|FRIDAY 13 JANUARY 2017||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Pandora is celebrating its upcoming move into fully on-demand streaming by axing 7% of its workforce, which is one way to do it. The publicly listed US streaming service announced the redundancies - which don't impact on its Ticketfly subsidiary - yesterday, confirming it needed to cutback the size of its overall headcount in order to save money. Past company filings put the Pandora workforce at just under 2200 at the end of 2015, which means it's likely in the region of 150 people will be impacted by the downsizing... [READ MORE]|
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Pandora to axe 7% of its workforce
The publicly listed US streaming service announced the redundancies - which don't impact on its Ticketfly subsidiary - yesterday, confirming it needed to cutback the size of its overall headcount in order to save money. Past company filings put the Pandora workforce at just under 2200 at the end of 2015, which means it's likely in the region of 150 people will be impacted by the downsizing.
The company said in a statement that "the reduction in force will allow the company to focus and realign existing resources on execution and make further investments in product innovation to drive advertising revenue and subscription growth. The company expects the reduction in force plan to be completed by the end of the first quarter of 2017".
Meanwhile CEO Tim Westergren added: "2016 was a year of significant investment for Pandora. In 2017, we will manage the business toward full year adjusted EBITDA profitability. While making workforce reductions is always a difficult decision, the commitment to cost discipline will allow us to invest more heavily in product development and monetisation and build on the foundations of our strategic investments".
Having basically admitted that its core business to date - selling ads around its free-to-access personalised radio service - is not sufficient for the company to go into profit, Pandora has been busy diversifying of late, in particular by trying to capitalise on its fan data to move into ticketing, and by ramping up its paid-for streaming efforts.
That includes more proactively promoting its $5 a month premium personalised radio service - which it says now has over 4.3 million subscribers - as well as moving into fully on-demand streaming at ten dollars a month at some point this quarter, putting the company into head-to-head competition with Spotify and Apple Music for the first time.
However, both ticketing and on-demand streaming are in themselves tricky markets to crack. Speculation continues that Pandora would be better off taken back into private ownership, which would take it out of the glare of Wall Street and possibly deliver a cash boost.
Talks with potential bidders have been rumoured, though so far haven't progressed, with on again off again speculation about a sale causing the firm's share price to wobble. Confirmation that the next set of Pandora financials should be ahead of expectations plus the decision to cut costs may aid attempts to find a buyer.
Prince siblings clash over who should advise his estate
Six prospective heirs met in a Minnesota court yesterday to discuss the estate's affairs. Prince's sister Tyka Nelson had already put forward two banks as possible administrators of her brother's estate, which has been co-ordinated by the Bremer Trust on an interim basis since his death last April.
As expected, Prince's other siblings favoured Michigan-based Comerica Bank. The judge overseeing the late musician's probate proceedings requested that Bremer and Comercia now discuss how they will handle the transfer of administrator status, after which he will formally appoint the latter bank.
However, there was disagreement over who should be the long term representative of the estate on commercial matters. To date, Prince's long-term attorney L Londell McMillan and one-time EMI executive Charles A Koppelman have been leading on all that, striking up deals on behalf of the estate with the likes of Universal Music Publishing, Global Music Rights and Bravado.
Tyka Nelson and Prince's half-brother Omarr Baker want one Anthony 'Van' Jones to have a key role in the running of the estate. He previously advised Prince on his philanthropic ventures and was also an advisor on the musician's 2014 deal with Warner Music. But four other step-siblings want McMillan to continue to be the estate's main deal maker.
According to Billboard, Nelson and Baker say that they've had "a lack of disclosure from Mr McMillan about his ongoing financial interest in the estate's music deals". The other siblings, meanwhile, say that Jones is already working for Nelson and Baker directly, so would be biased towards certain heirs if he was leading on the estate's commercial dealings.
The judge, who earlier said that the estate was likely to be divided between the six prospective heirs in court yesterday, despite there having been other claimants, declined to give a preference for either Jones or McMillan as a potential long-term overseer of the estate's affairs, though he indicated what criteria he would likely use for settling the matter.
UK ISPs to finally start sending warning letters to suspected file-sharers
Those paying special attention will also remember that no such stern warning letters were ever sent. Though, in 2014 the copyright industries and the big internet service providers all backed a new government-led initiative called Creative Content UK which, we were told, would run a super-duper educational campaign all about copyright and piracy, after which some warning letters with a little sternness would finally be sent to those suspecting of accessing music and movies from dodgy online sources.
The educational bit then launched in 2015 in the form of the 'Get It Right From a Genuine Site' campaign, not necessarily the worst attempt at copyright education ever undertaken since the dawn of time itself, though currently the only contender for that prize. Put it this way, it certainly made you re-evaluate the music industry's own decidedly lacklustre Music Matters anti-piracy programme, which was genius by comparison.
But worry not, now all that shit's out the way, let's get sending out some letter's shall we? And, according to ISPreview, that's going to start later this month, with BT, Virgin Media, TalkTalk and Sky Broadband all set to start writing to any good old fashioned file-sharers on their books (as identified by rights holders), telling them to get a fucking Spotify account. Or at least use YouTube. I mean, all of your favourite artists might keep telling you YouTube are scum, but they're the good kind of scum.
So that's all good news isn't it? No more file-sharing by February. Good times.
SACEM allies with IBM in big data venture
Now, here's the science bit. "Built on the IBM Cloud and infused with analytics solutions, URights is optimised for providing insights from data in a fast and easy way. IBM BigInsights for Apache Hadoop helps to manage and analyse trillions of digital sales made from the digital services providers while IBM Watson Explorer will provide the ability to analyse structured and unstructured data to find trends and patterns from the data".
So now you know. SACEM CEO Jean-Noël Tronc says he is "THRILLED to partner with IBM, a global technology leader. We work constantly to improve our effectiveness and build on our leading position. We are pioneers in a rapidly evolving global marketplace, committed to maximising the value of our members' rights in a fragmented online world - not just for music rights but also for audio-visual works".
He continued: "We are passionate about ensuring a sustainable creative future by using the latest technology to enhance efficiency in identifying the usage of our members' works - in any digital media, on any web platform. URights will enable us to better optimise collections and distributions to our members and for all the repertoires we are mandated to protect, in the most transparent way".
Meanwhile, over there at IBM, Steve Canepa said: "The music and media industries face many complex challenges in the management of copyright materials from music to visual creation. The combination of our digital skills, and advanced analytics running on IBM's global, secure hybrid cloud can help SACEM lead the industry to track and capture the value of online music".
Kobalt to administrate Emeli Sandé's publishing venture
Says Sandé: "We chose Kobalt because it was smooth, easy and personal. They fully understood and supported our vision for Hard Copy Publishing. It's exciting for us to begin this journey with a company that shares in both our passion and enthusiasm".
Adds Kobalt's Sas Metcalfe: "As a writer and artist, Emeli Sandé is an inspiration to many of us and we are therefore very excited to see what herself and Lamar can achieve with Hard Copy. We're looking forward to supporting them as they discover and nurture music creators of the future".
SoundCloud hires Yahoo's Artem Fishman
The new dude is Artem Fishman, who was previously VP Of Engineering at Yahoo. So I guess moving to SoundCloud is something of a step towards greater security. He'll take up the dual roles of Chief Technology Officer and Senior Vice President Engineering at the streaming service.
Wahlforss, meanwhile, has been made Chief Product Officer, a role newly created just for him, in which he will attempt to make both streamers and creators happier SoundCloud users. Warm glows all round, I say.
His first job in his new role was to big up Fishman, saying: "Artem is a seasoned engineering executive who brings with him a wealth of experience and a positive, collaborative mindset. We're delighted he will be joining SoundCloud as our new Chief Technology Officer, which is a key role as we continue to innovate and grow".
"Fishman has a keen interest in deep technical details and data-driven approaches which, alongside his leadership skills and passion for our product, will be of real benefit to the engineering organisation", he continued.
CEO Alex Lujung added: "SoundCloud is a truly unique platform in the music streaming space. We have ambitious goals to further innovate the user experience for our connected community of creators, curators and listeners, and as we enter into this next stage of growth, Eric and I felt it was important to bring in a senior leader to oversee engineering, to allow Eric to have laser focus on leading and aligning the exciting product initiatives we have slated to launch later this year".
SoundCloud, of course, is ideally still looking for a buyer to assure its future, talks with Spotify recently having fallen flat. Google has been posited as a possible new owner of late. Whoever takes it on, I hope they hurry up, because it would be a real ball ache if SoundCloud suddenly went offline.
Ed Sheeran plans to Divide and conquer with new album
But what will the new album be called? If you guessed '-' then you are a fucking idiot, because that's the title of album four. This one is '÷'. His fifth album is set to be called '22378008'. Anyway, this LP, which you will call 'Divide' when you say it out loud - following on from 'Plus' and 'Multiply' - will be released on 3 Mar. So that's nice.
Speaking about the album, and the week he's had since only releasing two bloody new songs at the same flippin time, Sheeran said: "First off, what a week! The reaction to my new singles has been absolutely mind-blowing and I can't thank you enough. My new album '÷' holds a very special place in my heart and I really believe this is my best work to date. I've been eager to get back and I couldn't be more excited for 3 Mar".
Edward Sheeran, 25, is a singer-songwriter from Framlingham in Suffolk.
Pavement's Scott Kannberg announces new Spiral Stairs album
"I guess I've been writing songs for a while now", ponders Kannberg. "I like hearing echoes of things I love in the music that I make. Writing music doesn't come easy to me - it's hard to write a song that's good. But our memories slowly escape us as we get older, and in songs you kind of relive those moments, the things that matter".
The album will feature guest vocals from The National's Matt Berninger and Broken Social Scene's Kevin Drew. Oh, and Grandaddy's Jason Lyttle, who appears on first single 'Dance (Cry Wolf)'. You can listen to that here if you want.
NME Awards nominations announced
Having travelled back in time to 1989 to secure some sponsorship money from haircare brand VO5, back when the pound was worth something, the NME bods have pulled together yet another fine list of nominees, based on the votes of their many, many readers. As ever, the nominees for Villain Of The Year and Worst Band are totally worthwhile and stuff.
"Every year we're bowled over by the enthusiasm of the NME readers, voting in their thousands for their favourite bands, artists, tracks, albums and more", screeches NME editor Mike Williams. "Covering every genre under the sun, this year's shortlists reflect what an incredible twelve months of music we've had, both from returning superstars and brand new artists. We can't wait to get them together in the Brixton Academy for the most rock n roll night of the year, The VO5 NME Awards. Bring it on".
Before that can happen though, there is more voting to be done. So much voting. Vote here.
Vote for who, you ask? Well, I think you mean 'whom', but it's these folks:
Best British Band: Wolf Alice, The 1975, Bastille, Years & Years, Biffy Clyro, The Last Shadow Puppets
Best International Band: Tame Impala, Kings Of Leon, Green Day, Metallica, A Tribe Called Quest, Tegan & Sara
Best British Male: Skepta, Zayn Malik, Kano, Jamie T, Michael Kiwanuka, Richard Ashcroft
Best British Female: Dua Lipa, Adele, Charli XCX, MIA, Kate Tempest, PJ Harvey
Best International Male: Kanye West, Drake, The Weeknd, Frank Ocean, Kendrick Lamar, Chance The Rapper
Best International Female: Sia, Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Solange, Christine And The Queens, Tove Lo
Best New Artist: Blossoms, Zara Larsson, Sunflower Bean, Christine And The Queens, Dua Lipa, Anderson Paak
Best Live Band: Bastille, Slaves, The 1975, Bring Me The Horizon, Christine And The Queens, Wolf Alice
Best Album: Kanye West - The Life Of Pablo, Skepta - Konnichiwa, The 1975 - I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It, Radiohead- A Moon Shaped Pool, Bastille - Wild World, Beyonce - Lemonade
Best Track: Tove Lo - Cool Girl, Charli XCX - After The Afterparty, Skepta - Man, Bastille - Good Grief, The 1975 - Somebody Else, Christine And The Queens - Tilted
Best Reissue: REM - Out Of Time, Pink Floyd - Meddle, Oasis - Be Here Now, Michael Jackson - Off The Wall, DJ Shadow - Endtroducing, Blur - Leisure
Best Video: Kanye West - Famous, Beyonce - Formation, Radiohead - Burn The Witch, Slaves - Consume Of Be Consumed, Rat Boy - Get Over It, Wolf Alice - Lisbon
Best Festival Headliner: Coldplay, Radiohead, Biffy Clyro, Adele, Foals, The Stone Roses
Best Festival: Glastonbury, Reading & Leeds, Download, Isle Of Wight, Primavera, V Festival
Best Small Festival: Y Not, Green Man, End Of The Road, Festival No 6, Kendal Calling, Slam Dunk
Best Music Film: Oasis - Supersonic, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - One More Time With Feeling, Sing Street, Gimme Danger, The Rolling Stones - Havana Moon, The Beatles - Eight Days A Week, The Touring Years
Best TV Show: Stranger Things, Fleabag, Game Of Thrones, Black Mirror, Humans, People Just Do Nothing
Best Film: Deadpool, My Scientology Movie, Captain America - Civil War, Suicide Squad, Everybody Wants Some!, Hunt For The Wilderpeople
Best Book: Alan Partridge - Nomad, Johnny Marr - Set The Boy Free, Bruce Springsteen - Born To Run, The Killers - Somewhere Outside That Finish Line, Zayn - Zayn: The Official Autobiography, Sylvia Patterson - I'm Not With The Band
Music Moment Of The Year: Bring Me The Horizon invade Coldplay's table at NME Awards 2016, Coldplay's Viola Beach tribute at Glastonbury, Beyonce drops Lemonade, Skepta wins the Mercury Prize, Pete Doherty plays The Bataclan, The Stone Roses' first new music in 20 years
Hero of the Year: David Bowie, Adele, Millie Bobby Brown, Gary Lineker, Beyonce, Liam Gallagher
Villain Of The Year: Donald Trump, David Cameron, Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, Martin Shkreli, Katie Hopkins
Worst Band: The Chainsmokers, Clean Bandit, Honey G, Nickelback, 5 Seconds Of Summer, Twenty One Pilots
CMU Beef Of The Week #338: Songwriters v Bulgarian National Radio
Since the beginning of this month, the state-funded Bulgarian National Radio has played almost no contemporary music, opting instead for classical, jazz and traditional folk. This is not due to a sudden distaste for pop, rather the price it has to pay for it. On 1 Jan, the deadline passed for the broadcaster to agree new rates with the country's main song rights collecting society Musicautor.
As well as representing 2700 Bulgarian composers, lyricists and music publishers, it is also partnered with counterparts in more than 70 other countries, such as PRS For Music in the UK. So failing to do a deal has not only cut off BNR from Bulgarian pop, but also that of the rest of the world. According to local news service Novinite, this amounts to around fourteen million songs the broadcaster could previously play.
Hence BNR is now limited to playing music compositions that are old enough to be in the public domain.
Obviously a situation like this does not arise over night. Like the GMR dispute, it has been building for some time. It has its roots in the annual get together of international collecting society organisation CISAC's European members in Bulgaria last April. Seemingly, everyone else came round Musicautor's gaff and started asking why it was letting itself get screwed over. Then it got embarrassed and lashed out at the nearest public broadcaster.
Prior to the end of last year, BNR was paying 1% of its public subsidy and 4.55% of advertising income over to Musicautor. It is seemingly the first figure that is contentious - the collecting society arguing that no public-funded broadcaster elsewhere in Europe pays such a low percentage of its subsidy to song rights holders. It wants to triple the rate over the next three to four years.
BNR counters, according to Novinite, that this demand "does not rest with economic realities", adding that increasing royalties by this amount would force it to cut some of its regional programming, which would "tarnish the radio [station's] public mission".
Musicautor countered that BNR is "denigrating" the value of music and therefore "unilaterally suspended its contract with the BNR" on 1 Jan. So that all went well.
Talks have been ongoing, but there is still no love lost. Musicautor has accused BNR of "misleading" the public by playing more than 50 songs that it represents since the start of the year. Then, when Culture Minister Vezhdi Rashidov wrote them both a letter asking them to sort it the fuck out, BNR published the minister's missive in an attempt to show to the world that the proposed rate increase was not supported by government.
Still, on Friday evening last week Musicautor sent a new proposal through to BNR. In a statement, the organisation said that when it phoned up the broadcaster to discuss this, it was told that "the working hours of the BNR [finish at] 5pm, and that the proposal will not be considered until Monday".
Off to a good start them. But Monday, the start of a new week, that's definitely a good time to look at things with fresh eyes. And also Tuesday, given that no response came on Monday. In fact, BNR waited until Wednesday this week to say anything.
"The Bulgarian National Radio does not accept the proposal of the society of composers, lyricists and music publishers for collective management of copyright Musicautor and is to initiate a public discussion on the amount that should be paid for copyright", said BNR in its statement. Ah.
"BNR does not accept Musicautor's demands, but remains open for further negotiations", it continued. So that's something. Although 'further negotiations' has been the status of this situation for a while now. Which is all good news for Bulgarians who only like songs written before the end of the Second World War and not really anyone else.