CMU Digest

CMU Digest 09.08.21: COVID insurance, Sony Music, Spotify, Twitter, Bob Dylan

By | Published on Monday 9 August 2021

Live Music

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

The UK government finally announced a COVID cancellation insurance scheme. It will see the British government work with a number of insurers to offer festival and event organisers insurance so that they will be compensated if any new COVID regulations in the future force cancellation. The music industry has been calling for such a scheme for over a year, with numerous festivals that – it turns out – could have taken place this summer having to cancel earlier this year because, with no cancellation insurance available on the commercial market, they couldn’t afford to take the risk that COVID restrictions might extend forcing their events to be called off at the last minute. Industry reps welcomed the late-in-the-day insurance scheme, though said they still needed to assess the specifics. [READ MORE]

Sony Music sued energy drink brand Bang over the use of unlicensed music in its social media marketing. The major says the drinks company has used at least 132 Sony-controlled recordings in its social posts without permission. That includes music in videos directly produced by Bang itself, and in other videos that were created and posted by influencers working for the drinks company. Although the platforms where the videos were posted to – including Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and TikTok – all have music licences from Sony, they only cover user-generated content and not commercial posts. It’s the second lawsuit of this kind filed by Sony in recent weeks, with sportswear firm Gymshark also sued for allegedly using Sony recordings in its social media marketing without licence. [READ MORE]

It emerged that Spotify is piloting a new subscription package that combines elements of its free and premium products. So called Spotify Plus would be a mid-price premium option. Subscribers would pay a lower monthly subscription fee in order to get the functionality of Spotify premium, but would still hear ads between the music. Presumably the ambition is that it would turn more free users into paying users, with £120 a month still a big ask for more mainstream consumers, especially those who only really need access to a few thousand tracks, rather than 70 million. [READ MORE]

Members of US Congress called on Twitter to do more to tackle all the unlicensed music on its platform. A letter to Twitter boss Jack Dorsey signed by more than 20 Congress members stated: “Creative content drives engagement on Twitter, yet unlike numerous other platforms, Twitter has not acquired licences necessary to ensure that all creators are properly compensated for use of their works”. While at one point suggesting Twitter should just get itself some licences from the music industry, much of the letter focused on specific criticisms about the social media firm’s rights management systems, stating that the company should do much more to help music companies monitor and remove tracks on its platform. [READ MORE]

A judge in New York sided with Bob Dylan in a dispute with the estate of a former collaborator. The estate of Jacques Levy sued Dylan for a cut of the money he made by selling his songs catalogue to Universal Music. Levy co-wrote a number of songs with Dylan back in the 1970s. However, he did so on a work-for-hire basis, meaning Dylan owned the copyright in those works. The estate argued that the agreement between Dylan and Levy went beyond standard work-for-hire terms, meaning they should be cut into the profits of the catalogue sale. But the Dylan side argued that the Levy estate was only due royalties from the use of the 1970s songs – which they will continue to receive from Universal – and had no ownership of the copyrights and were therefore not due a cut of the profits from any sale of those copyrights. The judge hearing the case agreed, concluding that the Dylan/Levy agreement was “clear and unambiguous” on this point. [READ MORE]

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