Business News CMU Digest

CMU Digest 13.08.23: Google, The 1975, Audoo, Utopia Music, Dua Lipa

By | Published on Sunday 13 August 2023


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

It was reported that Universal Music is in talks with Google about licensing a new AI platform. Sources who spoke to the Financial Times indicated that the platform will allow users to legitimately generate tracks that imitate the voices, lyrics or sounds of established artists. The major has previously pressured the streaming services to remove unofficially released tracks that have employed AI tools in that way. The FT report said that Universal and Google now aim “to develop a tool for fans to create these tracks legitimately and pay the owners of the copyrights for it”. It remains unclear exactly how the licensing of music-making generative AI models will work, what specific rights are being exploited by such models, and how any income will be shared out across the music community. Though the FT’s sources said artists will be able to opt-out under Universal and Google’s plans. [READ MORE]

Promoters of the Malaysian festival that was forced to cancel because of on-stage comments by The 1975’s Matty Healy formally threatened to sue the band. Healy criticised Malaysia’s anti-LGBTQ+ laws during his band’s set on the first day of this year’s Good Vibes Festival last month. Not only was The 1975’s set cut short as a result, but the country’s government forced the subsequent two days of the festival to cancel. Promoter Future Sound Asia this week demanded that the band accept liability for the cancellation and pay over £2 million in damages. Failure to do so, a letter from FSA stated, would result in legal action being pursued through the English courts. Artists and vendors affected by the cancellation are also planning their own litigation against the band back in Malaysia. [READ MORE]

It was confirmed that UK collecting societies PRS and PPL will start using Audoo’s audio ID technology to monitor the public performance of music. The music industry’s collecting societies are increasingly making use of audio ID to identify what music licensees are playing so to allow more accurate distribution of the royalties said licencees pay. For example, PRS and PPL have used the DJ Monitor system to identify what music is played in the bigger club venues. The Audoo technology is specifically designed for monitoring music usage in bars, cafes and shops, where the music is very much in background, and the system has to be careful to only monitor the music and not the conversations of any staff or customers. Audoo founder Ryan Edwards said his company’s partnership with PRS and PPL was “a milestone in the evolution of the public performance royalty space”. [READ MORE]

Utopia Music announced that its new physical distribution hub will open later this month. The hub is run by Utopia Distribution Services, which was created after Utopia bought the old Cinram distribution business out of administration last year. The warehouse will actually be operated by Dubai-based DP World, which will now employee many of UDS’s staff. Its launch comes as the core Utopia data business continues to downsize and follows the divestment of a number of other companies that Utopia bought during a previous period of growth. With the DP World alliance, it seems the physical distribution side of Utopia is more secure. Though the partnership with the logistics firm raised its own questions, because DP also owns P&O Ferries which controversially sacked its entire UK workforce on a video call last year without going through the legally required consultation process. However, UDS insisted that it had worked hard to protect the jobs of the former Cinram employees now moving over to DP World. [READ MORE]

One of the song-theft lawsuits in relation to Dua Lipa’s ‘Levitating’ was allowed to proceed. Songwriters L Russell Brown and Sandy Linzer allege that Lipa’s hit infringes their 1979 song ‘Wiggle And Giggle All Night’ and a derivation of that work, 1980’s ‘Don Diablo’. Lipa’s lawyers argued that Brown and Linzer have failed to credibly explain how she and her collaborators had access to the earlier songs before writing ‘Levitating’. The judge basically agreed, but said that Brown and Linzer should still be allowed to argue at trial that ‘Levitating’ is so similar to their songs that overt copying is the only explanation. Although, the judge added in her ruling this week, proving that in court will likely be quite a challenge. Lipa’s team had previously got another song-theft lawsuit over ‘Levitating’ dismissed, also on the basis that the plaintiffs in that case – Florida-based band Artikal Sound System – had likewise failed to prove access. [READ MORE]

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