CMU Digest

CMU Digest 04.03.19: Spotify, Universal Music, Consent Decrees, Global Radio, Copyright Directive

By | Published on Monday 4 March 2019


The key stories from the last week in the music business…

Spotify finally launched in India despite a last minute legal spat with Warner Music. Just before the launch, Warner went to court in Mumbai seeking an injunction to confirm that Spotify could not rely on a so called statutory licence to cover the mini-major’s publishing catalogue. The court declined to issue an immediate judgement on the matter though the legal dispute is ongoing. Spotify accused Warner of withholding its Anglo-American songs catalogue at the last minute in a bid to gain leverage in global deal renegotiations, knowing that it would be much harder for the streaming firm to simply remove a songs catalogue from its service in India ahead of launch. Warner said it was “appalled” at Spotify’s portrayal of their deal negotiations, while arguing that the statutory licence the streaming firm was now relying on did not apply to on-demand digital services. [READ MORE]

Sources confirmed that Tencent Music and investment fund KKR are both interested in bidding to buy a significant slice of Universal Music. The mega-major’s current owner Vivendi confirmed it planned to sell up to 50% of its music business last July and is expected to open formal talks with potential bidders this month. Although sources told Reuters Tencent was a possible bidder, they thought the Chinese company might be put off by Vivendi’s proposal that any new co-owner not get too involved in setting the future strategic direction of the Universal music companies. If that is indeed Vivendi’s preference, KKR would be a more logical partner, it having previously been in business with Bertelsmann on those terms when it was a co-owner of BMG. [READ MORE]

BMI and ASCAP set out their objectives amid reports that the US Department Of Justice is about to begin a new review of the so called consent decrees that regulate the two American collecting societies. Although getting rid of the consent decrees entirely is apparently one option being considered by the DoJ, bosses for BMI and ASCAP instead proposed that the government agency draft new regulatory documents designed for the internet age, but that those new documents include a sunset clause allowing an alternative approach to be adopted in the future. The consent decrees are designed to overcome the competition law concerns posed by collective licensing, but songwriters and music publishers have long argued that the current documents are out of date and no longer fit for purpose. [READ MORE]

Global Radio announced that it would soon drop local breakfast shows from its Capital, Heart and Smooth networks. The radio firm is capitalising on a recent change to UK broadcasting regulations that reduced the obligations of AM/FM licence holders to provide locally-produced programmes. Capital, Heart and Smooth-branded stations will continue to have locally-made drive time shows, though some of those will also be merged between neighbouring regions. Radio Today calculated that the change could affect more than 95 presenters currently employed by Global. [READ MORE]

The European Parliament’s legal affairs committee approved the final draft of the European Copyright Directive. Various music industry groups then called on the full EU Council and European Parliament to likewise greenlight the long time in development copyright reforms, which include the controversial safe harbour altering article thirteen. That included UK Music, which brings together groups repping labels and publishers as well as artists and songwriters. Which was interesting as the labels and publishers – especially the majors – became less vocal in their support for the directive in the final stages. [READ MORE]

The big deals from the last seven days in the music business…
• Ticketmaster bought Moshtix in Australia [INFO]
• Decca re-signed Ludovico Einaudi [INFO]

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