|WEDNESDAY 1 MARCH 2017||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The key trade organisations for the music creative community and their managers yesterday called on UK politicians to help artists, songwriters and record producers secure more clarity on how their work is being exploited by the booming streaming market. The call follows efforts over the last eighteen months to secure a voluntary agreement on issues like transparency with the major music companies, and came as MPs raised concerns in a wide-ranging debate on intellectual property in Westminster... [READ MORE]|
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Music creatives call on government to push for more digital music transparency
Efforts to secure a voluntary code of conduct that could be embraced by all record companies, music publishers, artists, songwriters, producers and managers were led by Music Managers Forum director Andy Edwards. The aim was to secure an agreement on transparency, clarity and an alignment of interests for everyone involved in creating, recording, marketing, distributing and exploiting recorded music.
Edwards liaised with trade bodies allied to UK Music - and the three music majors directly - on the project, and says all parties played their part in the negotiations. And the process helped all sides better understand other groups' issues and concerns.
Though, in a blog post about the project published earlier this week, Edwards confirmed: "After almost eighteen months and an awful lot of calls, coffee meets, confidential chats and boardroom debates the project finally came to an end when it became clear that it would be impossible to reach a consensus at this time".
The lack of transparency around the deals done between labels, publishers, collecting societies and the streaming services was the single biggest issue raised during phase two of the Music Managers Forum's 'Dissecting The Digital Dollar' project, undertaken by CMU Insights last year.
Managers said that they and their artists were too often left in the dark about the specifics of the streaming service deals, and how digital royalties were being calculated and processed. As a result artists couldn't properly audit or understand their digital income, nor could they make informed decisions as to which streaming platforms they should be personally backing.
The lack of transparency also contributes to some artists and songwriters publicly slating the big streaming platforms. They might be right to do so, or their problems may actually lie with what happens to their digital royalties as they flow through the industry. Either way, it's bad messaging when the record industry's future is now so dependent on the premium streaming services succeeding.
The transparency issues in digital music - a big talking point at music industry conferences for a while now - have already appeared on the political agenda, in the UK and elsewhere. The European Copyright Directive includes an article trying to provide music creatives with more information about how their work is exploited in the digital domain, and Liberal Democrat Lord Tim Clement-Jones raised the issue during the Digital Economy Bill debates in the Lords last month.
Yesterday morning MPs took part in a debate on intellectual property at Westminster Hall. It was a wide-ranging discussion covering a multitude of piracy and other IP issues. The recent voluntary agreement reached between the music and movie industries and the big search engines was also widely welcomed, and the role of the government's Intellectual Property Office in securing that was commended.
To that end Nigel Adams MP, who chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group on Music and who had instigated yesterday's IP discussion, suggested that the IPO might now play a similar role in securing agreement within the music community on transparency. Acknowledging the attempts to secure a voluntary code of conduct, he said: "I understand that a previous attempt by creator groups to reach a deal on streaming revenues with the industry went through seventeen drafts over almost two years and ultimately ended in stalemate".
Addressing the recently appointed IP Minister Jo Johnson, Adams continued: "Given that, if the minister committed the government to similar work to facilitate action on this issue as they undertook for the search engine code of practice, I would happily congratulate him immediately".
Various other MPs taking part in the debate raised the transparency issue - many also commending the indie labels' Fair Deals Declaration as an initiative that has already made progress in this domain - though it was Northern Irish MP Ian Paisley who spoke most strongly about the need for more transparency for music creatives.
He argued that new technology in music delivery should actually be making things more rather than less transparent for artists and songwriters, while proposing that - with Brexit ahead - now was the time to make UK copyright laws the most effective for both corporate rights owners but also, crucially, creators and performers.
Paisley told the debate: "As the technology modernises, so too the chain of payments should be made transparent. As we move towards Brexit, I urge the government to make the United Kingdom the gold standard for protection of performers' IP. It is essential that we do that, to grab this generational opportunity to make the UK the best and the safest place for IP to be placed, contracted and protected. That would benefit performers and drive the industry, and would see that billion-pound industry grow. That is what we really want to see".
Five music industry groups representing music creatives and their managers - BASCA, FAC, MMF, MPG and MU - yesterday put out a joint statement, welcoming the political support for artists and songwriters seeking more clarity. They also backed Adams' suggestion that - given efforts within the music industry to secure commitments from the majors had failed - the government may now want to get involved in the discussions.
The statement was as follows...
For the past eighteen months, representatives of artists, songwriters and producers have worked to attempt to establish a simple code of conduct for the recorded music industry focusing on the principles of transparency, clarity and alignment of interests. Despite much patience and many concessions, these efforts have been in vain due to intransigence on the part of the major music corporations.
We therefore welcome the acknowledgement of Parliamentarians that intervention is required to guarantee greater clarity to music-makers - and ensure that a fairer share of the commercial growth from services that use our music goes back to the artists, songwriters and producers that created it.
According to data from UK Music, it is this country's creative talent that underpins our global success story in music. The direct economic contribution of those who compose, perform and produce music represents over 50% of our entire industry's GVA - more than £2.1 billion. Without these individuals there would be no music business.
These facts are worth bearing in mind in the continued debates around streaming services, and the fight by creators to see greater transparency in how their music is licensed and how the resulting revenues are distributed.
This has been an issue of internal industry discussion for some time, and we are therefore delighted that UK politicians are recognising the challenges faced by our members with the continued secrecy surrounding commercial licensing deals. The EU has accepted the need to legislate for transparency and it is imperative that the UK government commits to introduce back-stop powers in the event of Brexit.
Vivendi says $400 million Spinal Tap legal claim "absurd"
Vivendi has responded to the litigation being pursued by the four Spinal Tap men, who accuse the entertainment firm's movie business StudioCanal of "wilfully manipulated certain accounting data, while ignoring contractually-obligated accounting and reporting processes, to deny [the] co-creators their rightful stake in the production's profits".
Although primarily about the rights and revenues associated with the movie, Universal also controls the soundtrack of the cult film, and the lawsuit also alleges that "accounting between the Vivendi subsidiaries is not at arms-length, is anti-competitive and deprives the 'TIST' creators of a fair reward for their services".
Since Guest, McKean and Reiner joined the litigation originally launched by Shearer, the lawsuit is seeking $400 million in damages, an amount Vivendi calls "absurd". Responding to the litigation, the French company says that Shearer et al failed to undertake the required audit before launching their legal claim. It also says that the four men themselves can't sue, and only their company Spinal Tap Productions should be making a claim.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Vivendi's court papers say: "Plaintiffs never requested, much less conducted, any audit [of 'Spinal Tap' income]. Thus, they lack the information they would need to assert that StudioCanal rendered erroneous or improper Spinal Tap participation statements, if that had happened. However, it did not".
It goes on: "Had plaintiffs investigated their lawsuit before filing it - a duty that at least the plaintiffs' lawyers bear under Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure - they would have learned that they have no basis on which to assert any claims concerning the calculation and payment of the Spinal Tap participation. That is because StudioCanal has accounted and paid STP's participation in accordance with the agreement".
Noting the rather high damages now being sought, the legal filing continues: "Plaintiffs may not like the fact that they have not received anything close to the $400 million in contingent compensation that their complaint absurdly claims they should have received. But that is only because the movie they made has not generated anywhere near the revenue necessary to pay them anything close to that sum. As a reality check on this lawsuit, even though 'Spinal Tap' has garnered affection in the United States, it has generated US theatrical revenue of under $5 million. Revenue from other sources and territories has been similarly modest".
Whether those revenues were sufficiently modest to justify the profit share payments the four men claim they received for two decades of merch and soundtrack sales - $81 and $98 respectively - remains to be seen.
Vivendi wants much of the Spinal Tap lawsuit dismissed at the first hurdle, though even it wants the court to consider part of Shearer's legal action - his attempt to reclaim music rights linked to the movie under the increasingly newsworthy reversion right that sits in US copyright law and kicks in 35 years after songwriters and musicians assign their rights to third parties. There are plenty of technicalities around that reversion right though, and Vivendi hopes to employ a bunch of them to get the courts to say Shearer et al don't have a reversion right.
Zedd signs to Universal Music Publishing
"We are THRILLED Zedd and his team chose to move his catalogue to Universal Music Publishing", says UMPG CEO Jody Gerson. "He is a gifted musician and we couldn't be more excited to help expand his opportunities as a songwriter, producer and artist across the globe".
Zedd's work includes Justin Bieber's 'Beauty And A Beat', and last year's rework of the title track from his second album, 'True Colors', featuring Kesha. The deal also sees Universal represent two of Zedd's frequent collaborators, Grey (aka Michael and Kyle Trewartha) and Lophiile.
Confidence Man sign to Heavenly
"It was a simple case of love at first listen", Heavenly boss Jeff Barrett tells CMU. "Like hearing 'Groove Is In The Heart' for the first time. It was a joy of joys to discover that even after all these years I could still feel intoxicated after hearing a pop song".
The band will be heading to the UK for shows and festival appearances later this year.
Ontario opens public consultation on ticket touting bots
As previously reported, the Canadian province's Attorney General Yasir Naqvi announced the intention to introduce new legislation last October. The one bit of the secondary market the big ticket reselling companies advocate getting rid of, bots are bits of software used by touts to automatically hoover up large quantities of tickets on primary sites before genuine members of the public can get their hands on them.
The move to outlaw the use of such software was prompted after tickets for Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip's farewell tour quickly found their way to secondary sites at massive mark-ups. This was particularly emotive, as the band had announced their split because frontman Gord Downie had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Their final show ran for three hours and was televised nationwide, with many Canadians declaring the country "closed" while it was on.
"What happened with The Hip's 'Man Machine Poem' tour really, really personally bugged me", Naqvi told reporters yesterday. "Tickets to shows across Canada were bought up in seconds then reappeared immediately on resale sites at hugely inflated prices, prices that were out of reach for a lot of fans".
However, opposition parties in the province have criticised the ruling Liberal party for being slow to act on the matter since then. They also say that the rise of bot use is of the Liberals' own making, they having changed the law in 2015 to make reselling tickets at a mark-up legal in Ontario.
"The Liberals created this problem when they enacted a policy and a regulation which actually allowed this to happen", NDP deputy leader Jagmeet Singh told The Globe & Mail. "Now they created a problem and they announced that they're going to try to study the problem that they created and figure out a way to solve it".
Ontarians with a view on secondary ticketing matters can fill out the consultation survey here.
Facebook advertising for Legal Director of Music Licensing
YouTube is currently being challenged for its position as 'music industry enemy number one' by Facebook, as the appearance of unlicensed music in videos posted to the social network becomes a more contentious issue. Facebook is increasingly encouraging video sharing, but often those videos contain music for which Facebook contains no licence to host.
According to Facebook's job ad, the new role will involve "helping lead negotiations across labels, publishers, and collecting societies globally" and to "lead and grow Facebook's nascent music licensing legal team, and direct outside licensing counsel around the world". They will also "oversee the drafting of all music licensing agreements".
The music industry is pleased that Facebook now seems to be taking the issue of music licensing more seriously. Although, past negotiations with YouTube suggest that tricky deal making with Facebook is ahead.
Like YouTube, Facebook relies on safe harbour protection - and will likely use the safe harbours to strengthen its negotiating hand. The last thing the music industry wants is to create another opt-out streaming platform on the scale of YouTube, but it may well find itself in a weaker starting position than the social media giant.
Final TLC album "tentatively" scheduled for June release
The two surviving members of the group, Tionne 'T-Boz' Watkins and Rozonda 'Chilli' Thomas, have worked together on and off since the death of Lisa 'Left Eye' Lopes in a car crash in 2007. They announced plans to record the "last and final" TLC record with the launch of a Kickstarter campaign with a target of £150,000. The album will be their first since 2002's '3D', which was completed and released after Lopes's death.
Acknowledging the long wait for the album, Diggins writes in an update for Kickstarter supporters: "On behalf of TLC and myself I want to express our most sincere thanks for your patience on waiting for the album. I am THRILLED to let you know that the album is tentatively scheduled to be released at the end of June and you will receive your advance album prior to that. We are working out the official date in the next couple of weeks and once it is final we will notify you".
So that's not entirely concrete, but it's also the first update given since last June. Explaining the cause of the long delay, he goes on: "When we decided to do the album it was based on a number of emotional decisions and one of the biggest was how you inspired T-Boz and Chilli by your emails and texts asking them to do another album. At the time we had no music, no producers, no writers, and a few ideas. We also were in the middle of rehearsal's for TLC's first arena tour since the 'FanMail' tour [in 1999/2000] and therefore on the road for most of the year".
"It took a lot more time to co-ordinate schedules with writers, TLC's executive producer Ron Fair and recording sessions than anticipated", he continues. "I could go on in more detail to explain how TLC's touring, schedule, writing schedule and producing schedule was delayed but the simple fact is that T-Boz and Chilli were inspired to make a record that they could be proud of and they would not settle for less and sometimes you just cannot rush art".
Ah, that's it. Why didn't he just go straight for the Frank Ocean defence, rather than all the scheduling stuff?
Rihanna accepts Humanitarian Of The Year award
"So I made it to Harvard", she began her acceptance speech. "Never thought I'd be able to say that in my life, but it feels good".
"I'm incredibly humbled by this, to be to be acknowledged at this magnitude for something that in truth I've never wanted credit for", she continued. "We're all human, and we all just want a chance. A chance at life, a chance at an education, a chance at a future, really. And at CLF our mission is to impact as many lives as possible. But it starts with just one. Just one".
"As I stare out into this beautiful room, I see optimism, I see hope, I see the future", she said. "I know that each and every one of you has the opportunity to help someone else. All you need to do is help one person, expecting nothing in return. To me, that is a humanitarian".
Spotify, Robbie Williams, Take That, more
Other notable announcements and developments today...
• Spotify is removing it messaging function, due to the "huge disparity between the use of the feature and the manpower required to maintain it".
• Robbie (Williams) has released the video for new single 'Mixed Signals'. It was written by Brandon Flowers and features musical instrument playing from all members of The Killers.
• Take That have released the lyric video for new single 'Giants', so you can stop going on and on about it now.
• Sylvan Esso have announced that they will release new album 'What Now' on 28 Apr. Here's new single 'Die Young'.
• Dutch Uncles have released a new video for 'Oh Yeah'. It features frontman Duncan Wallis roller skating with Stealing Sheep. Dutch Uncles' tour starts in Edinburgh tonight too.
• Peaking Lights have returned with a new single, 'Little Flower', which features actor Chloë Sevigny.
• Following on from new single 'Swans', White Kite have released it's b-side, 'Curtain Call', which is also very good.
• Mass Of The Fermenting Dregs have released their first single for five years, 'Slow Motion Replay'.
• Loyle Carner is going to play Brixton Academy on 6 Oct.
• 6lack will play London's Jazz Café on 26 Mar. Tickets are available now. Here's his new track, 'First Fuck', featuring Jhené Aiko.
• Parekh & Singh have announced a tour of the UK and Ireland in May, including a show at The Courtyard Theatre in London on 23 May.
• Submissions are now being taken for this year's Scottish Album Of The Year Award. Put forward your Scottish records here. The longlist will be announced on 24 May.
Tom DeLonge named UFO Researcher Of The Year
DeLonge's interest in UFOs is no secret, of course. And the award was given largely based on information pulled from leaked emails between him and Hillary Clinton advisor John Podesta, published in a wider dump of hacked Clinton emails last October.
The musician was not able to attend the International UFO Congress in Arizona, but accepted the award via a video message, in which he said: "I wanna say thank you for acknowledging some of the hard work I've been putting into some subject matter that concerns us all, and that you're passionate about just like I ... My job has only just begun on this subject matter, and there's some big shit planned. I'm excited about it. Just remember, that whatever happens in the civilian world, it's game on".
He also said that he'll be making an announcement in "the next 60ish days" that might not look like much at the time, but that other UFO researchers should take a good look at because it's actually dead big.