Business News CMU Digest

CMU Digest 16.01.22: Anti-terror rules, Nevermind baby, Pimco, Dark Horse, Lucian Grainge

By | Published on Sunday 16 January 2022

Houses Of Parliament

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

The UK government confirmed plans to bring forward legislation this year that will require venues and events to put in place security measures to protect the public from possible terrorist attacks. That commitment follows a consultation on such security measures which was instigated in response to the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing. The Night Time Industries Association said its members took safety issues like this very seriously, but aired concerns about the strain any new duties of this kind could put on smaller clubs, venues and events, especially given the current COVID-related pressures they are already facing. Ministers admitted that work still needed to be done to define what precise new measures would be required and what kinds of businesses would be affected by the new responsibilities. [READ MORE]

Spencer Elden re-filed his lawsuit over the ‘Nevermind’ cover artwork, on which he appears as a baby. Elden claims that Nirvana and their business partners “knowingly produced, possessed, and advertised commercial child pornography” by including his nude baby photo on the famous artwork in 1991. His original lawsuit was dismissed because he failed to respond on time to a motion for dismissal filed by Nirvana et al. The band argue that – because of a statute of limitations – Elden should have gone legal within ten years of his eighteenth birthday, which was in 2009. In the new lawsuit, Elden argues that he continues to be harmed by the distribution of ‘Nevermind’ with its original artwork, so the statute of limitations isn’t relevant. [READ MORE]

US asset manager Pimco was reported to have agreed a partnership with BMG to start buying up music catalogues. It follows rival investment funds like KKR, Blackstone and Apollo Global Management in setting aside cash to buy up copyrights and royalty rights from heritage artists and songwriters. Those entities, of course, are also competing with music specific funds like Hipgnosis and Round Hill – and the music rights majors – in the race to buy up the most lucrative music catalogues. KKR has also partnered with BMG on some of its recent music investments. The exact terms of Pimco’s deal with BMG aren’t known, nor is the exact sum of money the asset manager intends to spend on acquiring music rights. [READ MORE]

Judges in the Ninth Circuit appeals court in the US asked some tough questions about the ‘Dark Horse’ song-theft case. Rapper Marcus Gray still claims that the Katy Perry hit rips off his earlier song ‘Joyful Noise’. He previously convinced a jury of that allegation, but the judge hearing the original case – Christina Snyder – then over-turned the jury’s ruling on the basis that the repeating ostinato shared by the two songs is too generic to be protected by copyright. Gray is appealing Synder’s decision in the Ninth Circuit, even though that decision was arguably influenced by another ruling in the same court, in the ‘Stairway To Heaven’ song-theft case. The Ninth Circuit is yet to rule on the ‘Dark Horse’ litigation, but by the questions they asked in the latest hearing on the matter last week, it feels like the judges there reckon Synder probably got it right. [READ MORE]

Universal Music boss Lucian Grainge wrote a company-wide memo for the major’s workforce. It mainly talked up his company’s big commercial achievements from the past year and the various charitable initiatives it has supported along the way. It didn’t deal head on with the big economics of streaming debate – in which UMG has faced plenty of criticism – though he did include some of the major’s key messaging around that debate: ie that the streaming boom is mainly the result of label innovation and investment; that artists releasing new music today have more choice than ever regarding who they work with on their recordings; that working with UMG is a proven way for artists to achieve success; and that royalty pay outs to artists and songwriters are at record highs. [READ MORE]

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