Business News CMU Digest

CMU Digest 13.02.22: Spotify, Lil Peep, Pandora, Jimi Hendrix, Global Music Rights

By | Published on Sunday 13 February 2022

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

The pressure continued to mount on Spotify over the Joe Rogan podcast and other mini-controversies. India Arie did welcome Rogan’s apology regarding his past use of the n-word on his podcast, but the artist who instigated the recent Spotify boycott in protest over COVID misinformation on the Rogan programme confirmed he was not plated by the formal responses of either the podcaster or Spotify. In a new message on his website, Neil Young wrote: “To the musicians and creators in the world, I say this – you must be able to find a better place than Spotify to be the home of your art”. Meanwhile news that Spotify is entering into a 280 million euro sponsorship deal with the Barcelona football club – while it concurrently lobbies for a lower song royalty rate under the US compulsory licence – also led to plenty more criticism within the music community. [READ MORE]

The mother of late rapper Lil Peep claimed that newly unsealed court documents prove that her son’s former management team should be held liable for his death in 2017. Liza Womack first sued First Access Artists in 2019 accusing the company and its associates of negligence and other breaches of contract that contributed to her son’s untimely death. The management firm has strongly denied most of Womack’s claims, although its formal response to her lawsuit focused more on legal arguments regarding whether or not the company and its top team owed a duty of care to her son. Nearly 400 pages of evidence has now been published by the LA courts in relation to the case, of which First Access tried to keep seven pages sealed. Womack’s lawyers say that those seven pages back up her claims that drugs were readily available while Lil Peep was on tour, despite his managers being aware of their client’s addiction issues. [READ MORE]

A bunch of comedians sued Pandora over allegations it is streaming recordings of their stand-up routines without all the appropriate rights cleared. It’s the first litigation to be filed in a debate that has been brewing for a while, making them interesting test cases. As with music, where streaming services need two sets of licences for each track – one for the recording rights and one for the separate song rights – with comedy there is also a copyright in each recording and a separate copyright in the material featured in those recordings. To date, streaming platforms have only usually licensed the recording rights when it comes to comedy content. Two entities have been set up in the US to represent the copyright in the written material of comedians, and one of them is representing all of the plaintiffs in the Pandora cases. That company is Word Collections, and the comedians who are suing the streaming firm are Andrew Dice Clay, Bill Engvall and Ron White, and the estates of Robin Williams and George Carlin. [READ MORE]

The estates of Jimi Hendrix’s former collaborators sued Sony Music in the UK courts over allegedly unpaid royalties. Jimi Hendrix Experience members Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell signed deals with the estate of Jimi Hendrix after the musician’s death in 1970. The Hendrix estate argues that under those deals Redding and Mitchell gave up all rights and revenues linked to the Jimi Hendrix Experience recordings in return for one off payments, and also committed to never sue the estate. Also, neither Redding nor Mitchell ever raised any issues with those deals prior to their respective deaths in 2003 and 2008. However, their estates now argue that there was no assignment of rights in either of those agreements, that there were no provisions for digital revenues, and limitations in the 1970s deals mean that they can in fact sue Sony Music for allegedly unpaid royalties, it being the exclusive licensee of the Hendrix catalogue. The Hendrix estate and Sony itself has already gone legal in this dispute back in the US. [READ MORE]

The long-running dispute between boutique US song rights collecting society GMR and the American radio industry was formally ended. After GMR was launched in 2014, the US Radio Music License Committee tried to force the new society to agree to mediation in royalty right disputes, similar to the commitment made by rival society SESAC. However, GMR argued it was sufficiently small that competition law issues raised regarding other collecting societies – including the big two in the US, BMI and ASCAP – did not apply to its business. The whole thing went legal in 2016 and had been slowly working its way through the courts ever since. However, a preliminary settlement was announced last month, but that was subject to a certain number of American radio stations signing up to a template licensing deal GMR had agree with the RMLC. That has now happened, so the litigation in this dispute is formally over. [READ MORE]

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