CMU Digest

CMU Digest 27.01.20: Recording Academy, FYE, FUGA, Payola, BBC

By | Published on Monday 27 January 2020

Deborah Dugan

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

The fallout between the US Recording Academy and its ousted CEO got explosive, just before the latest edition of the organisation’s Grammy Awards. Deborah Dugan made a string of allegations against the Academy in a legal filing, including claims of corruption, harassment, misogyny, vote fixing, and that her predecessor Neil Portnow actually departed after he was accused of rape. Strong denials followed from Portnow, the Academy’s board, Chair and legal counsel, and other individuals named in Dugan’s legal filing. The back and forth of statements ensured that the big conversation over Grammy weekend had little to do with the awards. [READ MORE]

HMV owner Sunrise Records expanded into the US market by acquiring the entertainment retail chain FYE. Like most other last-man-standing music retailers, FYE has struggled over the last decade, despite downsizing its network of stores, diversifying into other entertainment products, and trying to capitalise on the vinyl revival. Canadian firm Sunrise reckons it can nevertheless turn things around by employing the same strategy it has used with its own stores in Canada and HMV in the UK. [READ MORE]

Downtown Music further expanded its interests in the recordings sides of the music industry by buying Dutch digital distribution firm FUGA. It follows the purchase by Downtown last year of DIY distributor CD Baby. FUGA provides a wide range of content delivery and music distribution services to artists, labels and other distributors. FUGA CEO Pieter van Rijn said that by becoming part of the acquisitive Downtown Music group it will be able to better achieve its “global ambitions”. [READ MORE]

It emerged that US media regulator the FCC has written to the majors asking questions about their anti-payola policies. Payola, of course, is when a label bribes a radio station to playlist its music, such bribes breaching broadcasting rules in most countries. In its letter, the FCC admitted that in a world where artists and labels can buy social followers and streaming service plays – even profiting from the latter – rules about radio payola possibly need updating. Grilling the majors about their payola policies, it said, was step one in a review that might result in a change to the law. [READ MORE]

BBC Director General Tony Hall announced he would be standing down later this year. He said that a new DG should be appointed who could navigate both a 2022 review of the BBC’s royal charter and the subsequent 2027 renewal of that Parliamentary agreement, which is what secures the broadcaster its licence fee income. The funding and future of the BBC is likely to be a big talking point in political circles in the next few years. Future changes could have a big impact on the music industry, which relies on the BBC for both editorial support and royalty income. Though, through its festivals and ever-evolving BBC Sounds app, the broadcaster is also increasingly a competitor of the music industry, something else that will likely be considered in any future political reviews. [READ MORE]

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