CMU Digest

CMU Digest 22.03.21: Brexit, Spotify, BBC, iHeart, MDRCs

By | Published on Monday 22 March 2021


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

Harriet Harman MP set out a ten point plan for overcoming the Brexit challenges faced by musicians once COVID restrictions lift. It followed criticism from the Musicians’ Union and Incorporated Society Of Musicians that the UK government wasn’t addressing these challenges with enough urgency. With no arrangement for visa free touring for performers included in the post-Brexit UK/EU trade deal, artists will face new bureaucracy when touring Europe post the COVID shutdown. Harman’s plan pulls together various demands made by the music community since the start of the year, including for agreements to be made an EU level and with individual EU member states, as well as for schemes to be launched to support touring musicians while those agreements are negotiated. [READ MORE]

Spotify launched a new website setting out to answer various questions about the economics of streaming. Called Loud & Clear, the site is seemingly aimed at both the music community and music fans, and is an effort to respond to the various debates about and criticisms of the streaming business model. Among other things it argues that talking about per-stream royalty rates is misleading, and that where average per-stream rates are discussed Spotify appears to pay less because of its free tier, its popularity in emerging markets, and the high consumption levels of its average subscriber. Spotify also officially comments on the argument that a user-centric system should be used for allocating streaming money to tracks. It says it’s not convinced such a system would make much difference, but that if the wider music industry opted for that approach it would comply. [READ MORE]

The BBC announced a new round of restructuring that will aim to make the broadcaster less London-centric. The grand plan should have a significant impact on the Corporation’s radio and music operations. The aim is for at least 50% of the BBC’s spend on radio and music to be used outside of the capital by 2027/28. The Asian Network will be based out of Birmingham, Radio 3 and 6music will become “rooted in Salford”, and Radio 1, 1 Xtra and Radio 2 will all have daytime shows hosted from elsewhere in the UK. BBC boss Tim Davie said “these plans will get us closer to audiences, create jobs and investment, and develop and nurture new talent”. [READ MORE]

It emerged that an investment fund linked to UK radio firm Global is seeking permission to acquire up to 49.99% of US broadcasting giant iHeart. Global Media & Entertainment Investments – based out of the Bahamas and headed up by Michael Tabor, a key backer of Global Radio – has already bought 8.7% of the publicly listed iHeartMedia. Because of US rules about foreign ownership of media companies, that needs the approval of the US Federal Communications Commission. iHeart itself has sought FCC approval for Global to increase its stake to 9.99%. But in its own letter to the regulator, the Global investment outfit said that it actually wanted permission to increase its shareholding to as high as 49.99%. [READ MORE]

Various artist and songwriter groups in the US called on the Recording Academy to back their campaign to end so called ‘minimum delivery and release commitments’ – or MDRCs – in music publishing contracts. It came as the Recording Academy used Grammy weekend to announce a new wing for songwriters and composers. MDRC clauses mean that a songwriter is not only obliged to deliver a certain number of songs to their publisher under each deal, but a set number of those songs must have had a commercial release, probably by a major label or pre-approved indie. Various artist and songwriter groups in the US have argued that such clauses are unethical and out-dated and should be removed, from both new and legacy publishing contracts. Some publishers have already done that, but the Recording Academy was urged to back the call for an industry-wide commitment to end the use of MDRCs in music publishing. [READ MORE]

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