Business News CMU Digest

CMU Digest 30.01.22: Neil Young, COVID, Cardi B, CMA, SGAE

By | Published on Sunday 30 January 2022

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

Neil Young sparked a big debate about Spotify’s content policies after hitting out at the Joe Rogan podcast. The musician was prompted by an earlier letter signed by more than 250 scientists and medics which criticised the Joe Rogan Experience for spreading COVID misinformation – and Spotify, as the exclusive distributor of that podcast, for not doing anything about Rogan’s misleading content. In his own letter, Young requested that his music be removed from Spotify in protest, arguing that Rogan’s podcast is incredibly influential and is endangering the lives of its listeners by validating conspiracy theories around COVID and the vaccines. The musician’s label complied with that request and his recordings subsequently started to disappear from Spotify. The streaming service said it regretted Young’s decision, but that it had detailed content policies which balance listener safety with each creator’s freedom of speech. With many other artists echoing Young’s concerns – and Joni Mitchell for one also pulling her music from the service – it remains to be seen in Spotify’s subscriber numbers take a noticeable hit. And, if so, what the streaming firm does to assure artists and users it takes misinformation and disinformation on its platform seriously. [READ MORE]

A YouTuber was ordered to pay Cardi B $4 million in damages after being found liable for defamation. Among other things Latasha Kebe’s YouTube channel had published allegations that the rapper “was a prostitute … was a user of cocaine … had and still has herpes … had and still has HPV … engaged in a debasing act with a beer bottle and … committed infidelity”. Kebe confirmed in court that she hadn’t fact-checked any of the Cardi B claims she had published and basically admitted that celebrity lies were useful for driving views and therefore ad revenue on her channel. It didn’t take the jury hearing the case long to side with the rapper, who had told jurors how the rumours spread by the YouTuber had made her depressed and suicidal. Kebe returned to YouTube to issue a long statement in which she vowed to appeal, spinning the case as a fight against the Hollywood machine and in defence of the First Amendment free speech rights of online creators. [READ MORE]

It was confirmed that more than a quarter of the concerts and shows that had been due to take place in the UK in Q1 of 2022 have been cancelled because of COVID. That confirmation came from a survey undertaken by LIVE, the trade body for the live sector. Some shows were affected by actual COVID lockdown restrictions that were in force in some parts of the UK, but many more were cancelled because of government messaging at the end of last year that discouraged people from going to live entertainment. Meanwhile some promoters cancelled shows because they feared new lockdown restrictions could be instigated – or that artists or crew might get COVID and have to quarantine – and therefore it wasn’t worth the risk of selling tickets to shows that might have to be pulled at the last minute. On top of that, there’s the issue that where UK shows are part of a European tour, COVID restrictions elsewhere in Europe have often resulted in whole tours being postponed. With all that mind, LIVE was keen to stress that further government support for the sector is required, even as COVID restrictions are fully lifted and things start to return to normal. [READ MORE]

The UK’s Competition & Markets Authority announced more details about its study of the streaming music market. The study was prompted by Parliament’s economics of streaming inquiry last year, the final report of which recommended that the CMA investigate whether any dominant players in the music rights industry and/or digital music sector were skewing the market to the detriment of artists and songwriters. The regulator confirmed that, among other things, its study will consider what impact – if any – the majors dominating both the record industry and the music publishing sector has on the streaming business – which is important because some have argued that that fact has resulted in more digital money going to recordings than songs. But it won’t just be the majors in the spotlight, as the study will also ask “whether any business practices adopted by music streaming services (for example how they collect and use consumer data) may harm consumers, especially as more adopt music streaming”. [READ MORE]

The Spanish competition regulator, the CNMC, launched new proceedings against the country’s big song rights collecting society SGAE. The Spanish society has been subject to various controversies in recent years over its governance and royalty distribution policies, which resulted in some publishers and writers seeking alternative ways to license their songs in the market, in particular via a newer collective management entity called Unison. SGAE has been accused of employing anti-competitive tactics to hinder Unison’s arrival into the market-place, including enforcing unfair restrictions on members looking to move their rights from the old society to the new. That complaint was previously investigated by the CNMC and led to SGAE being fined in 2019. The new proceedings relate to a new complaint from Unison regarding the design and application of SGAE’s blanket licences in the television and radio domain. [READ MORE]

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