|TUESDAY 7 FEBRUARY 2017||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The House Of Lords yesterday debated the need for more transparency for artists and songwriters over how their recordings and songs are being exploited in the digital domain, as Liberal Democrat lord Tim Clement-Jones put forward his previously reported amendment to the Digital Economy Bill. A representative of the government concurred that "the principle of transparency is an important element of well-functioning markets"... [READ MORE]|
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Government agrees "principle of transparency" important for well-functioning digital market in Lords debate
A representative of the government concurred that "the principle of transparency is an important element of well-functioning markets", before confirming that ministers intend to continue to engage in the ongoing review of copyright law at a European level - which includes measures to force more transparency on the copyright industries - despite all that Brexit hoo haa.
As previously reported, part two of the 'Dissecting The Digital Dollar' report - produced by CMU Insights for the UK's Music Mangers Forum last year - confirmed that, for the artists, songwriters, managers and lawyers involved in the roundtables that informed the report, transparency was a key issue as the streaming market continues to evolve.
Managers argue that, too often, they and their artists are left in the dark about the deals done between labels, publishers, collecting societies and the streaming services. This means that artists are often unable to properly audit the digital royalties they are paid, and cannot properly assess which streaming platforms offer the best deals for creators, which would help them work out which services they should be championing.
As previously reported, Clement-Jones last month proposed an amendment to the DEB which would force corporate entities that own or control copyrights to meet certain transparency standards when reporting to any creators who are beneficiaries of those rights. The proposed new law had many parallels with the transparency obligation contained within the draft European Copyright Directive.
It sought to oblige corporate rights owners to ensure that "authors, artists and performers shall receive on a regular basis timely, adequate and sufficient information on the exploitation of their works and performances from those to whom they have licensed or transferred their rights as well as subsequent transferees or licensees, [including] information on modes of exploitation, revenues generated and remuneration due".
The proposed measure sought to provide increased transparency for creators of all kinds, though in his speech in the Lords yesterday Clement-Jones in part focused on the specific challenges faced by artists and songwriters in the music community.
He explained that: "Subscription streaming is set to become the most significant revenue stream for the recorded music market in the near future. Streaming requires a fundamentally new licensing model from those who control the recording and song copyrights, which the digital service providers wish to exploit. A complex model was developed and is now utilised by most subscription services".
"The evolution of this licensing process for streaming music has resulted in a number of transparency issues for artists and songwriters which have not yet been fully addressed", he added.
"Not least, the presence of non-disclosure agreements between the digital service providers and the record labels, distributors, publishers and collective management organisations, which mean that artists and songwriters are not always allowed to know the revenue share and minimum guarantee arrangements that each digital service provider uses to calculate what the copyrights from which they benefit are due each month. There is also a lack of clarity over how labels and publishers apply contract terms that impact on how creator payments are calculated".
Referencing the corporate entities that routinely own or control the copyright in music and other creative works, he said: "Some assignees and licensees are exemplary, but by no means all". Explaining the benefit of his proposals, he added: "Authors and performers under these provisions will have a right to detailed and full statements on the uses of and revenues from their work, unless such reporting is disproportionate".
He continued: "That in itself would be an enormous improvement on the present situation, whereby authors and artists often do not know how widely their work is used and have no way to check whether payments made to them are correct. This problem can become more acute in the digital age, when work can be disseminated in many ways and there is no physical stock which can be counted to ensure that accounting is correct".
"Greater transparency would give a powerful message to consumers", he also reckoned. "As they are generally more willing to pay for copyright-protected works if they know that fair remuneration would reach the original creators".
Clement-Jones was backed by cross-bencher peer Nicholas Trench, who is also a visual artist and writer. Responding to his fellow Lord's speech, he said: "I fully support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones. I do not have much to add to his thorough analysis of the issue other than to say that the right of artists, authors and performers to know what is being done with their work, and to obtain fair remuneration for the exploitation of it, is incontestable. This amendment would, in an effective manner, enshrine that right".
He continued: "In one sense, information is money. This amendment will doubtless have hidden benefits in that anything that can be of further help to artists, particularly those who are less well off, to survive and thrive, and, perhaps, to become the high earners of the future, is a worthwhile long-term investment and can only be good for the individuals, the creative industries and the UK economy as a whole".
Speaking for the government, Peta Buscombe agreed that "the principle of transparency is an important element of well-functioning markets", adding that "I am aware that some creators and their representatives find it difficult to access information on the use of their works owing, for example, to difficulties in negotiating suitable contractual terms".
However, she added, ministers were already considering measures to improve matters in this domain as part of the European copyright review. She said: "I am happy to confirm to your Lordships' House that the government are already engaged in discussions to address this issue. The European Commission has made proposals in this area as part of its current draft directive on copyright, and the UK will actively engage in these debates while we remain a member of the European Union".
Buscombe also name-checked some existing industry initiatives that seek to address transparency problems, such as the Worldwide Independent Network's Fair Deals Declaration, before proposing that the transparency issue would be best addressed as part of the ongoing discussions around the European Copyright Directive.
Clement-Jones agreed to withdraw his amendment, and welcomed Buscombe's agreement that "the principle of transparency" was key to a working digital marketplace, though he noted that, "I am not sure she went so far as to support its incorporation into law".
If the copyright directive is passed while the UK is still in the EU, the transparency element of that would become law here, though Clement-Jones implied that he would continue to put pressure on the government in this domain, before and beyond Brexit.
Meanwhile, for those UK trade organisations representing artists, songwriters, record producers and artist managers, this remains a key issue, and they will no doubt continue to put pressure on their member's music industry business partners and lawmakers to secure creators a better picture of how their songs and recordings are being exploited in the increasingly dominant streaming market, both in general and day-to-day.
Duran Duran given all clear to appeal reversion right ruling
As previously reported, Duran Duran and Sony/ATV went to court last year, with the publisher ultimately winning. This test case seeks clarity on whether or not British songwriters who assigned copyrights in their songs to a British publisher under English contract law can reclaim those rights in the US by employing the reversion right contained within American copyright law.
Under the US copyright system, songwriters who assign their copyrights to a publisher can terminate that assignment - and claim back their rights - after 35 years. That termination or reversion right was added to American copyright law in the 1970s. Though the time period before termination is allowed was longer for copyrights that had already been assigned when the new law was passed, which means it's only relatively recently that American songwriters have started terminating past publishing deals.
Due to how recently this has all kicked in, certain ambiguities around how the reversion right works haven't been previously tested in court. That includes whether or not British songwriters - whose wider contracts are not subject to any termination right - can nevertheless employ the reversion right in the US, and take back rights in their songs in the lucrative American market.
When Duran Duran tried to claim back the US rights in their early songs - which were assigned to Gloucester Place Music, now a Sony/ATV subsidiary, in the early 1980s - the music publishing major said no such reversion was allowed under the terms of their English publishing contract. When the matter went to the High Court, the judge sided with the publisher. However, that decision will now be considered by the appeals court.
Plenty of other aging British songwriters are watching this case with great interest, given the precedent it could set over whether or not they too can reclaim the US rights in songs they assigned to a publisher for life of copyright 35 years ago. That, of course, includes Paul McCartney.
McCartney sued Sony/ATV in the US last month because the publisher - while not saying it will block his efforts to reclaim the US rights in his share of the Lennon/McCartney catalogue - has refused to confirm that it won't. McCartney suspects the publisher is procrastinating, wanting to first see how the Duran Duran case works out.
Recognising that their legal battle with Sony/ATV could impact on the wider songwriter community, Duran Duran said this weekend: "[We] are particularly pleased to receive permission to appeal as the first instance decision impacts the wider creative community and particularly their songwriting peers around the world. In fact, since the judgment, even Sir Paul McCartney has sought to protect his US copyrights from interference from Sony/ATV, but initially through the US courts".
Meanwhile the band's Nick Rhodes added: "It was enormously disappointing that Sony/ATV decided to mount this aggressive and unexpected action against us to try to prevent the simple principles and rights afforded to all artists in America regarding their copyrights after 35 years. We are relieved and grateful that we have been given the opportunity to appeal this case because the consequences are wide reaching and profound for us and all other artists".
He went on: "In his judgement Mr Justice Arnold stated that his decision was not made without hesitation; we were heartened by this sentiment because we felt it was an acknowledgement that something was truly flawed about the premise and reality of what is at stake. We remain hopeful that the ultimate outcome will be fair and measured to take into account and support our case and all artists' rights".
Kylie and Kylie seemingly settle Kylie trademark dispute
So, to business. A year ago Kylie Minogue lodged a formal objection to attempts by Kylie Jenner to register the trademark in the US for the name 'Kylie' for the purposes of 'advertising services' and 'endorsement services'.
Minogue already owns the 'Kylie' trademark in the 'entertainment services' and 'music recordings' categories, and argued that Jenner getting the rights to use the name for fashion and beauty products would confuse the public and dilute the popstar's brand.
When filing an objection to Jenner's trademark application with the US Patent And Trademark Office last year, Minogue's people noted that their client was an international pop artiste, while Jenner - possibly best known as the half-sister of Kim Kardashian - was a "secondary reality television personality" who had courted controversy with her "photographic exhibitionism and controversial posts" on social media.
The US Patent And Trademark Office's review of Jenner's trademark application - and Minogue's objection to it - was seemingly put on hold last year because the two Kylies were in talks in a bid to agree some sort of settlement.
In now transpires, according to the BBC, that last month Minogue withdrew her objection to Jenner's trademark application. It's not clear precisely what that means, and neither party has a yet commented, but it's thought that some deal may have been done.
Jenner has also been trying to trademark her full name - ie Kylie Jenner - for her various fashion products. That trademark application was unsuccessful last year, so it's possible that she's decided to focus on appealing that ruling - over which Minogue presumably has no objections - rather than fighting for control of the standalone 'Kylie' brand.
But whatever, once again, well done Kylie(s).
BMG pulls production music labels together
"Bringing our extensive production music interests together under the BMG Production Music banner symbolises the importance of production music within BMG, and signals our commitment to this growing sector", says the firm's CFO Maximillian Dressendoerfer.
Charged with overseeing all of this, new SVP Production Music Mitch Lijewski adds: "BMG Production Music stands for a new approach, combining the creative integrity of high-end catalogue, creative and custom scoring services, with BMG's next generation global infrastructure".
Soundrop relaunches as YouTuber single distribution service
Music distributor CD Baby acquired Show.co - the music marketing platform set up by the Soundrop team - last year, and said at the time that a new distribution service was in the pipeline that would use the Soundrop brand.
The new service seemingly builds on Loudr Distribution, the US-based cover-version-focused distribution and licensing platform for DIY artists that allied with CD Baby in 2015. Like Loudr, Soundrop will also provide song licensing services, which are more important in the US where there is no industry-wide mechanical rights collecting society.
The all-new Soundrop distributes tracks to Apple Music, iTunes, Spotify, GooglePlay, Amazon and Deezer, with plans to add Pandora and YouTube later this year.
"Soundrop was first about connecting listeners to music on the most popular streaming platform", says Soundrop's Brand Manager Zach Domer of its original incarnation. "Now it's connecting artists to listeners directly".
"These are folks who release on YouTube first", continues Domer. "They have a strong supporter base on Patreon. They come from EDM or game music scenes. This is the place for them. Creators on platforms like YouTube are used to a fast, furious, responsive pace in serving their audience. Soundrop will be the perfect partner in this enterprise".
As its fee, Soundrop will take 15% of any revenue earned by tracks it distributes.
David Axelrod dies
Axelrod's death was confirmed on Twitter by DJ Shadow, who wrote: "Producer and composer extraordinaire David Axelrod has passed. Listening to 'Songs Of Experience' on repeat for the remainder of the day".
Recalling his first meeting with Axelrod, and the friendship they later built up, he went on: "I'll never forget meeting him for the first time in 1998. We asked him to do a remix for 'Rabbit In Your Headlights' off the Unkle album. David could be incredibly intimidating, and he did not suffer fools. But if he liked and respected you, he was the most loyal friend on earth. So honoured to have known you David, you are a bonafide hero to an entire generation of hip hop kids and musical dreamers".
Axelrod released his first solo album, 'Songs Of Innocence', in 1968, followed a year later by 'Songs Of Experience', as referenced by DJ Shadow in his tribute. More recently, both his solo work and other music he produced was sampled by hip hop artists, including DJ Shadow, Dr Dre, Lil Wayne and more. This led to Axelrod releasing an album compiling old and new material through the Mo'Wax label in 2001.
Wild Beasts capture India's female-led skateboarding scene in Alpha Female video
"When I first heard the Wild Beasts song 'Alpha Female', I had the epiphany to film the growing female skateboard scene outside the Western world", says Rainbow. "In places like Afghanistan, Cambodia and India, skating has not been solidified as a male sport and therefore has had a massive cultural impact, teaching values about self-empowerment through skateboarding. I thought India, with its colours and cinematic landscapes, was the place to do it".
MIA to curate Meltdown 2017
"For me this Meltdown will be about putting on a musical week that shows different types of music which have inspired each other to exist", says MIA. "Genres that support other genres, redefining the concept of a melting pot. Respect the history, don't live in it. I plan to bring together music's best forward thinkers who have contributed to all our lives. When music acts as inspiration, it's boundary-less".
The Southbank Centre's Senior Contemporary Music Programmer Bengi Unsal adds: "In a progressively polarised world, we are now appreciating those that don't fear standing out and those that defy moulds. MIA is fearless in the way she pushes boundaries and makes music that is so refreshingly original that it effectively doesn't age. Her ever-evolving, yet readily identifiable musical style inspires people to dance, whilst giving a voice to the voiceless, from refugee camps in Africa through to London's streets. MIA is a trendsetter and social critic, but most importantly, an internationally loved and acclaimed musical star".
MIA's last planned involvement with a UK festival ended in controversy, when her headline slot at last year's Afropunk London was cancelled, following public pressure after comments she made about the Black Lives Matter movement.
Meltdown will take place from 9-18 June. The first line-up announcements will arrive in the coming weeks.
PPL, Kidz Bop, Devlin, more
Other notable announcements and developments today...
• UK record industry collecting society PPL achieved its largest ever international collections - so royalties pulled in from its alliances with other societies worldwide - in 2016. Global monies were up 34% to £36.7 million.
• US-based children's music brand Kidz Bop - which puts out albums of kids singing kid-friendly versions of current pop songs - will launch in the UK this spring, working with Universal Music, where Simon Barnabas is "THRILLED" about the venture. I bet he was actually "fucking THRILLED", but you know, got to keep it kid friendly.
• Devlin has released the video for new single 'Blow Your Mind'.
• Brian Jonestown Massacre will release new album 'Don't Get Lost' on 24 Feb. From it, this is 'Fact 67'.
• Japanese rock band Scandal have announced that they will release a 36 track best of compilation in Europe through JPU Records on 3 Mar. Included tracks were selected by fans, plus the band have added two new songs. Here's a trailer.
• Dominic Waxing Lyrical will release a new album, 'Rural Tonic', on 21 Apr. Here's first single 'Sugar Daddy'.
• Stormzy has announced a sixteen date UK tour starting at the end of March and finishing with two nights at the Brixton Academy on 2-3 May. Tickets go on sale on Thursday.
• Cabbage have announced three new UK shows in June, following their many upcoming sold out dates. They'll play The Scala in London on 29 Jun, Birmingham's Institute 3 on 30 Jun, and the Ritz in Manchester on 1 Jul.
Kanye West deletes Trump-supporting tweets in disapproval
Praising Trump's campaign back in November, West said at a live show that it would it was "the same model I'm gonna take in 2020", when he has indicted that he plans to stand for the presidency. "Sometimes things that you might think are bad need to happen, in order for change to fucking happen", he said of his hopes for the new president. "Sometimes you might have to not get your way to really understand what to do in the future, to be able to get your way".
With Trump's actual plans and policies for his time in office then still far from clear, West met with the President-Elect the following month, seemingly in an effort to influence his views on certain topics.
While Trump told reporters that the two were meeting as "friends, just friends" and had simply "discussed life", West later tweeted: "I wanted to meet with Trump today to discuss multicultural issues. These issues included bullying, supporting teachers, modernising curriculums, and violence in Chicago. I feel it is important to have a direct line of communication with our future President if we truly want change".
Well, that direct line doesn't seem to have done much good, given that Trump's view of multiculturalism seems to be a vehement 'no thanks'. It's still hard to know if Trump really knows what he's doing, though the fear - of course - is that others in his inner circle know exactly what they're doing.
Whatever, all reference to that meeting with Trump has now disappeared from West's Twitter account, with TMZ reporting that the rapper is "super unhappy" with the president's actions during his first two weeks in office. Which is fair, I guess. If only deleting a few tweets were enough to undo Trump's election, things would be a lot better right now.