Business News CMU Digest

CMU Digest 30.07.23: Spotify, Utopia Music, The 1975, The Leadmill, Night & Day

By | Published on Sunday 30 July 2023

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

Spotify confirmed it is increasing the baseline price of its premium subscription package in 53 territories. The wide-ranging price increase has been a long-time coming. The service’s baseline price has been 9.99 a month in many key markets ever since it launched, which means – once inflation is factored in – subscription prices have been falling each year. Given streaming services have a revenue share relationship with the music industry, that impacts on the music community too. There have been increased calls in recent years from record labels, music publishers and music-makers for Spotify to put its prices up, and those calls only intensified when its rivals Apple, Amazon and YouTube all starting moving to a 10.99 baseline. Confirming that its baseline price was finally moving to 10.99 a month in the US, UK and beyond, Spotify said: “These updates will help us continue to deliver value to fans and artists on our platform”. [READ MORE]

Utopia Music commented on the closure of its R&D units in the UK and Finland, after it emerged that the specific company which employed the UK R&D team had actually been put into liquidation and that the group’s Finnish R&D business – Utopia R&D Tech Finland OY – had also been placed into bankruptcy. That will have an impact on the employees who worked for those two companies, with sources saying that staff at the UK business had been told to pursue the appointed liquidators for wages that they are owed. However, Utopia stated that “an independent specialised company not affiliated with Utopia has been engaged to provide specialised assistance to each employee in claiming their entitlements”. The closure of the R&D companies followed the recent divestment of various businesses that Utopia previously acquired during a period of rapid growth in 2021 and 2022, including ROSTR and Sentric Music, and most recently Absolute Label Services which was reacquired by its management team. [READ MORE]

The 1975 faced legal action in Malaysia after on-stage comments led to the cancellation of a music festival. During the band’s set at the Good Vibes Festival in Kuala Lumpur, frontman Matty Healy spoke out against Malaysia’s anti-LGBTQ+ laws, telling his audience that “your government are a bunch of fucking retards”. Not only was The 1975’s set cut short, but the remaining two days of the festival were cancelled because of a government directive. A local lawyer said he would work pro bono for artists or vendors who lost money because of the cancellation, subsequently telling NME that ten people had already signed up to sue The 1975 via a class action lawsuit. There was also much debate at to whether Healy’s comments were a help or a hindrance to the LGBTQ+ community in Malaysia, with some arguing that the incident could aid local politicians pursuing a homophobic agenda. [READ MORE]

The Leadmill ramped up its campaign against its landlord, the Electric Group. The current management team at the Sheffield venue were given one year to vacate the building in March last year, with the Electric Group – which already runs venues in London, Bristol and Newcastle – planning to directly operate the space moving forward. However, the current team have so far refused to leave, running a high profile campaign against their landlord’s plans which has won the support of many artists and music fans. The Electric Group argues that the current team are misleading people into thinking that the venue will close when they leave, when in fact little will change once the new management team is in place. The landlord is applying for its own licence to run a venue in the building and that application will go before Sheffield Council’s licensing committee in September. Ahead of that, the current Leadmill team posted an emotive new video stating that they are involved in “a battle for the soul of Sheffield”. [READ MORE]

Management at the Night & Day venue expressed frustration that their dispute with Manchester City Council over a noise abatement order remains unresolved. That order was issued in 2021 following a complaint by a resident living in a building adjacent to the venue. The Night & Day team argue that complying with the order will make their business unviable, adding that the council should have dealt with possible noise issues when it granted planning permission for the redevelopment of the neighbouring property 20 years ago. The dispute initially got to the magistrate’s court in Manchester last November and, after various delays, the venue hoped that the matter would be resolved once and for all at a court hearing this month. However, instead the case has been adjourned once again so that the council can undertake more acoustic testing at the venue in September. If an agreement between the venue and the council can’t be reached after that, the legal dispute could rumble on into 2024. [READ MORE]

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