CMU Digest

CMU Digest 25.01.21: Economics Of Streaming, Glastonbury, Brexit, consent decrees, Amazon

By | Published on Sunday 24 January 2021

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

The UK’s major label bosses were grilled by MPs in Parliament’s ongoing inquiry into the economics of streaming. Members of the culture select committee wanted to know why the majors think the streaming business is basically working when so many artists have told MPs that without live income they face financial hardship. The UK CEOs of Universal Music, Sony Music and Warner Music tried to defend the record deals that pay a minority share of revenue to artists, stressing the investment labels make in A&R and marketing, and that artists now have ways of getting their recorded music to market other than doing a traditional record deal. They were also keen to distinguish streams from radio, which is basically a way of saying that the ER system – whereby artists get an automatic cut of radio income oblivious of their record deals – should not apply to streams. [READ MORE]

The 2021 edition of the Glastonbury Festival was cancelled because of ongoing COVID challenges. Michael and Emily Eavis said “in spite of our efforts to move Heaven and Earth, it has become clear that we simply will not be able to make the festival happen this year”. The announcement led to fears that many other festivals may now also cancel, basically resulting in a second summer festival season being called off as a result of the pandemic. That said, Glastonbury is a particularly large-scale event, and it’s hoped that smaller festivals, which can hold off longer before making any final decision, may still go ahead. Although ongoing issues around those smaller events securing cancellation insurance might result in festivals cancelling now just in case, before they incur too many costs planning a 2021 edition. [READ MORE]

The music industry continued to put pressure on the UK government over the challenges facing British artists touring Europe post-Brexit. No provision for visa-free touring was included in the new UK/EU trade deal, meaning artists will need travel permits and/or equipment carnets when touring in some EU countries once COVID restrictions lift. UK ministers said their door was open to new talks with the EU to try to find a way of ensuring paperwork free touring, though it seems likely they would only agree to a very narrow arrangement, given that whatever was agreed would have to cut both ways. The government also revealed that it was concurrently seeking bilateral deals with individual EU countries to reduce the bureaucracy for British artists touring there. [READ MORE]

The US Department Of Justice announced it will not reform the consent decrees that regulate American collecting societies BMI and ASCAP. The music industry had hoped that the latest review of those regulations might result in reforms, relaxing the rules which songwriters and music publishers argue result in their copyrights being frequently undervalued. BMI and ASCAP themselves said they were disappointed their proposed reforms of the consent decrees had been knocked back, but added that at least proposals for increased regulation – made by some groups lobbying on behalf of music users – were also rejected. [READ MORE]

Amazon hit out again at its inclusion on the US government’s notorious markets list of foreign websites that infringe intellectual property. The web giant’s UK, German, Spanish, French and Italian operations were included based on the argument they don’t do enough to stop third parties from using their marketplaces to sell copyright and trademark infringing goods. Amazon argued that it does more than anyone to stop the sale of IP infringing products via its websites, and that its inclusion on the piracy list for the second year running was a result of Donald Trump’s ongoing beef with its CEO Jeff Bezos. The listing was, it added, “nothing more than a desperate stunt in the final days of [the Trump] administration”. [READ MORE]

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