MONDAY 8 JANUARY 2018 COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM
Happy New Year and welcome to the first CMU Daily of 2018. In this edition you'll find a number of stories we published online over the Christmas break as well as today's news. Don't forget, the first Setlist podcast of the year proper is now online discussing that $1.6 billion lawsuit against Spotify, Universal's YouTube and Facebook deals, and some initial stats on recorded music sales in 2017. Tune in here.
Available to premium subscribers, CMU Trends digs deeper into the inner workings of the music business, explaining how things work and reviewing all the recent trends.
   
TOP FIVE MUSIC LAWSUITS TO WATCH IN 2018
As 2018 gets underway and we start to look at the music year ahead, let's not forget the stage that is the courtroom. What litigation and legal wrangling could have an impact on the music business this year? CMU Trends picks five big cases, reviews the story so far and considers the possible ramifications of each legal battle. [READ MORE]
   
ONLINE MUSIC PIRACY - PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE
While the music industry has shouted a lot more about safe harbours than piracy in recent years, that could be about to change. But if the music community gets vocal about piracy once again, what kind of piracy will dominate the conversation? CMU Trends reviews developments in online piracy from the rise of Napster to the new services gaining momentum today. [READ MORE]
   
DISSECTING THE DIGITAL DOLLAR - STEP BY STEP
CMU Trends summarises what we've learned from the MMF's 'Dissecting The Digital Dollar' project so far in 30 points. Along the way we cover digital licensing, all the key issues with the current streaming business model, and what you need to know about label deals and transparency in the streaming age. [READ MORE]
TOP STORIES Lana Del Rey sued by Radiohead over plagiarism claims
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LEGAL Wixen sues Spotify for $1.6 billion in wake of Music Modernization Act
Sony settles in dispute over royalties received by some American Idols
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LABELS & PUBLISHERS MCPS begins IMPEL spin-off
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ENTERTAINMENT RETAIL Streaming boom ensured growth in recorded music and entertainment retail at large in 2017
Bandcamp puts the spotlight on cassette revival with end-of-year stats
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DIGITAL & D2F SERVICES Spotify boasts 70 million subscribers as stock market listing looms
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MEDIA Film set amidst Bataclan attack put on hold
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ONE LINERS Fred Ball, Dubset, Foals, more
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AND FINALLY... Frontman of clown-themed Iron Maiden tribute act arrested for drug smuggling
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Check out all the latest job opportunities with CMU Jobs. To advertise your job opportunities here email advertising@unlimitedmedia.co.uk or call 020 7099 0906.
   
ASSOCIATION OF INDEPENDENT FESTIVALS - MEMBERSHIP & PROJECTS CO-ORDINATOR (LONDON)
The Association Of Independent Festivals is looking for a new Membership and Project Co-ordinator to assist the General Manager of AIF with the day-to-day organisation and administration of the association.

For more information and to apply click here.
   
THRILL JOCKEY RECORDS - DIRECTOR OF MARKETING & PROMOTIONS, EUROPE (LONDON)
Thrill Jockey Records is seeking an experienced person for Director of Marketing and Promotions for Europe to be based out of our East London office.

For more information and to apply click here.
   
PROPER MUSIC - ROYALTY ADMINISTRATOR (DARTFORD)
Working as part of the overall Finance and Business Affairs team, reporting to the Head of Department, the successful candidate will oversee royalty processes and reporting for all group companies.

For more information and to apply click here.
   
WARP RECORDS - INTERNATIONAL MARKETING & PROMOTIONS CO-ORDINATOR (LONDON)
Warp Records is looking for an energetic and enthusiastic individual to join its international team based in London. Your role will be to help us deliver great campaigns for our artists internationally.

For more information and to apply click here.
   
INVOLVED GROUP - ROYALTY & ACCOUNTS ASSISTANT MANAGER (LONDON)
Owned and managed by global DJ trio Above & Beyond and James Grant, Involved Group is looking for an experienced Royalty & Accounts Assistant Manager to join our busy and growing Finance Team.

For more information and to apply click here.
   
O2 ACADEMY BRIXTON - ASSISTANT GENERAL MANAGER (LONDON)
Academy Music Group is recruiting for an Assistant General Manager to assist in all aspects of the operation of the building in relation to events staged at O2 Academy Brixton.

For more information and to apply click here.
   
THE ORCHARD - CLASSICAL LABEL MANAGER (LONDON)
The Orchard has an immediate opening for a classics specialist to manage key classical label relationships across Europe and beyond. Essential to this role is an extensive knowledge of classical repertoire and a thorough understanding of classical metadata and the unique needs of classical labels and orchestras when it comes to digital operations and marketing.

For more information and to apply click here.
   
MUSIC PUBLISHERS ASSOCIATION - MUSIC PUBLISHING EXECUTIVE (LONDON)
The Music Publishers Association is seeking a highly organised, pro-active, efficient and positive team player to work as its Music Publishing Executive, taking responsibility for specific licensing related duties as well as offering admin support to its staff and assisting with the smooth running of its office.

For more information and to apply click here.
   
SJM CONCERTS - VIP ASSISTANT (MANCHESTER)
SJM offer exclusive VIP ticket packages across many of our major tours for artists such as Take That, One Direction, Little Mix and Coldplay which over the last year has amounted to over 60,000 packages. Working as an assistant to the VIP Manager within our VIP department, the VIP Assistant is responsible for the day to day administration of our exclusive VIP packages, as well as providing general office admin support.

For more information and to apply click here.
   
ISOBEL GRIFFITHS LTD - TRAINEE ORCHESTRAL FIXER (LONDON)
A Trainee Orchestral Contractor (aka Fixer) is required to join an office of six staff, based in the Chelsea Harbour area of SW10. The company books freelance orchestral and specialist musicians for feature films, video games, TV film scores, records and TV commercial recordings.

For more information and to apply click here.
   
MAMA FESTIVALS - HEAD OF CREATIVE PRODUCTION (LONDON)
MAMA Festivals is one of the UK's leading festival businesses. The Head Of Creative Production works alongside managers and consultants to deliver creative aspects of Lovebox, Citadel and Wilderness festivals.

For more information and to apply click here.
CMU Insights provides training and consultancy to music companies and companies working with music. Find out about our seminars, masterclasses and primers here...
   
CMU SEMINARS: MAKING MONEY FROM MUSIC COPYRIGHT
Mondays 5, 12, 19 Feb 2018 at 6.30pm in London
These three CMU Insights seminars together provide a user-friendly guide to how music copyright works and how music rights make money. You can book into each individual session at £49.99 per seminar or you can book a place on all three at the special price of £125. CLICK HERE FOR INFO.
   
CMU SEMINARS: BUILDING A FANBASE AND FAN BUSINESS
Mondays 26 Feb, 5, 12 Mar 2018 at 6.30pm in London
These three CMU Insights seminars together provide an overview of how to build a fanbase for new artists and new music. They also look at how artists can use these channels to build a direct-fo-fan business. You can book into each individual session at £49.99 per seminar or you can book a place on all three at the special price of £125. CLICK HERE FOR INFO.
   
CMU PRIMER: KEY MUSIC BUSINESS TRENDS 2018
These are courses we can run in-house at your company
As we head into 2018, CMU Insights is now offering music companies a special two-hour primer session reviewing five key areas of the music business, summarising important developments from the last twelve months and looking at the challenges that lie ahead in the next year. Including: the streaming business, piracy, safe harbour, ticketing and data. CLICK HERE FOR INFO.

Lana Del Rey sued by Radiohead over plagiarism claims
Lana Del Rey has confirmed that she is being sued by Radiohead over similarities between the final track on her current album 'Lust For Life' - which is called 'Get Free' - and the band's 1992 hit 'Creep'.

Responding to rumours that plagiarism claims from the Radiohead camp were now going legal, Del Rey wrote on Twitter: "It's true about the lawsuit".

Being rather candid about legal wranglings to date, she continued: "Although I know my song wasn't inspired by 'Creep', Radiohead feel it was and want 100% of the publishing. I offered up to 40 over the last few months but they will only accept 100. Their lawyers have been relentless, so we will deal with it in court".

Del Rey's latest album was released last July. The songwriting credits on 'Get Free' list Rick Nowels and Kieron Menzies, as well as Del Rey herself.

No one other than Del Rey has commented on the plagiarism action just yet. Though many have noted that a win for Radiohead could also benefit songwriters Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood. Both were added as co-writers on 'Creep' after they complained that the 1992 track borrowed from their 1974 Hollies song 'The Air That I Breathe'.

Turns out, there's just not enough chord progressions to go around.

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Wixen sues Spotify for $1.6 billion in wake of Music Modernization Act
Confirming that America's mechanical royalties mess will continue to be newsworthy in 2018, it emerged last week that independent music publisher Wixen filed a $1.6 billion mechanical royalties lawsuit against Spotify over the Christmas break. Which is definitely a fun way to start the year. Except for Spotify of course.

This all relates to the payment - or not - of so called mechanical royalties to songwriters and music publishers by the streaming services in the US. No one denies that plenty of mechanical royalties have gone unpaid by the streaming platforms Stateside, though there is a dispute over whose fault that all is.

Is it the fault of the streaming services for implementing lax royalty payment systems when they entered the US market? Or is it the fault of the US music publishing sector for sitting idly by as the digital music revolution got underway and it became ever increasingly obvious that the country's mechanical royalties system - which was always pretty shoddy - was going to fall over once subscription streaming became the dominant recorded music revenue stream?

Services like Spotify stream recordings of songs, and therefore need licences to exploit both the record industry's recording copyrights and the music publishing sector's song copyrights. It is also generally agreed that delivering a stream involves both copying and communicating music, which in music publishing jargon means streaming services exploit both the mechanical rights and performing rights in songs.

It is the former that have caused all the problems. When it comes to performing rights, US streaming services can get blanket licences from the performing rights organisations ASCAP, BMI, SESAC and GMR.

In most other countries, similar collecting societies exist for mechanical rights. Indeed, in some countries, it's the same collecting society. This means that, although some music publishers do license some of their song rights directly to streaming services, a digital service provider can usually get a 'mop up' licence from a collecting society covering pretty much every other song ever written.

Streaming services need such 'mop up' licences because they don't actually know what songs are streaming on their platforms. Once a record label has done its deal with the DSP, it pumps its recordings catalogue into the streaming service's servers. But the label only controls the recording rights, and it doesn't tell the DSP who controls the song rights. Or even what song is contained within any one recording.

Therefore the DSP really needs a blanket licence covering all musical works to ensure it is able to pay all the royalties due whatever songs may be contained within any one label's recordings.

In the US, the music publishers never quite got around to setting up a mechanical rights collecting society. That was partly because there is a compulsory licence covering mechanicals in America, so songwriters and publishers are obliged to license music users at set rates. However, under the compulsory licence, the music user must alert the copyright owner that their music is being used and arrange to pay the royalties due under law.

In the world of CDs, the label sorted the mechanical rights licence, and in America it usually employed an agency to identify the song, locate the songwriters and publishers who had a stake in said song, and make sure they got paid. When iTunes appeared on the scene, unlike in Europe, the labels continued to deal with the mechanicals. But when on-demand streaming arrived, it was decided that the digital firms, rather than the labels, should take on responsibility for those royalties.

Many DSPs hired the same agencies that the labels used to manage the admin of the compulsory licence. In particular the Harry Fox Agency, which used to be owned by the US music publishing sector's trade body. And that, some would argue, was Spotify's big mistake, given there are other agencies operating in this space possibly better equipped to undertake the task.

Unlike a label, that would usually need to sort out the mechanicals on whatever ten songs appeared on the next album it was putting out, Spotify et al needed to sort out the licensing of millions of songs from the off, with a flood of new tracks being added each week. Given HFA had a pretty bad reputation even in the CD era, it was perhaps unsurprising it failed to rise to the digital licensing challenge.

This meant that as streaming boomed, many American songwriters and music publishers - although receiving performing right royalties through the collecting societies - were not getting the mechanical royalties they were due.

Even if you think America's piss-poor mechanical royalties system is mainly the fault of the American music publishers, in the eyes of US copyright law it was the duty of the DSPs to ensure paperwork was filed and royalties paid in line with the compulsory licence. Which meant Spotify et al were liable for copyright infringement for every song they had streamed without doing the required admin tasks.

That was top news for lawyers with calculators, given that US copyright law provides statutory damages of up to $150,000 per infringement, and the lawyers would likely be on a cut of any damages awarded. Hence all the mechanical royalties lawsuits that have been filed against various streaming firms in the US in recent years.

With the potential of millions - hey, now billions - of dollars of damages being claimed, Spotify sought to solve the mechanical royalties problem by negotiating some settlement deals. First with the National Music Publishers Association. And then with the lawyers leading a class action on behalf of a group of songwriters and publishers who chosen not to participate in the NMPA arrangement (that being the separate David Lowery and Melissa Ferrick class actions against Spotify combined).

Both of those deals included compensation for past mechanical royalties that went unpaid, and also some vague commitments for how Spotify was going to ensure everyone got the royalties they were due in the future. But, despite those deals being done (or nearly done, in the case of the class action), new lawsuits continued to be filed on this issue.

Presumably concerned that, however many deals it did, there could be an almost infinite stream of mechanical royalty lawsuits from pissed off songwriters and music publishers, Spotify started looking for other options.

One option taken was submitting to court the rather bold new argument that, having thought about it really hard, Spotify now reckoned a stream was, actually, just a communication and not a copy. So that, in fact, it should be able to pay all the royalties due to songwriters and music publishers through the PROs, ie ASCAP, BMI, SESAC and GMR.

This was a controversial position, although the desired outcome of that argument - that songwriters and publishes would earn the same but via one payment system instead of two - had some logic to it.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, Spotify's allies in the music community began considering a radical overhaul of America's mechanical rights licensing system. Which basically means introducing the system already employed pretty much everywhere else in the world.

Though, because of the compulsory licence, that would require a rewrite of American copyright law, which is what the previously reported Music Modernization Act - unveiled just before Christmas - seeks to do.

That legislation would set up a collecting society for mechanical rights in the US for the first time that would offer streaming services blanket licences, ie the mop up licences they need. Which, needless to say, would be a massive help to the streaming platforms.

As a kickback to the songwriters and music publishers, the act would also overhaul how royalties are set whenever collective licensing applies to song rights in the US, including performing rights as well as mechanical rights. Which is a good kickback, because songwriters and music publishers are convinced that the current royalty setting system repeatedly undervalues music.

The Music Modernization Act is backed by music publishers, the exsiting US collecting societies, songwriter groups and the streaming sector. And the people behind the proposed legislation hope that that consensus might ensure the Act doesn't get stuck in Washington for years, as often happens with proposed copyright reform.

Though, while some music publishers and songwriters may support the Music Modernization Act, that doesn't mean all music publishers and songwriters support it. A number of issues have been raised already. Plus, given that it will also overhaul the way performing right royalties are set, music users not affected by the mechanical rights shit storm - such as the conventional broadcasters - may also object. So, not a complete consensus then.

So enter Wixen, an independent music publisher representing plenty of big name songwriters like Tom Petty and Neil Young, and members of Rage Against The Machine, Weezer and The Black Keys. It's had problems with all of Spotify's proposed settlements to date, and it spent a chunk of last year telling the court considering the Lowery/Ferrick class action that the deal on the table was insufficient.

Or, in Wixen's words, "the settlement agreement is procedurally and substantively unfair to settlement class members because it prevents meaningful participation by rights holders and offers them an unfair dollar amount in light of Spotify's ongoing, wilful copyright infringement of their works".

For its part, Spotify questioned whether Wixen was actually empowered to speak for all of its songwriters who were members of the Lowery/Ferrick class, a question relating to the specifics of the administration deals the publisher does with its writers.

That's presumably a question Spotify can ask again now that Wixen has filed a mechanical royalties lawsuit all of its own. The mega-bucks $1.6 billion in damages being sought are the result of the publisher's sizable catalogue of works and the aforementioned statutory damages.

Wixen also has some issues with the Music Modernization Act. Indeed, it claims that it is one provision in that proposed legislation - regarding the impact the new licensing system would have on any ongoing mechanical royalty disputes - that has forced the company to go legal at this time, even while it is concurrently participating in the ongoing legal wrangling around the Lowery/Ferrick settlement.

The company's President Randall Wixen said in a statement last week: "We are very disappointed that these services will retroactively get a free pass for actions that were previously illegal unless we actually file suit before 1 Jan 2018. Neither we nor our clients are interested in becoming litigants, but we have been faced with a choice of forfeiting rights and damages, or taking action at this time".

Adding that he was actually supportive of much of the Music Modernization Act, while also insisting that he hoped an amicable settlement could still be reached with Spotify, Wixen went on: "We regret that this otherwise admirable proposed bill has had this effect, and we hope that Spotify nonetheless comes to the table with a fair and reasonable approach to reaching a resolution with us. We are fully prepared to go as far forward in the courts as required to protect our clients' rights".

So, Wixen's lawsuit could be seen as a negotiating tactic and/or a contingency plan, though that won't stop the independent publisher driving a hard bargain in both the courts and Congress as Spotify and its friends in the music community seek to put America's mechanical royalties mess behind them once and for all.

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Sony settles in dispute over royalties received by some American Idols
A long-running dispute between Sony Music and a company representing various former 'American Idol' winners looks like it's at an end. The court was told last week that the two sides had reached a settlement.

As previously reported, 19 Recordings, which represented former winners of 'American Idol' - its parent company having been behind the talent show franchise - sued its former label partner Sony Music back in 2014.

It was a multi-layered lawsuit that included many common royalty gripes, the overall claim being that Sony was short-changing various 'Idol' finalists when it came to sharing the income generated by their recordings.

Most attention fell on those allegations made over streaming income. In part because the lawsuit put the spotlight on the various kickbacks the major record companies have received from their deals with the streaming firms, and whether or not those kickbacks were being shared with artists.

As the lawsuit progressed Sony initially insisted that it wasn't obliged to share those elements of its steaming deals with talent. Though once streaming kickbacks became a wider talking point in the industry, Sony subsequently said that of course it would be sharing the value of other elements of its digital deals with its artists.

The lawsuit also brought up the sales v licence debate that had previously been in the US courts in relation to downloads. Pre-digital record contracts obviously don't set a specific download or streaming royalty rate, but they do often distinguish between 'sales income' and 'licence income', with a much higher royalty often paid on the latter.

Licensing income traditionally meant things like sync, but many artists have pointed out that digital income stems from licensing deals rather than the selling of product. Nevertheless, labels have mainly paid the lower sales royalty (or thereabouts) on digital income, despite Eminem collaborators the Bass Brothers winning when they sued Universal Music on the sales v licence point.

The 19 v Sony case not only brought the sales v licence dispute back to court, but it did so specifically with streaming in mind, where arguably there is an even stronger argument that this is licensing income and therefore the higher royalty should be paid.

However, it seems, we won't get any judicial insight on that point now, because - according to The Hollywood Reporter - the whole matter has been settled. More or less. Last week judge Ronnie Abrams discontinued the proceedings after being told an out-of-court settlement was now pending.

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MCPS begins IMPEL spin-off
The UK's Music Publishers Association has formally begun the process of spinning off its digital licensing entity IMPEL into a standalone business, with the formal name IMPEL Collective Management Limited.

IMPEL, which licenses digital rights across Europe on behalf of a number of independent music publishers, has to date operated as part of MCPS, the mechanical rights licensing body owned by the MPA.

The IMPEL scheme was created after the big five music publishers pulled their digital rights out of the collective licensing system. They did so in order to do direct multi-territory deals with download and streaming platforms. IMPEL allows the indies to license streaming services in a similar way.

As with the big five, IMPEL licenses these streaming services in partnership with PRS, because streaming platforms exploit both the mechanical and performing rights in songs, and while the publishers control the former, PRS actually controls the latter.

MPA chief Jane Dyball confirmed that IMPEL would become its own standalone entity last July, stating that: "It is now no longer appropriate for a business which operates for a section of the MCPS membership - and, for that matter, MPA membership - and which has its own ambitions, to be part of the MPA group of companies. We are therefore undertaking a business separation process".

Confirming over the Christmas break that the digital rights of IMPEL-allied publishers would now be transferred to the new entity, the MPA said that, "the decision to separate the MCPS and IMPEL companies has been made to ensure that both companies can operate in a way that allows their separate strategies to become fully realised".

MPA also confirmed that "under this new structure, IMPEL will become a collection society, subject to the requirements of transparency and efficiency set by the [European Union's] Collective Rights Management directive".

Commenting on this development, IMPEL Chair Simon Platz noted that, by representing music publishers in the digital domain on a multi-territory basis, IMPEL has become something of a song rights equivalent of the indie labels' global digital rights agency Merlin.

Platz told reporters: "It is no secret that IMPEL has aspirations towards the success of Merlin and this is the next step on that mission. IMPEL is owned only by independent music publishers. We are a group of publishers totally wedded to independence and totally wedded to being stronger together".

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Streaming boom ensured growth in recorded music and entertainment retail at large in 2017
Trade bodies for the UK record industry and British entertainment retailers last week put out their top line stats for 2017 and, hey, here's a thing, streaming is booming and the vinyl revival continues. Who'd have thought it possible? So, yes, the key trends in recorded music in 2017 mirrored the key trends of the last few years, with CDs and downloads still in decline, while vinyl grows and streaming booms.

The latter boom means streaming now accounts for just over half of all recorded music consumption in the UK, according to record label trade body the BPI. The number of audio-streams consumed was up 51.5% year-on-year. In the vinyl domain, 4.1 million vinyl albums were sold last year, which is a 26.8% year-on-year increase.

In terms of actual money - rather than consumption - the Entertainment Retailers Association's figures say that the retail value of music streaming in 2017 was £577.1 million, with the retail value of all music products coming in at just over £1.2 billion. That means streaming income was up 41.9%, more than compensating for revenue declines in physical and downloads, so that music retail at large was up 9.6%.

The home video and gaming sectors also saw increases in 2017 so that the entire entertainment retail sector saw sales of over £7.2 billion, up 8.8%. Digital services fuelled growth in video and gaming too, though physical sales were also up in the latter, by 2.1%.

Commenting on the figures, ERA boss Kim Bayley said: "This is an historic result which demonstrates the benefits of innovation and investment in new technology. New digital services are bringing ever increasing numbers of the UK population back to entertainment with 24/7 access to the music, video and games they want. In the past the growth of the market tended to be dependent on the release schedules of games publishers, film studios and record labels. Now we are seeing a market which is also driven by digital platforms and technologies".

The BPI was equally upbeat about the specific performance of recorded music in the UK last year, though also issued the customary "but it could all be so much better" aside. This shows that the push to close the so called 'value gap' enabled by the copyright safe harbour continues, despite all three majors having now done new deals with the key safe harbour dweller YouTube.

BPI chief Geoff Taylor stated: "Whilst the rapid growth of streaming and resilient demand for physical formats gives us confidence for the future, it is important to remember that the music industry still has a long way to go to recover fully. Structural challenges must be overcome if long-term growth is to be sustained. We must continue to fight the 'value gap', so that all digital platforms pay fairly for their use of music".

Taylor also repeated his concerns about the possible impact of Brexit on the UK music industry, adding that "[the] government must ensure our musicians are able to tour freely even after we leave the EU". He then concluded: "Finally, we should make the UK the best place to invest in new content by forging an online environment that is safe for consumers and where illegal sites cannot flourish. If we do this, the future for British music, which is already one of our leading exports, will be very bright".

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Bandcamp puts the spotlight on cassette revival with end-of-year stats
Direct-to-fan service Bandcamp put out some end-of-year stats over the Christmas break and chose to focus on the cassette revival that has been quietly occurring on its platform this year.

In a blog post published late last month, Bandcamp's Ben Walker writes: "17,872 tapes were released on Bandcamp this year. That's an average of almost 50 tapes per day or one every 29 minutes". Looking into how many of those cassette releases actually resulted in sales, Walker then adds: "In 2017, artists sold 22.6 years of cassette-based audio on Bandcamp. That's 17,076km of beautiful, crunchy tape".

Earlier in his post, Walker concedes that he has focused on the surprising number of tape sales made on Bandcamp this year mainly because of his own passion for the format. He writes: "I started buying cassettes from Crash Symbols when I joined Bandcamp five years ago and never looked back. There's a tape from Sub Pop sitting on my desk that arrived in a padded envelope as I was writing this very post. I love tapes".

He goes on: "I assumed that everyone would eventually catch up with the trend, and that my friends would all be reinstalling tape decks in their cars by now. For some reason it's taking longer than expected. So I thought it might be useful to bring everyone up to speed on the latest tape stats. If you're a tape-lover, you can share this post and convert all your friends and family".

Of course, many artists putting out cassette releases also allow fans to then access the music contained on said tape digitally. So just because a fan buys a cassette doesn't necessarily mean they are listening to their favourites tunes on a cassette player. And, of course, even if the number of releases and sales is up, cassettes remain very much a niche format. A bit like with the vinyl revival. Only more so.

Still, for cassette fans, Bandcamp's stats should provide just a little bit of new year excitement. And for artists with the right kind of fanbase, this is another example of how you might be able to monetise the direct-to-fan relationship even when your fans are mainly consuming music via the streaming platforms.

Meanwhile, Bandcamp has made a slide show featuring some of the cassettes sold on its platform this year.

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Spotify boasts 70 million subscribers as stock market listing looms
Spotify last Thursday night tweeted a polite brag that it now has more than 70 million paying subscribers. The sneaky tweet means the streaming service has already generated three big music business headlines this year, though this was the first one to stem from an official announcement.

First there was the big $1.6 billion royalties lawsuit in the US. Plus there were reports that Spotify used the Christmas break - when everyone was otherwise occupied - to file some confidential paperwork in relation to its long awaited stock market listing.

Spotify will become a publicly traded company via an unusual direct listing rather than a cash-generating initial public offering, the hope seemingly being that the former approach will come with less risk. Reports now suggest that, following a filing with the US Securities And Exchange Commission over the Christmas break, Spotify could arrive on the New York Stock Exchange in the first quarter of this year.

Given Spotify's future success is more dependent on its premium service than its ad-funded platform, the latest premium user stats brag will help as it continues in its march to Wall Street. It last updated its official paying user numbers back in July last year when it passed the 60 million mark, meaning the next ten million were added in just over six months.

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Film set amidst Bataclan attack put on hold
A TV movie set amid the terrorist attacks that occurred in Paris on 13 Nov 2015 - which included the shooting at an Eagles Of Death Metal concert at the Bataclan venue where 89 people died - has been put on hold after more than 37,000 people signed a petition against the production.

As news of the film - called 'Ce Soir-Là' - first emerged, a petition was set up by Claire Peltier, whose partner was killed in the Bataclan shooting.

Addressing the President of French state-owned broadcaster France Télévisions, which was planning on airing the film on its France 2 channel, Peltier said in her petition that she was "scandalised that such a project could see the light of day so soon after this violent event".

'Ce Soir-Là' - which translates as 'That Night' - seemingly centres on a fictional romance between a single mother and an Afghan man who meet on the night of the attacks as they rescue survivors.

A spokesperson for France 2 confirmed late last month that it had now decided to postpone the project until its producers have had the opportunity to consult more widely with groups representing victims of the attacks.

The broadcaster added that no screening date had been set anyway, as the channel's management are yet to see the finished product.

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Approved: Kosmo Kat
Having spent the latter part of 2017 pushing his iivvyy project - a collaboration with Hvns - Kosmo Kat starts 2018 back in solo mode with new track 'LAE'.

A cracked up house track built on a clipped, circular synth line, 'LAE' explores the harder edges of Kosmo Kat's sound, and seems to have brought with it some influence from Hvns' work. The producer's own irresistible style is what rides foremost all over it though, a heavily sliced up vocal sample proving a surprisingly effective hook.

Hopefully this is a sign of more to come from Kosmo Kat. For now, listen to 'LAE' here.

Stay up to date with all of the artists featured in the CMU Approved column by subscribing to our Spotify playlist.

Fred Ball, Dubset, Foals, more

Other notable announcements and developments today...

• Songwriter and producer Fred Ball has signed a new publishing deal with Warner/Chappell. His credits include work with Madonna, Rihanna, Zara Larsson and Little Mix. "I'm so excited", says Ball. "I'm THRILLED", says W/C MD Mike Smith. Smith previously signed Ball to a deal at EMI Music Publishing in 2002.

• DJ mix licensing platform Dubset has announced a new deal with Tidal. So that's something. The company already has deals with Spotify and Apple Music. "This is another important step in making the incredible content created by our DJ community available to fans all over the world", says Dubset CEO Stephen White.

• Foals have announced that bassist Walter Gervers is leaving the band. It's all friendly though, so that's fine.

• Justin Timberlake is back then. He released new single 'Filthy' last week. His new album, 'Man Of The Woods', is out on 2 Feb. That'll coincide nicely with his Super Bowl half time show performance on 4 Feb.

• Kendrick Lamar and SZA have released 'All The Stars', taken from 'Black Panther: The Album'. Co-produced by Lamar and Anthony 'Top Dawg' Tiffith, the compilation is a spin-off from upcoming movie, 'Black Panther'.

• AJ Tracey has released the video for 'Alakazam', featuring JME and Denzel Curry.

• Dream Wife have released new single, 'Hey Heartbreaker'. Their debut album is due out on 26 Jan.

• Steve Mac has been named the BRIT Awards' Best British Producer 2018. He has worked with artists including Ed Sheeran, Liam Payne, Rita Ora and Pink. "I feel truly humbled to receive this prestigious award", he says.

• The Gallagher brothers' Christmas truce is over. "Fuck the truce", says Liam.

• Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.

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Frontman of clown-themed Iron Maiden tribute act arrested for drug smuggling
The frontman of a Canadian clown-themed Iron Maiden tribute band has been arrested in Japan, accused of attempting to smuggle $7 million worth of drugs into the country.

According to Global News, Powerclown vocalist Daniel Whitmore, aka Dicksee Diànno, was caught with just under 10kg of "stimulant drugs" in his guitar case and a number of tea canisters.

A not entirely sympathetic statement from bandmate Sketchy Clown says: "Flags are flying half mast at the Powerclown circus tent. I assure you, any frowns we are wearing are real. Painted on or not. All we can do is hope for the best for him. Clownery and parlour tricks, whether by him or us, ain't gonna do no good. Even with his voice, the voice of a songbird, and his velvet-painting-smooth charm, he won't be able to talk his way out of these hijinks, even if he did speak Japanese".

He continues: "While none of us clowns condone Dicksee's actions, or recommend anyone else attempting something this foolish, we do hope for the best for our grease-painted pal. We hope that by some small - make that large - miracle, he somehow manages to slide into his cock-pink pants and dance himself back home to face this different form of music he has created for himself. We love you Dicksee. If you somehow make it back here, and we hope you do, we may even go easy on you. Maybe. No promises".

Whitmore was arrested at Narita Airport in Tokyo last month. According to reports, he could be facing a prison sentence of more than ten years.

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ANDY MALT | Editor
Andy heads up the team, overseeing the CMU bulletins and website, coordinating features and interviews, reporting on artist and business stories, and contributing to the CMU Approved column.
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