|FRIDAY 17 MARCH 2017||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Windowing could finally be coming to Spotify as the major labels continue to play hardball over new multi-year licensing deals ahead of the streaming service's much touted initial public offering. Spotify has been busy trying to negotiate new deals with the majors for some time now, and it's thought delays on getting those in place have in turn delayed the streaming service's march towards IPO... [READ MORE]|
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Spotify's new label deals to include windowing, say sources
Spotify has been busy trying to negotiate new deals with the majors for some time now, and it's thought delays on getting those in place have in turn delayed the streaming service's march towards IPO, which is costly for the company because of the way it structured some mega-loans last year.
As the record industry becomes ever more reliant on the streaming services for ever higher portions of its income - and as inevitable market consolidation reduces the number of streaming platforms overall - the negotiating hand of major streaming firms like Spotify will likely strengthen.
That, in many ways, is part of the plan for those launching high risk digital music businesses that are always saddled with incredibly expensive licences from the music industry at the outset.
Howver, Spotify can't go to Wall Street without solid deals in place with the three music majors, which possibly makes this set of licensing negotiations the last where the labels can really push for more.
Though, at the same time, it's not in the record industry's interest to push so hard that the Spotify IPO fails - partly because of the equity the labels hold in the company, but also because of how much they already rely on the royalties it hands over each month.
Either way, it's fair to say that the latest licensing negotiations have been heavy going. Not least because Spotify has been trying to negotiate the revenue share arrangements that sit at the heart of all the music industry's streaming deals down a little. Partly because the big music publishers have done a decent job of negotiating their revenue share splits up in recent years, and the streaming firm needs to demonstrate to potential investors at the IPO that it will definitely be able to hold on to at least 30% of its revenues long-term.
According to the Financial Times, sources are now saying that talks have progressed considerably in the last few months, to the extent that deals could be signed within a few weeks. Though nothing is set in stone just yet.
It's thought that the majors will accept a slight cut in overall royalty rates, though royalty arrangements are complicated by minimum guarantees and variations according to subscription type and territory. All of which means the actual value of any royalty deals agreed can depend on where the next round of growth in Spotify's business takes place.
The big compromise Spotify will have to make in order to get those better rates, say the FT's sources, is to allow the windowing of major releases off freemium. Which would mean big albums only being made available to Spotify's paying users on release, subsequently arriving on the freemium level down the line.
There is widespread support for that kind of windowing among labels and artists, who hope that it would make more freemium users upgrade to premium, and some of which resent giving away their newest most prestigious content from the off. Indeed many in the industry have talked about such windowing as an inevitability, it being the streaming sector version of the record industry eventually persuading Apple to allow variable pricing - rather than one price fits all - on the iTunes store back when it was first gaining momentum.
Spotify has generally resisted efforts to cut back the catalogue of its free service. Freemium is Spotify's main marketing platform, and as the likes of Apple and Amazon enter the streaming market, with their massive existing customer bases to sell subscriptions to, Spotify relies on its freebie userbase all the more. The fear is that if windowing of releases becomes the norm, Spotify will lose freebie users to piracy and YouTube.
Though, if the windowing of big releases did, in fact, result in more free users going premium, Spotify would benefit as much as anyone from the big concession it is seemingly about to make in its label deals. Which could therefore make it some clever deal making in hindsight. Meanwhile, we await official confirmation on all of this.
Katy Perry wins right to buy former convent, though sale still requires Vatican approval
As previously reported, Perry bought the hilltop property overlooking Hollywood from the Los Angeles Archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church in 2015. However, the Sisters Of The Immaculate Heart Of Mary, who previously occupied the house, reckoned they'd already sold it to local restaurateur Dana Hollister. Moreover, the nuns said that selling the property to the popstar would be a violation of their vows to God, and sought earthly judgement on the matter.
The battle has gone back and forth in either side's favour over the last two years, with rulings, appeals, overturnings and a healthy dose of bizarre arguments (the latest apparently being that the convent couldn't go to Perry due to her involvement in witchcraft).
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the judge overseeing the case has now made a final ruling in Perry's favour, saying: "The court finds that the sisters did not have authority to sell the property to Hollister. Even assuming that the Sisters had the authority to dispose of the property, which they did not, they nevertheless failed to validly consummate the transaction. The deal documents were not properly documented".
In a statement, the Archdiocese of LA, which brokered the sale to Perry in the first place, said that its interest all along was the wellbeing of the nuns, who had moved out of the building in 2011 when it became too costly to run.
The statement reads: "The Archdiocese was forced to take legal action in 2015 on behalf of all the Sisters when developer Dana Hollister took possession of their property without proper authorisation for just $44,000 and a contingent promissory note without any guarantee that the Sisters would ever receive any additional payment. Judge Bowick's current ruling upholds her April 2016 ruling, which affirms that the Hollister sale was invalid and that Hollister has no right, title or valid interest in the property".
Although the US courts have now properly sided with Perry, the sale still requires final approval from the Vatican, as was suggested last June.
Guy Moot's role expanded at Sony/ATV
We're talking all of North America here. Well, except Nashville. But all of North America except Nashville. Oh, and except Miami. But all of North America except Nashville and Miami. Oh, and except Latin America. Which technically means Mexico - it being the intersection of North America and Latin America - though this announcement possibly means deals done in the US relating to Latin American talent. But all of North America except Nashville, Miami and Latin America. Worldwide hey, how exciting.
Moot also retains his second job as MD of Sony/ATV in the UK, and that really is for the whole of the UK. Even if the whole of the UK doesn't want to be in the UK, he'll MD the fuck out of the whole of the UK until the very minute when there isn't a whole of the UK to MD anymore.
"Guy Moot is someone I have had the pleasure of working with for many years and he stands out as one of the genuine A&R executive superstars of the worldwide music industry", says Sony/ATV boss dude Marty Bandier. "His creative leadership for Sony/ATV in the UK and Europe has been exceptional and I am excited that he will now get a chance to fully utilise his creative talents in the US".
Technically Moot's creative leadership in Europe includes his creative leadership in the UK, of course, but we're never ones to dwell on geographic technicalities here at CMU. Oh no.
"Since living in New York in the 90s I've always maintained a close working relationship with the US", says the Moot himself. "I am looking forward to spending even more time there. For me this new role perfectly mirrors the industry in 2017 when many songwriters are travelling the world to collaborate with writers in other markets and a hit song can now emerge from absolutely anywhere. It means the modern A&R executive has to stay on top of a variety of markets and connect people from different territories".
Which, as excuses for more transatlantic trips go, is a decent try. Well done everybody.
More scrutiny of ticket touting in Parliament next week, Viagogo to appear
Headlining for the tout ticklers this time is an albeit unnamed official from Viagogo, which in recent years has become the secondary ticketing platform the other secondary ticketing platforms look at when they want to feel good about themselves. In the olden days Viagogo's PR reps were always pushing forward the firm's execs with a quote, but of late a strategy of silence seems to have been adopted. It's almost as if they now operate out of a bunker somewhere in the Islamic State.
Viagogo was most recently seen in the CMU Daily refusing to comply with Iron Maiden's wishes to keep tickets for their shows off the secondary market, and also helping shady touts rip off the Teenage Cancer Trust, which is definitely hard to spin into a positive. The latter story was in relation to the massively hiked up prices being charged for touted tickets for Ed Sheeran's Royal Albert Hall concert in aid of the cancer charity. Sheeran's manager is also due to speak during next week's select committee hearing, as is a rep from a group called Victims Of Viagogo. So that'll be fun.
Although select committees exist to scrutinise government, rather that dictate policy, the Culture, Media & Sport Committee's last session on ticketing put the specific ban on tout bots in the Digital Economy Bill back on the agenda. Ministers had previously said that they thought the use of such software by touts to buy up tickets off primary sites was probably already illegal under other legislation.
Next week's hearing comes just after the government confirmed that it excepted all of the recommendations of last year's Waterson Review of the secondary ticketing market. That includes better enforcement of existing ticket resale regulation in the Consumer Rights Act, and putting pressure on the resale platforms - so eBay's StubHub and Live Nation's Seatwave and Get Me In, as well as the infamous Viagogo - to identify the industrial-level touts using their services, who are likely subject to extra consumer rights regulation given they resell tickets on a commercial basis.
MU calls for clarification on US visa rules in the wake of SXSW deportations
Like many of the musicians refused entry into the US to play SXSW this year (both from the UK and elsewhere), the MU says it "had reassurances that SXSW falls into the very narrow exemption which allows artists invited to perform at official SXSW showcases entry to the US under the visa waiver programme (ESTA)".
It said that many UK musicians heading to SXSW had been able to enter the US under ESTA, but it was now aware of at least five who had been turned away without explanation. "None of them have received any reasoning from the US authorities as to why this revocation has come about", says the organisation. "This renders the advice - that performing under an ESTA for an official showcase is acceptable - as unreliable".
"It remains unclear as to whether this is specific to SXSW, or part of a much wider strategic change", it adds. "The MU is working with partners in the UK and US to uncover the true situation. That said, it would appear that O, P and B visas with their associated costs and time constraints would appear to be the only safe option for artists performing in the US, whether for an official showcase or not".
The MU's Dave Webster, who is also Chair of the Music Industry Visa Task Force, an initiative launched by the MU and British Underground last year, says of the action being taken: "We have escalated this to the highest level in the UK to try to ascertain what is going on. It is appalling that these artists have been denied the opportunity to showcase at SXSW. The US Embassy in London has provided no explanation. A letter from Nigel Adams MP and Kerry McCarthy MP requesting an urgent meeting with the US officials has been sent".
Assistant General Secretary of the MU, Horace Trubridge, adds: "[Some of the] public funding that has gone into getting our UK artists to perform at SXSW this year will have been wasted. It is outrageous that these ESTAs have been revoked and more outrageous that the musicians affected have not been told why".
As previously reported, after a number of its international acts were refused entry to the US on ESTA or visitor visas, SXSW has said these documents are perfectly acceptable for acts performing at the event (providing they are only performing at official showcases). The festival's organisers added earlier this week that they were working with the US authorities to ensure that border officials are aware of this.
NME criticised over unapproved Stormzy cover to promote feature on depression
The article explores how, in the last couple of years, more artists have been speaking publicly and frankly about mental health issues. That includes Stormzy, who recently spoke to 'Channel 4 News' about depression. However, there are no new quotes from him in the article, which is why many have criticised the magazine for using his photo on the cover, especially without his permission.
Expressing his outrage on Twitter, Stormzy wrote: "You lot know I don't rant or open my mouth up for no reason but serious NME magazine are the biggest bunch of sly, foul PAIGONS". Noting that he had put a lot of thought into how he conducted his mental health conversation in the media, he subsequently added: "I KNOW [the NME feature] will help others but just imagine a personal battle of yours being published on the front of a magazine without your permission".
The journalist behind the piece, Andrew Trendell, distanced himself from the cover. Writing on Twitter yesterday, he said: "With regards to this week's NME feature about mental health, it was only ever my intention to raise awareness about something very important. I had absolutely no part in the cover itself, the photos used, nor the cover lines. That is not my responsibility and was done by other people entirely".
Meanwhile the NME itself apologised to Stormzy, while insisting that it had only good motives. Over a series of tweets, Editor Mike Williams wrote: "I'm sorry that you didn't know your image would be our cover. Our intentions were only positive".
He went on: "We were inspired by your words and wanted to use them as a springboard to talk about depression and how it shouldn't be taboo. We spoke to CALM and YoungMinds in order to make sure the advice we were giving people was on message with how they advise. And we spoke to other people with a profile to gather their stories and advice too".
He concluded: "We used your image as we felt it would resonate most with our readers, and I can only apologise again that you didn't know. Our only intention was to raise awareness of an issue that we've been inspired to talk about following your comments. I'm really sorry this has happened. We're a free magazine and were not trying to shift copies, just talk about something important".
Though Stormzy wasn't entirely convinced by that latter point in particular, tweeting back "You're NOT a non-profit organisation. The more copies you dish out the more you charge for advertising. You will make money from this".
Despite the dispute remaining unresolved, Trendell said that he hoped the controversy around the cover wouldn't "distract from the message of the piece itself". He went on: "Having lost loved ones to depression, dealt with it first-hand and seen the stigma that surrounds it with countless others, I have spent months speaking to artists and specialists to plan a string of features and a campaign around a conversation that needs to happen. Depression, anxiety and issues around mental health will impact on all of us at some point on our lives - if not you then someone you love".
He concluded: "I have nothing but respect for Stormzy and the many other artists and figures who have bravely spoken out to shine a light on a subject that should in no way be taboo, to give others the courage to seek help".
If you are experiencing depression, or other issues affecting your mental wellbeing, you can contact music industry focussed helpline Music Support on 0800 030 6789 or musicsupport.org. You can also find support and information on Mind's website.
Anohni offers final track of new EP in return for "gesture of anonymous vulnerability"
In a Facebook post, the musician explained that the cost of track seven, 'I Never Stopped Loving You', is "a gesture of anonymous vulnerability ... instead of the dollar you used to send me in the olden days".
"If you have listened to my music over the years, you know that I have publicly given something of my heart", she writes. "If you would like the final song from 'Paradise', email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and share with me in a sentence or two what you care most about, or your hopes for the future. Send this to me instead of the dollar you used to send me in the olden days. The price for this song is a gesture of anonymous vulnerability. That may be too expensive for some of you, and that's okay".
She continues: "I want to hear your collective mind. I want to see that river of thoughts. Please don't write about how my music affects you; if you mention me or my work I will not send the track. Please keep the focus on yourself. Take a risk and break out of established ways of doing and perceiving. It is what you have expected of me as an artist, and just for a moment, it is what I ask of you. I will respond in kind, by sending you my final song from this series, one which represents some of my better thinking".
The track will be sent out to willing participants deemed anonymously vulnerable enough this weekend, so get writing.
Kasabian are back with songs and guitars
First single, 'You're In Love With A Psycho' is out right now, and the band have announced tour dates for next bloody month. It's all go for Kasabian all of a sudden, isn't it? Though doing everything all of a sudden is something the band has got used to recently, according to guitarist and songwriter Serge Pizzorno.
"I decided to give myself six weeks to write an album like they used to do back in the day and that became really inspiring", explains Pizzorno. "I made sure there was no fat on anything, it was going to be classic songs, no self-indulgence, nothing was going on there that shouldn't. I'd heard Berry Gordy had said if you've not got them in the first four bars then you're finished, so I went in with this old school attitude of songwriting".
The album was then knocked up in Serge's studio, which is named - wait for it - the Sergery. As well as aiming to present a collection of proper songs, the band are also aiming to remind everyone that guitars are a thing. "We wanted to make a very positive album full of hope with guitars to remind people that it's still relevant", says the guitarist.
Here are the tour dates:
12 Apr: Llandudno, Venue Cymru
Mastodon, Metallica, Sunn O))), more
Other notable announcements and developments today...
• Another new Mastodon song? Yes.
• Arca has released the video for new single 'Reverie'.
• Tei Shi has released the video for new single 'How Far'.
• Cabbage have released the video for latest single 'Gibraltar Ape'. They're going to be playing some live shows in June and July, including The Scala in London on 29 Jun.
• Metallica have announced a UK tour in October, kicking off with two nights at the O2 Arena in London. Tickets on sale next Friday.
• Sunn O))) have announced that they will tour the UK and Ireland in July. Their next UK show is at the Barbican in London on 21 Mar as part of this year's Convergence festival.
• Alexandra Savior will play a show at London's Scala on 30 May. Here's a live performance of her new single, 'Vanishing Point'.
Beef Of The Week #347: Snoop Dogg v Donald Trump
You might have thought once he actually became president, Trump would stop having the kind of pointless spats with popstars that get you featured in the Beef Of The Week column. I mean, I'm not sure why you'd have thought that, but perhaps you did. You probably think all sorts of stupid stuff. And talking of dedicating brain space to stupid stuff, this week Trump has been using his presidential brain to think about a music video.
Just in case you somehow missed this story entirely, let's skip back to the beginning. At the start of the week Snoop Dogg released a new track. Well, it was a new version of an existing track, Snoop's contribution being the new bit: which is to say it was a new version of an instrumental from BadBadNotGood's latest album on which the rapper has added words. Apparently he heard the original before a studio session and was inspired to put lyrics on top of it there and then.
The result is Snoop on fine form. Angry and rapping with purpose, he dissects the police brutality that spawned the Black Lives Matter movement. This theme then carries on into the track's video too, depicting an America populated by clowns, led by one Ronald Klump - who, just in case this wasn't clear enough, looks like Donald Trump in clown make up - in The Clown House. Towards the end of the video you see Snoop put a gun to Klump's head and pull the trigger.
It was this sequence that angered the real Trump, who felt the implied threat of violence against him was unnecessary. And so, as any good president does, he took to Twitter to communicate his displeasure. He tweeted: "Can you imagine what the outcry would be if Snoop Dogg, failing career and all, had aimed and fired the gun at President Obama? Jail time!"
As with all Trump tweets, there's quite a lot to unpack there. But I guess the key points are "outcry", "failing career", "President Obama" and "jail time". We can discount the failing career bit straight off, of course, because the security of Snoop Dogg's career is demonstrable, and this is just Trump's usual and frankly weird tendency to label anyone he disagrees with as a "loser". The rest is quite good fun though.
I mean, what would the reaction have been if a clown version of Obama had featured in this kind of video during his time in office? Outcry? Jail Time? No, I think confusion would probably have been the main reaction. Why would Snoop want to put a gun to Obama's head? He was, after all, a staunch supporter of the former president.
Whereas had this video been made during the Bush presidency, and it had been a clown-like George W Bush that Snoop was pointing his gun at, then I suspect most people's reaction would have been "oh look, there's Snoop pretending to pull a gun on a fictional version of the current president in some sort of artistic political statement". You know, much like their reaction to the actual Ronald Klump-featuring video.
Because, as you'll remember, Bush was hardly popular with much of the artist community during his time in charge, even if with hindsight we might now view his presidency with something nearing a warm glow - but not so much that we'd be retrospectively angry about a rapper pretending to shoot a clown representation of him in a pop video.
Hip hop's distain for those on the right of US politics isn't limited to Trump and Bush. I present as evidence Killer Mike's 2012 track 'Reagan', in which he rapped "I'm glad Reagan dead". OK, that's not a mock assassination, and it came a long time after Ronald Reagan's stint as president, but the track is celebrating the actual death of a one time Republican Commander In Chief.
So, I suppose what Trump should be asking isn't what would the reaction be if it was Obama instead of him clowned up in the video, but if it was a Democrat rather than a Republican. Probably still confusion. Or, at least, the viewer - assuming they knew the rapper's politics - would need to ask themselves, "Hmm, what's the message meant to be here then?" But it seems unlikely there'd be any outcry or jail time.
Anyway, where were we? Oh yes, so Snoop puts a gun to Klump's head and pulls the trigger. But, with this being some sort of alternative clown reality, the gun fires out a flag with the world "bang" on it. It's almost as if the video is making some sort of satirical point.
After this, we see Klump chained up, unharmed by the toy gun that has just fired at him. Which you might want to interpret as the video suggesting that violence is not the answer, and that Trump - or Klump - should in fact be held accountable for his actions through non-violent channels.
But hey, look at me, looking for context. That sort of nonsense is for losers, right? No time for context seeking when you've got walls to build and countries to blacklist. Let's just assume Snoop is one of "the second amendment people" and get a-tweetin!
Actually, before Trump got onto it, it was Senator Marco Rubio who first denounced the video, apparently concerned that it might inspire people to actually try and assassinate the President. Although he didn't seem so concerned that an earlier scene in the same video might inspire policemen to go out and shoot actor Michael Rapaport in his car.
Commenting on the video, Snoop told Billboard: "When I be putting shit out, I don't ever expect or look for a reaction. I just put it out because I feel like it's something that's missing. Any time I drop something, I'm trying to fill in a void. I feel like it's a lot of people making cool records, having fun, partying, but nobody's dealing with the real issue with this fucking clown as president, and the shit that we dealing with out here, so I wanted to take time out to push pause on a party record and make one of these records for the time being".
The video's director, YouTuber Jesse Wellens, added: "I just had been seeing this go on in the world politically, and I actually was a cop for six years in the military, so I can kind of see it from the cop's point of view too. When I originally wrote the idea of the video, the video of [Philando Castile] getting shot came out online and it was causing riots. We just kind of wanted to bring the clowns out, because it's clownery - it's ridiculous what's happening".
Anyway, I suppose we'd all better watch this bloody video now. However, at this stage I feel like I should first publish a disclaimer. If you're the sort of person who is likely to miss nuance and subtext in a four and half minute music video, probably steer clear. Maybe just get on with running the fucking country you're apparently in charge of.