|FRIDAY 10 FEBRUARY 2017||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Universal Music has signed a deal to rep 25 of Prince's albums as well as, perhaps more importantly, the musician's vast archive of unreleased material. Meanwhile, the catalogue still controlled by Warner Music - spanning albums released from 1979 to 1995 - will return to Spotify this Sunday, to coincide with the Grammy Awards. The deal between Prince's estate and his NPG Records label with the Universal record company was announced yesterday... [READ MORE]|
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Universal gets access to Prince's vault, Warner catalogue heading to Spotify
The deal between Prince's estate and his NPG Records label with the Universal record company was announced yesterday. It covers all of his albums from 1995 onwards, and follows previous deals negotiated by the estate with Universal Music Publishing for the musician's song rights, and the major's merch company Bravado to exploit his brand. Additionally, a number of Prince's earlier albums will come under Universal control in the US early next year too. So, basically, it's all one massive UMG party.
"Prince was one of the greatest musical talents of all time - an incomparable genius as a performer, recording artist and songwriter", says Universal boss Lucian Grainge. "It's an absolute honour to once again be selected by Prince's estate to be the home for publishing, merchandise and now for so much of his incredible body of recordings. UMG is committed to honouring Prince's legacy and vision by creating the highest quality products and experiences".
Yes, last time Prince was signed to a Universal company - it's publisher - it resulted in the still-running 'dancing baby' litigation that began way back in 2007. So I think we can all agree that there's much to look forward to.
The new deal around Prince's recordings has been negotiated by L Londell McMillan and Charles Koppelman, who have been leading on commercial matters for the musician's estate since his untimely death last year. Though the court overseeing the estate opted not to appoint a permanent individual administrator, and two of Prince's heirs are now suing McMillan, so it's not clear what their long-term role will now be.
They were still around to give us some quotes yesterday though. "I am THRILLED the NPG catalogue and Prince's highly sought after unreleased recordings will reside with UMG, where we have found a partner who is passionate about presenting Prince's music with a holistic vision that celebrates his iconic status across recorded music, publishing and merchandise and will continue to deliver the highest quality experiences that fans have come to expect", said McMillan, in an attempt to break some sort of longest sentence record.
"I'm pleased to say, with UMG, Prince's legacy is in very good hands", added Koppelman, not even attempting to challenge McMillan. "Lucian and his teams at Universal Music Publishing and Bravado are already generating great excitement and energy with Prince's legions of fans who are demanding more ways to experience this incomparable talent. With UMG's involvement, there will be so many more outlets around the world for experiencing the brilliance of this incomparable artist".
Universal's precise plans for the Prince recordings it now handles are still to be confirmed. So Warner Music somewhat stole its larger rival's thunder this morning, with the announcement that Spotify will be streaming many of Prince's more famous albums - which it still reps, for now at least - from this Sunday. The news was first broken by Bloomberg, and has now been confirmed by Spotify.
As previously reported, the estate has been frantically trying to untangle a possible streaming exclusivity deal with Tidal that Prince agreed to before his death, to make his music more accessible during and after a planned tribute at this Sunday's Grammy Awards.
The estate argues that there is only actually paperwork for an exclusivity deal around one of the musician's final albums. However, Tidal says that there were various other agreements, some written and some verbal, between Prince and both the streaming service and Jay-Z's other company Roc Nation.
Of course, prior to his death, Prince's catalogue was pulled off all streaming services except Tidal, and his final two albums were subsequently released exclusively through the service (including in download and CD formats). It seems daft to suggest this happened without the musician's knowledge, particularly as he spoke about the arrangement while he was still alive.
"After one meeting, it was obvious that Jay-Z and the team he has assembled at Tidal recognise and applaud the effort that real musicians put into their craft to achieve the very best they can at this pivotal time in the music industry", Prince is quoted as saying. "[Plus] Tidal have honoured us with a non-restrictive arrangement that once again allows us to continue making art in the fashion we've grown accustomed to and we're extremely grateful for their generous support".
Still, eighteen months later, and ten months after his death, the Warner-controlled portion of Prince's catalogue will this weekend once again join that still fairly confusing Spotify-only single he put out on the rival streaming platform.
Rumours that his music would again be available on Spotify were heightened last month, when a number of purple posters bearing the streaming service's logo appeared in New York's Union Square subway station. That campaign was the work of Spotify and Warner alone, without the involvement of the estate, it has now been confirmed.
Indeed, indications from the estate at the time were that no deal to extract Prince's recordings from Tidal's grasp had been done. Although it now seems likely that this was referring to the NPG catalogue Universal has just got the rights to rep. If and when that will appear on Spotify, or other streaming services, is not clear.
In fact, it's not clear what other plans there are for the Warner catalogue on other streaming services either, ie on your Apple Musics and the like. Though, according to NPR, Napster has confirmed that it will also have the same records as of this Sunday.
Anyway, this Prince tribute is going to happen at the Grammy Awards ceremony this weekend - as will one for George Michael. The list of performers involved is being kept under wraps until the night. The concern is always that these things will end up being a bit rubbish. Hopefully everyone's been studying Prince's tribute to George Harrison at the 2004 Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame inductions for tips on how to knock it out of the park:
Search engines may sign up to voluntary anti-piracy code this summer
While the music industry's regular ranting about YouTube has been particularly newsworthy in recent years, the record companies have been griping about Google's search engine for much longer. Rights owners wish that Google - and other search engines - would do more to stop search results including links to copyright infringing material, especially high up in those result lists.
Google, of course, allows rights owners to request the removal of links that go through to unlicensed content, but they must do so on a link-by-link basis, rather than being able to ask the search engine to remove anything that links through to sites like The Pirate Bay. The web firms insist that they can't be the police of the internet - and express concerns about site-wide delisting - though the record industry counters that where a court has ordered web-blocks against sites like the Bay, there shouldn't be any such concerns.
The record industry has been pushing the Googles of this world to do more in this domain for years. Google has introduced some anti-piracy initiatives, but for the music industry those haven't gone far enough - indeed some at the labels would accuse the web giant of mainly paying lip service to its responsibilities in this domain, rather than actively pushing links to copyright infringing content down or preferably off its search lists.
To that end, the music industry - especially in the UK - has been quietly lobbying government for it to introduce new rules to oblige search engines to play ball, most recently as part of the ongoing Digital Economy Bill discussions.
It was during a debate on the DEB in the House Of Lords earlier this week that government rep Peta Buscombe revealed that not only were talks between the search engines and the copyright industries ongoing in a bid to create some sort of voluntary code for combating piracy, but it seems like some progress has been made.
Said Buscombe: "IPO officials have chaired a further round-table meeting between search engines and representatives of the creative industries. While there are still elements of detail to be settled, the group is now agreed on the key content of the code and I expect an agreement to be reached very soon. All parties have also agreed that the code should take effect, and the targets in it be reached, by 1 Jun this year".
She added: "The search engines involved in this work have been very co-operative, making changes to their algorithms and processes, but also working bilaterally with creative industry representatives to explore the options for new interventions, and how existing processes might be streamlined. I understand that all parties are keen to finalise and sign up to the voluntary agreement, and so we believe there is no need to take a legislative power at this time".
It remains to be seen quite what that code involves, and whether the 1 Jun deadline for launch can be reached.
Beyonce sued over Formation samples
The singer is accused of sampling Barre's voice on her track 'Formation', which appeared on last year's 'Lemonade' album. The video for the track includes footage of the Hurricane Katrina disaster and seemingly includes New Orleans native Barre saying lines including "What happened at the New Orleans" and "Bitch, I'm back by popular demand".
Barre's estate, mainly his sister, says that the rapper's voice was sampled without permission, that he was not credited, and that the estate has received no royalties. The estate's legal claim also says that efforts to contact Beyonce and her people have so far been unsuccessful. Both she and label Sony Music are being sued.
Billboard publishes Power 100
Assuming your process for doing such a thing is to pick the biggest companies in music and declare the people atop those businesses the most powerful, then your first decision is whether to make Universal Music CEO Uncle Luci Grainge or Live Nation chiefster Michael Rapino top - they leading the biggest companies in recordings and live respectively. But wait to have your mind blown people, because Billboard has decided to put Spotify's Daniel Ek in the top spot this year. Pow! Didn't see that coming, did you?
Though the 'line up the top execs at the biggest music firms' approach is basically what Billboard does for its Power 100, something that demonstrates once again that the top level of the American music industry is still overwhelmingly white and male. In fact, you have to go all the way to number thirteen in the list to find a woman - Universal's Michele Anthony - and she has to share her place with colleague Boyd Muir for some reason.
The first woman who gets a whole place in her own right is Universal Music Publishing boss Jody Gerson at number seventeen. Even applying Billboard's own arguably flawed methodology, Gerson should almost certainly rank higher than that, though I suppose she does well just to secure her place as one of the whopping fifteen women to appear in the entire list. Yeah, fifteen. Well done, everyone.
Anywhere, here are the top ten men...
1. Daniel Ek, Spotify
Aretha Franklin announces retirement
Speaking to Detroit radio station WDIV Local 4, the singer said that she plans to release one more album and embark on a number of farewell performances before calling it quits.
"I must tell you, I am retiring this year", she said. "I feel very, very enriched and satisfied with respect to where my career came from and where it is now. I'll be pretty much satisfied, but I'm not going to go anywhere and just sit down and do nothing. That wouldn't be good either".
She added that she wouldn't disappear entirely, making the odd appearance - "some select things, maybe one a month, for six months out of the year" - when the mood takes her. However, officially the new album, due out in September and featuring production from Stevie Wonder, about which she is feeling "exuberant", will be her final proper project.
Franklin has had a number of health problems in recent years, which forced her to cancel planned appearances for a time. And last year she was involved in a legal battle over the release of a documentary about the recording of her 1972 gospel album 'Amazing Grace'.
Disclosure announce hiatus
"We were fifteen and eighteen when we began this incredible journey", they began, announcing the decision. "It's been filled with shows bigger and better than our childhood minds could have ever imagined, amongst many other unbelievable moments and achievements".
They do have a few appointments already booked in, including the return of their Wild Life festival, and some other events still be announced. It's not clear if any of these will involve the duo performing. "For the most part", they go on, "we're going to be taking some time out and enjoying some much needed rest".
Have a look at their full handwritten letter to fans here. You don't see enough handwritten letters these days.
The Staves surprise release new single
'Tired As Fuck' also comes with a video, a lingering close-up shot of the band's Camilla Staveley-Taylor, of which they say: "We fell down an Andy Warhol hole (a Warhole if you will) recently and particularly loved his series of screen tests and moving portraits. They're just static shots of a subject staring at the camera. It's amazing how compelling that is. Just looking at someone for 20 minutes or so. We also bought an old overhead projector and really wanted to incorporate it by projecting these weird shapes on Camilla's face".
So we're clear, the video is not 20 minutes long, but it really is as effective as they say, so you might want to watch it six times to fulfil that time period. Watch here.
The group have also announced that they will make their UK live return at the Bushstock festival in June, following US dates over the next couple of months.
Soulwax announce new album, which they recorded just the other day
"Based on the 'Transient Program For Drums And Machinery', which began touring in the summer of 2016, we set out to record these songs live with the exact same setup, machines and musicians as we had on the road", explain Soulwax brothers Stephen and David Dewaele.
The band will also be playing a couple of UK live dates later this year:
8 Apr: London, Electric Ballroom
PPL, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, more
Other notable announcements and developments today...
• PPL and the collecting society for the Romanian record industry - CREDIDAM - have signed a reciprocal agreement to pass relevant royalties back and forth. "There was initially some ambiguity over the application of certain rights in Romania, but this has been resolved and we are pleased to be able to move forward in a market that has, in recent times, been cultivating an export market whilst at the same time remaining a prodigious consumer of PPL members' repertoire", says PPL's Director Of International, Laurence Oxenbury.
• Katy Perry has released 'Chained To The Rhythm', the first single from her still to be announced fourth album. Sia co-wrote it, Max Martin produced it and it features Bob Marley's grandson Skip Marley.
• Lady Gaga's new 'John Wayne' video is out now. It was briefly an Apple Music exclusive, but now it's not.
• Nicki Minaj and Nick Jonas might sound like an unlikely pairing, but here they are on 'Bom Bidi Bom' from the '50 Shades Darker' soundtrack.
• Grimes has released the video for 'Venus Fly', featuring Janelle Monáe. It was briefly a Tidal exclusive, but now it's not.
• Girli has announced two shows in April. She'll play Electrowerkz in London on 11 Apr and Stereo in Glasgow on 14 Apr.
• British engineer Alan Dower Blumlein, the inventor of stereo sound recording, is to receive a posthumous Grammy award at a standalone event to be held later this year. About time, really. He died in 1942. "He's always been held in the highest esteem by recording engineers and so to now receive this acknowledgement from the wider music industry is simply wonderful", says Blumlein's son Simon.
CMU Beef Of The Week #342: Bauer v Style
Earlier this week, a new style guide was circulated by Bauer's radio division aimed at ensuring listeners get the most possible enjoyment out of the shows on the company's various local radio stations. Thought the real aim, it appeared, from the list, was to ensure that all presenters sound roughly the same and don't do too much of that talking stuff.
"Always say ALL THE BIGGEST HITS - ALL DAY LONG at the top of the link", it ordered. Apparently no one thought to say this out loud first, otherwise they would have realised that Bauer was about to offer 24 hour access to every single one of the largest breasts. "These links should be ten to fifteen seconds max and only focus on the song coming up - nothing else".
So, not a lot of room for personality, but at least people will know what they're going to be listening to in ten to fifteen seconds time.
Actually, it's not fair to say there's no room for personality. There are clear stipulations for this in the document. "Talk about your [track] log as though you've picked it yourself", it says. "Play every song as though you've chosen it especially for the listener. LOVE the music. Every song we play is a winner - be proud of each one and share your passion. The audience will love you for it and listen longer".
So, you see, there's plenty of room for personality and passion, so long as it doesn't deviate from the narrow guidelines laid out by management, and providing the DJ happens to be in love with every single song on the playlist. That said, the rules list also adds that each link going into an ad break must be "signed off by your Content Controller or Content Director prior to your show".
It's like something out of a movie, isn't it? Don't say no, I can think of three films off the top of my head where basically this exact story is a major plot point.
In 'Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa', it's a corporate takeover of North Norfolk Digital and the ensuing programming changes implemented which lead to a siege at the station. In 'Airheads', the big twist comes when the DJ being held hostage by The Lone Rangers discovers that the station is being sold and revamped from rock to easy listening. And in 'Private Parts', Howard Stern is schooled by a tedious exec on the proper way to pronounce station name "WNBC", part of a failed attempt to get him to toe the line, which ultimately ended with him being sacked in 1985.
See, that last one was in a movie and real life, which I think only establishes my point further. Although I think my point may now be that this Bauer palaver has a 66% chance of resulting in a hostage situation. Probably not. What's actually occurred is that the style guide has been roundly mocked by other people in the radio industry - two of whom ended up publishing their own parodies of the document.
First off, Jack FM Oxfordshire posted its own guide, which instructs presenters to "say the word 'Jack' as often as possible" in their links. "Preferably every word. People will forget what they're listening to within 2-3 seconds".
"List every song in the log for the rest of the day", it adds. "It may take a while, but listeners really appreciate knowing exactly what's coming up".
As well as publishing his own version of the guide, Iain Lee dedicated the first fifteen minutes of his TalkRadio show on Tuesday to lambasting it. "I just made myself unemployable by an entire radio network", he said, according to Radio Today.
"Soulless. Absolutely soulless. Sucking the joy out of radio", he added about the Bauer style guide rules. "When I listen to radio, I want to hear people talking with passion. You can't be passionate when you're sucking the soul out of radio. It's awful".
Danny Baker, also one not prone to mince his words, called the style guide "horse shit", saying on Twitter that it had been "prepared by bloodless worms who never felt a song or real radio moment in their fucking lives".
Did Bauer accept this criticism though? No, Bauer did not.
"Whilst some quarters of the radio industry indulged itself in hyperbole yesterday, we were focused on making world-class content as a leading digital audio innovator", said the company in a statement, ingratiating itself to no one. It added that it had "won more creative awards than any other commercial group last year".
Talking down its critics, it went on: "We believe the industry has more productive things to focus on than this negative rhetoric, as commercial radio listening is at an all-time high".
This was before yesterday's RAJARs, which showed a wobbly last quarter for commercial radio, though to be fair some Bauer stations did do better than their rivals. But the radio industry's real challenge is appealing to the younger demographic who are much more likely to tune into YouTube than the FM dial where, I'm pretty sure, no one is told to cut their personalities down to a fifteen second cliché.