CMU Digest

CMU Digest 16.08.21: App stores, COVID rules, Vivendi, Four Tet, Universal Music

By | Published on Sunday 15 August 2021

US Congress

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

Three US senators proposed new laws that would regulate the Apple and Google app stores. The proposals address many of the issues raised by Spotify, Fortnite owner Epic Games and other app makers regarding Apple and Google rules which they argue are anti-competitive. Apple in particular has been criticised for forcing app makers to use its own commission-charging platform for all in-app transactions and for not allowing the sign-posting of other payment options outside an app. Unsurprisingly, both Spotify and Epic welcomed the proposals. Apple and Google will argue that their rules are designed to protect the safety and security of the users of any smartphones that employ their operating systems. [READ MORE]

Both AEG and Live Nation said that ticket-buyers will need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter their US shows and venues from October. AEG Presents said that it had made the decision in response to rising cases of the delta variant of COVID in the US and the low up-take of vaccines in parts of the country. CEO Jay Marciano added: “We realise that some people might look at this as a dramatic step but it’s the right one”. Live Nation originally said that individual artists could set COVID entry requirements at their US shows, before following AEG’s lead and introducing a blanket requirement for audience members to be vaccinated. [READ MORE]

Universal Music owner Vivendi sold 7.1% of the music company to Pershing Square Holdings. The buyer is a US-based investment fund run by Bill Ackman, who previously intended to buy 10% of Universal via a special purpose acquisition company he founded. That deal, however, fell through, as a result of investor pressure and concerns from the US Securities And Exchange Commission regarding Ackman’s unusual use of a SPAC, which would normally buy a company out-right. Ackman may has yet buy the other 2.9% that his SPAC had originally intended to acquire. Vivendi wants to offload the full 10% before it spins Universal Music off as a standalone business and lists in on the Dutch stock exchange next month. [READ MORE]

It emerged that Four Tet has sued Domino Records over digital royalties. The artist argues that clauses in a 2001 record contract with the indie mean he should be receiving a 50% royalty on most digital income, rather than the 18% CD-style royalty that he is being paid. The label counters that a document that accompanied the contract stated that the CD rate would be applied to downloads, and that it’s fair to apply that principle to streams. It also insists that a contract term that said international licensing income would be split 50/50 referred to sub-licensing deals with foreign labels, not the income from licensing deals with digital music platforms outside the UK. The dispute is working its way through the English courts. [READ MORE]

Universal Music confirmed that it is investigating working practices at its Australian division amid allegations of a toxic corporate culture. It’s similar to the investigation already under way at Sony Music Australia, where long-term boss Denis Handlin suddenly departed earlier this year following claims he oversaw a company that tolerated sexual harassment, intimidating behaviour, alcohol abuse and the unfair treatment of women in the workplace. The investigation at Universal Music Australia follows allegations of misconduct being posted to an Instagram account called Beneath The Glass Ceiling, which collates “real life experiences working beneath the glass ceiling of the Australian music industry”. [READ MORE]

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