordings in its copyright laws but New York says there is not in theirs, it could mean that label royalties have to be paid in some states but not others. It's not clear what the technical and constitutional implications of that would be.

Of course, another argument the music industry could use here is that it's a bit silly for key elements of federal copyright law - like the digital performing right - to not apply to recordings protected under state laws, and that federal copyright rules of this kind should be applied across the board.

The music companies weren't originally so keen on that argument though, because they were concurrently trying to argue that the safe harbours - which they hate so much and which also come from federal law - shouldn't apply on pre-1972 recordings. The record industry lost that argument, though is currently trying to get the US Supreme Court to review that judgment, so probably doesn't want to start shouting about the key principles of federal copyright law being applied to older sound recordings just yet.

With the likes of Pandora entering into wider deals with the record companies in order to launch fully on-demand streaming services, it could be that issues like this can be settled within those agreements. But that doesn't necessarily help the likes of Sirius. So, maybe there is more lobbying and litigation to come before we can all be genuinely happy together. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

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Mavin Gaye's family submit opposition to Blurred Lines appeal
Just before the Christmas festivities got underway last month, Marvin Gaye's family responded to attempts by Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams to overturn the high profile ruling in the 'Blurred Lines' song-theft case. What a festive treat.

As much previously reported, in 2015 a court ruled that Thicke n Pharrell had ripped off Gaye's 'Got To Give It Up' when writing their often controversial hit 'Blurred Lines'. Although the initial damages sum awarded to the Gayes was cut a little by the judge, it still topped $5 million in addition to a share in ongoing royalties generated by the 'Blurred Lines' song copyright.

As also previously reported, in August last year 212 artists signed an amicus brief supporting Thick n Pharrell in their appeal of the 'Blurred Lines' ruling, with an eclectic bunch of artists - including John Oates, Linkin Park, The Go-Gos and Hans Zimmer - arguing that the judgment in the plagiarism case set a dangerous precedent.

That court submission said: "The verdict in this case threatens to punish songwriters for creating new music that is inspired by prior works. All music shares inspiration from prior musical works, especially within a particular musical genre".

Key to Thicke n Pharrell's appeal is a US copyright law technicality. The legal battle is over the song copyright, not the rights in the recording, and American copyright rules traditionally say that only the composition of a song as submitted with the US Copyright Office is protected by the song right.

Which means copyright does not protect those elements of the song that appear in the original recording but which were not in the original submitted composition (today the recording could be the submission, but that wasn't always so). And crucially, Thicke n Pharrell's side argue that, if there is any commonality between 'Blurred Lines' and 'Got To Give It Up', it's those non-protected elements.

All of this was debated before the original 'Blurred Lines' court case even got properly underway, with the judge there basically agreeing with Thicke n Pharrell's interpretation of US copyright law. As a result, the Gaye family's lawyers were banned from playing the original recording of 'Got To Give It Up' in court, instead having to rely on a performance of the registered song.

However, argue Team Thicke n Pharrell, once the case was up and running the judge didn't enforce his own interpretation of that copyright technicality very well, allowing witnesses for the Gaye family to talk about elements of 'Got To Give It Up' beyond the core composition. They also argue that the judge failed to properly caution the jury about considering elements of the Gaye track that were beyond the protection of the song copyright.

Those arguments were core to the appeal documents Thick n Pharrell submitted in August. And while a response submitted by the Gaye family's lawyer last month covers various issues and arguments, the debate around what is and is not protected by the song copyright is a key element of that submission too.

Obviously happy with the outcome of the 'Blurred Lines' case, the Gaye family's chief lawyer, Richard Busch, nonetheless argues that their victory actually came despite the original judge getting it wrong on the issue of what is protected by the 'Got To Give It Up' copyright. He argues that the limitation approved by the judge is the result of a technicality with regards how copyrights were registered in the US until 1978, and that that technicality shouldn't be used to limit copyright protection four decades on.

Indeed, according to Busch, it's this element of the original case that actually sets the dangerous precedent. According to The Hollywood Reporter he writes: "The issue is of considerable importance for the many studio compositions created before 1978. If protection turns on the happenstance of a decades-old - and long since abandoned - Copyright Office practice, along with the degree of attentiveness of the transcriber, an open invitation to taking will be the consequence".

Basically Busch is arguing that the copyright protection should apply to the song as released rather than registered, not least because many legendary pop songwriters, including Gaye, couldn't read sheet music, so the versions logged with the Copyright Office were actually someone else's notation. Notes the new submission: "Marvin Gaye is hardly the only Hall Of Fame artist and composer who did not read or write notation. Motown founder and music guru Berry Gordy did not read music [either]".

It goes on: "Nor did Michael Jackson or Jimi Hendrix or Eric Clapton. The King, Elvis Presley, was yet another legend who composed before sound recordings could be deposited and did not know how to read or write musical notation. They and countless others created timeless, unique and original compositions before 1978. No doubt all would be surprised to learn that their compositions are protected only to the extent that a transcriber happened to notate elements on a lead sheet".

So, to conclude, the Gaye family don't think there should be an appeal hearing at all, but if there is, they will argue that the judge in the first trial did a perfectly fine job of enforcing his own copyright limitation on the case, even though he was entirely wrong to apply that limitation in the first place.

It remains to be seen how the Ninth Circuit Court Of Appeals now responds.

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Private equity firm Blackstone to buy US collecting society SESAC
Your best buds over at private equity outfit Blackstone have bought themselves a little performing rights organisation to play with this year. Which will be especially nice once spring is here and everyone's playing sports in the park. I know that's when I usually get my PRO out of the cupboard and take it to the park to play.

Anyway, yes, the owner of US collecting society SESAC - which, unlike many collective management organisations, is privately owned - announced yesterday that it is selling the rights body to Blackstone. Current owner Rizvi Traverse Management bought into SESAC back in 2013, and the big development since that time has been SESAC's acquisition of the Harry Fox Agency, meaning it now reps both the performing and mechanical rights in songs.

SESAC says the change of ownership, which should complete in the first quarter of this year, won't have any noticeable impact on its operations or ongoing evolution. The acquisition is also apparently part of Blackstone's plan to hold onto some of its assets longer than is the norm in the private equity domain.

Says SESAC CEO John Josephson: "Blackstone is acquiring our company with the specific intent of backing the existing management team, and shares our long-term vision for the company with a history of adding value to their portfolio companies as a supportive strategic partner and capital provider. We anticipate a seamless transition in ownership with no disruption to our business activities as a result of this transaction".

Meanwhile the MD of Blackstone's private equity flim flam, David Kestnbaum, added: "We view SESAC as an attractive fit for our core private equity investment platform and are pleased to partner with the company's experienced, highly capable management team to help support their growth strategy over the long term to continue to serve their key affiliate and licensee constituents".

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George Michael 1963-2016
George Michael died at his Oxfordshire home on Christmas Day, aged 53. The cause of his death is unclear, as a post-mortem proved inconclusive.

Born Georgios Panayiotou in London in 1963, he formed Wham with school friend Andrew Ridgeley in 1981, with Michael largely the sole songwriter and often producer of their work. Their career was accelerated later the following year when they were invited as a last minute booking to perform their second single, 'Young Guns (Go For It!)', on 'Top Of The Pops'. Although their debut album, 'Fantastic', went to number one in the UK, it was the follow-up, 'Make It Big', that elevated them to international status - leading to them becoming the first Western pop act to perform in China in 1985.

By the time the duo split in 1986 Michael had already taken steps towards a solo career - starting with 'Careless Whisper' in 1984, a solo release despite it appearing on 'Make It Big'. His solo career proper kicked off in 1987 with 'I Knew You Were Waiting', a duet with Aretha Franklin. Later that year he released one of his most recognisable songs and videos, 'Faith'.

Michael only released four solo studio albums of original material, the last being 2004's 'Patience', and the third, 'Older', coming after a bitter legal battle with his label Sony Music. He accused the label of failing to properly promote his second album, 'Listen Without Prejudice Vol 1', after the musician opted to present a more serious image. After two years going through the courts, the judge in the case ruled in Sony's favour in 1994. Michael refused to record any new music for the company following the loss, and his contract was ultimately sold to Virgin Records and DreamWorks Records.

Although his music remained successful, with relatively little of it released, Michael's personal life drew more public focus. He came out as gay in 1998 after being arrested "for engaging in a lewd act" in a public toilet in LA as part of a police sting operation - something he later satirised in the video for 'Outside'. More recently, his drug use came under close media attention, after a number of arrests. After admitting to driving under the influence of drugs before crashing into a branch of Snappy Snaps in Hampstead in 2010, he was jailed for eight weeks and banned from driving for five years.

A public supporter of many charities throughout his life, it has emerged in the wake of his death that he carried out many more acts of philanthropy secretly, including donating the royalties from a number of his biggest hits to charities.

George Michael is survived by his father Kyriacos Panayiotou and his sisters Yioda and Melanie.

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Rick Parfitt 1948-2016
Status Quo guitarist Rick Parfitt died on Christmas Eve, aged 68. He had been admitted to hospital in Marbella, Spain the previous day, after a pre-existing shoulder injury became infected.

Parfitt met Status Quo co-founder Francis Rossi while working at the Butlins holiday camp in Minehead in 1964. He joined Rossi's existing band - which had performed under various names since 1962 - in 1967, shortly before they adopted the Quo moniker. They enjoyed some early success with their single 'Pictures Of Matchstick Men' the following year, but the psychedelic sound of their first two albums provided them with little other recognition.

Switching to a more straightforward rock sound for third album 'Piledriver', they hit upon a formula that led them to a career that would continue to the present day, making them one of Britain's most successful bands, releasing 32 studio albums in total.

After a brief split in 1985, Rossi and Parfitt reformed the band with a new line-up, resulting in a lawsuit from bassist Alan Lancaster who attempted to block them from calling the band Status Quo. This resulted in an out of court settlement that left the co-frontmen in legal possession of the name.

The band remained commercially successful, both on record and as a live act, up to the present day, although last year they announced plans to only perform acoustic shows after one final electric tour. However, ahead of the last shows on that tour in October, Parfitt announced that he was leaving the group entirely. This followed the latest of a number of heart attacks in June, which had already caused him to bow out of the tour.

According to a joint statement from Parfitt's family and Quo manager Simon Porter, the musician had been planning to launch a solo career and publish an autobiography in 2017.

Parfitt is survived by his wife Lyndsay, their twin children Tommy and Lily, and his two other children Rick Jr and Harry.

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CMU Approved In 2016
Before we get back to business as usual in the CMU Approved column next week, let's take a moment to reflect on 2016. Oh sure, I get it, you're keen to get going with 2017, a year when it will no longer be possible for celebrities to die and all political upheaval will cease. There were some good things about the last twelve months though. Not least the quality of the new music it brought.

Every single Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in 2016 (near enough), we brought you some new music to listen to in this column that we thought you should hear. That's getting on for 200 acts, which is quite a lot. It's possible you didn't manage to fully digest them all. Maybe you missed something that you'd truly love, given more time.

Well the good news is that until Donald Trump accidentally confuses the Twitter send icon with the big red button, you have all the time in the world. And we have a Spotify playlist to fill it. Every single act featured here in 2016 (near enough) is included, and the good news is that they're all still great. It kicks off with our five artists of the year: Frank Ocean, Riz MC, Anna Meredith, Lady Leshurr and Moddi.

Listen to the CMU Approved In 2016 playlist here.

Universal, Ed Sheeran, Of Mice And Men, more

Other notable announcements and developments today...

• Universal Music Japan has signed a deal to represent the recordings and publishing catalogue of management company Office Augusta, including work by popular Japanese acts such as Kyoko and Motohiro Hata. "We are THRILLED to join forces with Office Augusta", says UMG boss Uncle Luci Grainge.

• Edward Sheeran will co-host the Radio 1 Breakfast Show tomorrow, because he's got some new songs to sing for you. Assuming Princess Beatrice doesn't finish what she started last year and behead poor Ed this evening. Though that would make for a better news story.

• Of Mice And Men have announced that frontman Austin Carlile has left the group, due to ongoing health issues, related to rare connective tissue disorder Marfan syndrome.

• Rejoice! St Vincent is going to release a new album this year. "I think it'll be the deepest, boldest work I've ever done", she told Guitar World.

• The xx have released a new single, 'Say Something Loving'.

• Run The Jewels released their third album, 'RTJ3', as a free download over the Christmas break. Grab it here.

• Jenny Hval has released a video for 'The Great Undressing' from her latest album 'Blood Bitch'. "I was intrigued by what would happen if you watched a naked woman totally ignorant about her own nudity going about a normal day", says director Marie Kristiansen. "Would she be perceived as a sexual object? Or would her nakedness and femininity become something ordinary and natural?"

• There are rumours that The KLF are reforming to mark their 30th anniversary after the publication of this video on YouTube.

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Actual facts refute Trump's claims of inauguration singer sales boost
As Donald Trump's inauguration draws ever nearer, the saga of who will perform at the big after party continues. He has at least managed to pin down one person to sing for him now. However, his conviction that this is a fast track to fame and fortune for former 'American Idol' runner up Jackie Evancho is less assured.

You may remember that Trump was struggling to find performers for his welcome party late last year - most musicians who bothered to comment on his presidential bid having not done so positively. Even Pro-Trump performers seemed reluctant to put themselves forward.

Eventually, sixteen year old former 'American Idol' contestant Evancho was signed up to perform the national anthem at the event. She's already performed for Barack Obama twice since shooting to fame on the show aged ten, so this is perhaps just another booking for her. But for the Trump administration it's a chance to nudge away from total embarrassment.

Not that Donald Trump does embarrassment. Throughout his career in business he's use blind self-confidence and misdirection to cover up his various mistakes and failures, painting a picture of a man who knows only success. The problem with that is that it relies on the fairly low level of public scrutiny afforded comical businessmen but less so leaders of the free world.

There was a time when Trump's tweets were a thing to be laughed at and then ignored. Now they're printed out and displayed in the Senate. Those that don't take physical form are still pawed over for evidence of coherent policy, any morsel of sense, and outright falsehood.

The latter is generally the easier to find. For example, yesterday, he tweeted: "Jackie Evancho's album sales have skyrocketed after announcing her inauguration performance. Some people just don't understand the 'movement'".

Yeah, all you 'some people'. You just don't understand that there are millions of Trump supporters out there who are rushing out to buy Evancho's albums now that she's dared to stand up for the President-Elect. All those other artists who refused to play for him are missing out on a big boost for their music. You only need look at the numbers.

Oh, what, there are actual numbers? Yeah. In the week before Evancho was announced for the ceremony, her 'Someday At Christmas' album sold just 6000 copies, according to Billboard. The following week, that figure SKYROCKETED to 11,000. Then dropped back to 8000 the week after that. It peaked at number 93 in the Billboard charts, and currently sits at 134, making it the first of her six albums not to reach the US top 40. And it's all thanks to Donald Trump.

I don't know about you, but this all makes me look forward to the next four years. We left all the bad stuff back in 2016, after all.

 
ANDY MALT | Editor
Andy heads up the team, overseeing the CMU bulletins and website, coordinating features and interviews, reporting on artist and business stories, and contributing to the CMU Approved column.
Email andy@unlimitedmedia.co.uk (except press releases, see below)
   
CHRIS COOKE | MD & Business Editor
Chris provides music business coverage and analysis. Chris also leads the CMU Insights training and consultancy business and education programme CMU:DIY, and heads up CMU publisher 3CM UnLimited.
Email chris@unlimitedmedia.co.uk (except press releases, see below)
   
SAM TAYLOR | Commercial Manager & Insights Associate
Sam oversees the commercial side of the CMU media, leading on sales and sponsorship, and advising on CMU Insights training courses and events.
Email sam@unlimitedmedia.co.uk or call 020 7099 9060
   
CARO MOSES | Co-Publisher
Caro helps oversee the CMU media, while as a Director of 3CM UnLimited she heads up the company's other two titles ThisWeek London and ThreeWeeks Edinburgh, and supports other parts of the business.
Email caro@unlimitedmedia.co.uk
 
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