|TUESDAY 18 APRIL 2017||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Universal Music was feeling well smug earlier this year after securing all three of the big deals that had been put on the table by representatives of the Prince estate: getting the rights to rep the late musician's songs repertoire, his brand and merch business, and much of his recordings catalogue too. Though, sources say, execs at the mega-major are becoming less keen on the latter of those deals now that they've had time to dig into the detail... [READ MORE]|
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Universal may seek a $30 million refund from Prince estate over recordings deal
Under the recordings deal announced in February, Universal got control over all of Prince's albums released since 1995, the vault full of Prince recordings never released, and some of the musician's pre-1995 records at some point in some territories, principally the US. Reports suggested that the deal was worth about $30 million to the Prince estate.
While there is likely years worth of new material in the as yet un-navigated Prince vaults, Universal would have priced the deal in no small part based on the rights it was securing to represent the late musician's big hits that pre-date 1995. That part of the deal was complicated because of Prince's existing agreement with Warner Music. And, according to the Wall Street Journal, there are more complications than the mega-major realised.
Having famously and spectacularly fallen out with Warner Music, his original label, in the 1990s, Prince announced a new deal with the mini-major - now under new ownership and new leadership - in 2014. Under that deal, Prince gained ownership of a stack of copyrights in his recordings that had previously belonged to the record company.
Warner partly agreed to that return of rights to secure Prince's official involvement in a big reissues campaign. But the record company also didn't want the musician to test in court if and how the reversion right of American copyright law - that lots of aging songwriters are now using to reclaim song rights they previously assigned to music publishers - applied to sound recordings and record deals.
The copyright transfer element of that 2014 deal is seemingly rather complicated, with Warner retaining the rights in some recordings outright (mainly the soundtracks) and in others beyond the US, where the reversion right would not have applied.
It's also thought that the rights in different albums revert at different times, and that the licences concurrently granted to Warner for some of those records also run for different time periods, with terms sometimes different for physical releases versus digital platforms. Warner may also have a veto on the exploitation of previously unreleased material in the vaults that was recorded while Prince was signed to the major back in the day.
Sources say that Universal has now discovered that the complexities of the Warner deal put more limitations in place over Prince's most famous recordings than it realised when doing its $30 million deal. That has led to rumours that certain Universal execs are now accusing the Prince estate of misrepresenting what recordings were available and when.
Since the Universal deals have been done, there has been a change of management at the Prince estate, with Comerica Bank taking over from the Bremer Trust on administration duties, and former artist manager and Spotify exec Troy Carter taking over as industry advisor from L Londell McMillan and Charles Koppelman.
McMillan, a former attorney to Prince, had hoped to carry on advising the estate, but was blocked by some of the musician's heirs, who wanted Van Jones - who negotiated that complicated 2014 deal with Warner - to do the job. Carter, who was only appointed last week, is presumably a compromise candidate.
His first task in that new part-time advisory role was to oversee the issuing of a non-statement about all the gossiping that was occurring in relation to the Universal deal, in the wake of the WSJ article that claimed the major might ask for its $30 million back.
That statement, issued yesterday, read: "The Prince estate is currently focusing on exciting new opportunities in all areas of entertainment and intellectual property, and looks forward to further preserving Prince's rich cultural legacy. With respect to Prince's recorded music rights, the estate has no further comment regarding inquiries relating to the contractual arrangements governing those rights".
It added: "While the existing recorded music rights agreements were not overseen, negotiated or consummated by the estate's current team, the team is nonetheless in the process of assessing all rights relating to Prince's recorded music and continues to be dedicated to cultivating, maximising and protecting all of the estate's IP rights".
Cash Money sued over millions of Drake profits
Aspire Music Group signed Drake to both management and recording agreements in 2008. It then did a deal with Lil Wayne's Young Money Entertainment, which is an imprint of Cash Money Records, run by Bryan and Ronald Williams. Under that deal Cash Money and Wayne's imprint got to release Drake's records, but Aspire would receive a third of all the copyrights created and a third of all the profits generated by Drake's first six albums.
Aspire claims that, beyond a "few modest advances", it has seen little of the money it is due and received only sporadic accounting from Cash Money. It also alleges that, when it did account, the label applied deductions to the monies it received from Universal - which handles all the distribution of Drake's music - for costs that had actually already been deducted by the major before it reported to Cash Money. The aim of those additional deductions, it is alleged, was to reduce what was owed to Aspire to more or less zero.
It's not the first round of litigation relating to Drake's deal with Cash Money. Hip hop producer Jas Prince, who introduced Drake to Aspire, went legal a few years back - initially against Aspire itself, and then Cash Money. He also claimed that he was due a cut of Drake's recording income as a result of the deal he did with Aspire.
Lil Wayne has also gone legal with both Cash Money and Universal, in the latter case arguing that the major is incorrectly setting his share of Young Money profits - including from the Drake releases - off against advances previously paid to the Williams brothers. The mega-advances paid by Universal to Cash Money are also listed as an extra complexity in Aspire's lawsuit, which was filed in the New York courts yesterday.
Beyonce cites fair use in video clip sample case
As previously reported, in February Beyonce was sued by the estate of Anthony Barre, who built a following on YouTube under the moniker Messy Mya with his video posts. Barre was murdered in 2010 and his estate is now overseen by his sister Angel.
The singer is accused of sampling Barre's voice on the video for 'Formation' without permission. The video includes footage of the Hurricane Katrina disaster and includes New Orleans native Barre saying lines including "What happened at the New Orleans" and "Bitch, I'm back by popular demand".
Lawyers for the singer say that the video's producer, Pretty Bird, did secure permission to use the clips of Barre, and - anyway - even if it hadn't, the use of the clips was unsubstantial and therefore covered by the 'fair use' principle under US copyright law.
Requesting that the case be thrown out, lawyer Mary Ellen Roy wrote that: "Pretty Bird licensed the YouTube videos from Mr Barre's family before plaintiff Angel Barre had herself appointed as the administrator of the estate of Anthony Barre weeks after the music video's premiere - presumably for the purpose of bringing this action".
The lawyer adds that the Barre estate's lawsuit exaggerates Beyonce's use of the clips, saying that about ten seconds of material was used on her video and six seconds at live shows. That, the lawyer argued, was fair use.
TuneCore to offer advances to US artists
US-based artists who meet certain eligibility requirements will be able to take an advance to cover things like recording, marketing and touring costs in return for a one-time fee. Advanced monies will then be recouped from download and streaming royalties collected by TuneCore on behalf of the artist.
Cash flow, of course, is a constant challenge for any business, especially small businesses. And every DIY artist is also a small business. The need to spend money to make money is one of the reasons record deals remain attractive for new artists, labels usually providing money for things like recording, marketing and touring, as well as upfront cash to cover the artist's living costs. Though a traditional label deal usually requires assigning the copyright in any recordings enabled by the investment.
Some labels and distributors will advance money to artists - or at least make marketing budgets available - without copyright assignment via 'services deals', though it has generally been easier for more established acts to secure that kind of arrangement. But some companies - like Kobalt and BMG - have started working with newer talent on this basis, especially where they can see an artist gaining traction on the streaming platforms.
For its part, TuneCore wants to make it easier for artists who have such traction to access the cashflow they need. With an ever increasing number of platforms offering digital distribution for DIY acts, add-on services of this kind are increasingly important to achieve some kind of competitive advantage.
Confirming the launch of what is being called TuneCore Direct Advance, TuneCore boss Scott Ackerman said: "This is a one-of-a-kind integrated offering that gives artists a hassle-free, reliable way to access their future earnings quickly and easily, eliminating the difficulty often associated with obtaining advances. We are deeply invested in the careers of our artists and are committed to ensuring they have the tools and resources needed to succeed".
Twelve injured in Hackney nightclub acid attack
Around 600 people were evacuated during a Lovejuice Warehouse Party at just after 1am. Two men, at whom the substance was directly sprayed, were taken to hospital with serious injuries, while ten more people were treated for minor burns.
The exact liquid sprayed is still to be identified by police, but a London Fire Brigade spokesperson said on the scene that a pH test had shown that it was a "strong acidic substance".
No arrests have yet been made, and witnesses are still being asked to come forward. Police say that there is no evidence to suggest that the incident was gang related.
Warner-owned gigs business Neuland Concerts becomes independent
Neuland Concerts was established as a division of Warner Music in 2008. MD Christian Gerlach finalised the management buyout at the start of the month. Though the live firm intends to continue collaborating with its former owner, and artists signed to the Warner record company's labels.
The boss of Warner Music Central Europe, Bernd Dopp, said last week: "Neuland Concerts is highly successful, having staged more than 5000 events, from intimate club gigs to celebrated arena shows. It is now ready to operate fully independently and I am delighted that Christian Gerlach will be taking the company forward. I would like to thank the whole Neuland team for their efforts over the years and I wish them all the best for the future".
Gerlach added: "What once was started as a new business within the Warner Music Group has long since become a diversified company in the live market. By taking this step, we will now address the growing complexity and increasing diversity of our artist portfolio".
Slacker Radio downsizes workforce
"Slacker Radio is laying off approximately 25% of the team as part of our ongoing effort to focus on efficiency and accelerate the path towards profitability", confirmed the digital firm's CEO Duncan Orrell-Jones, following speculation that as many as half of the company's staffers could be for the chop.
The boss man added: "Our strategy has always been to innovate in the radio and music space, and we've been working hard to develop new experiences that we believe will fulfil the promise of radio reimagined. The Slacker Radio app will not be affected by these changes, nor will several new product releases that are scheduled for later this year".
Slacker originally went live ten years ago, and is primarily a competitor to Pandora and iHeartRadio, both of which command much larger user-bases. Personalised radio - as opposed to fully on-demand streaming - is much bigger in the US than Europe, partly because it is possible to operate such a service using a compulsory licence Stateside, so you don't necessarily need a deal from the labels. Though Slacker did actually go the direct deal route, as have Pandora and iHeart more recently.
The latter two entered into direct licensing deals with the labels across the board in order to launch a premium level that competes directly with Spotify and Apple Music, which isn't possible under the compulsory licence. They did so because they felt that they needed to offer more than just personalised radio in order to become profitable, with Pandora also seeking to utilise its data and audience to generate extra revenue via ticket sales.
Which confirms that Slacker too is in a challenging market. For a time it had a sideline in powering Samsung's streaming service, though it really needs to find away to make its core business profitable. Hence all that talk of a "focus on efficiency" and the job losses.
7digital acquires radio aggregating technology
FlowRadio aggregates live radio stations, on-demand radio programmes and podcasts worldwide. 7digital allied with Imagination on exploiting the technology in 2015, with the two companies saying at the time that - via the partnership - they would work together to further evolve and develop the FlowRadio product.
Although best known for its graphic processors and microprocessors and suchlike, Imagination was involved in radio technologies for over a decade via its consumer electronics division Pure, best known for its digital radio devices. Though the company sold that side of its business last year.
Confirming 7digital had now acquired the FlowRadio tech, 7digital chief Simon Cole said: "The acquisition of FlowRadio ensures we have access on our platform to live streams and listen-again content from every major world radio station, enabling us to support and deliver seamless listening experiences to consumers, in-car and as part of the connected home".
7digital also last week announced a deal with French streaming start-up Ubithings and a new expanded deal with musically-orientated social app musical.ly. The latter will double the number of territories in which 7digital supplies music to musical.ly from 30 to 60.
Warner Music, CAA, Harry Styles, more
Other notable announcements and developments today...
• Warner Music in the US has announced two appointments in the business development team headed up by Ole Obermann, who joined the mini-major from Sony late last year. Michael Drexler, formerly with collecting society BMI, becomes VP Digital Strategy & Corporate Development, and Allan Coye, previously with Viacom, has been named VP Digital Strategy & Business Development.
• Sony/ATV has promoted Guy Henderson to the job of President International. Based in London, he will oversee the music publishing major's operations outside the Americas and the UK. Which isn't quite international, but who's counting?
• Talent agency CAA has partnered with CMC Capital Partners in China to launch a new Chinese venture to be called CAA China. The deal also includes a small investment by CMC into CAA at large, and the chair of the Chinese firm will join the agency's board of directors.
• That Harry Styles will release his debut album on 12 May. And to prove this is no hollow threat, he posted some album artwork and a track listing last week. If we all buy it maybe he'll be able to afford a jumper.
• Royal Blood will release their second album, 'How Did We Get So Dark?', on 16 Jun. Here's new single 'Lights Out'.
• J-pop duo FEMM will play the Islington Academy on 23 Apr. Get tickets.
Labour MP denies metal mates are Nazi fans
Last week, The Sun reported that Burgon had "joined a heavy metal band that delights in Nazi symbols", suggesting that the politician was now the singer in Leeds band Dream Tröll. This followed Burgon posting a picture of himself in a recording studio on Facebook, announcing his guest appearance on a new track by the band.
"The group uses the name of Hitler's infamous SS security unit as lettering in its promotion posters", wrote The Sun. "It also spells its name in German military font, complete with an umlaut over the letter 'o', and has the motto; 'We sold our soul for rock n troll'".
Responding on Facebook, Burgon said: "I love heavy metal and have done ever since I first heard Iron Maiden when I was just eight years old. The other week, a local Leeds band - the wonderfully-named Dream Troll, whose members I've known since we were all heavy metal obsessed teenagers - asked me, for a bit of fun, to do a guest appearance on their new song, reading a few lines to add dramatic effect to a classic swords and sorcery style heavy metal narrative".
"I grew up in Leeds with members of this band", he continued. "I have known them since we were teenagers. They are not politicians. They play in a (non political) heavy metal band for fun after work and on weekends. They are ordinary decent blokes and there's not a racist or Nazi bone in their bodies. For being friends with me, they now find themselves seen by The Sun as a legitimate target for public attack. That's just not right".
Turning to the artwork singled out by the newspaper as proving the band's Nazi sympathies, he said: "The Sun claims that they are 'a heavy metal band that delights in Nazi symbols' ... The real story is, they made a spoof/parody of the cover of a famous Black Sabbath record from the 1970s ('We Sold Our Souls For Rock N Roll') ... They are fans of Black Sabbath not neo-Nazis. Before The Sun went to print, they were sent a copy of the Black Sabbath record cover, but they responded by dismissing its relevance to their 'story'".
"Not bad for our first review", commented the band.
The album on which Burgon's vocals will appear, 'The Knight Of Rebellion', is out on 19 May. From it, here's a non-Burgon featuring track, 'Velvet Drawbridge'.