TODAY'S TOP STORY: Merlin, the global digital licensing agency for indie labels and distributors, has revealed Jeremy Sirota as its new CEO. He joins from Facebook's music team and replaces Charles Caldas, who announced his plans to step down last June after more than a decade leading Merlin ever since it was set up in 2007... [READ MORE]
TOP STORIES Merlin appoints Facebook's Jeremy Sirota as new CEO
LEGAL Baseball player Bieber hits snag in his Not Justin trademark application
DIGITAL & D2F SERVICES Spotify launches new podcast-centric advertising tools
RELEASES Emika announces new solo piano album
Summer Camp announce new album, Romantic Comedy
AWARDS Celeste tops BBC Sound Of 2020 poll
ONE LINERS Emile Haynie, Keane, Tame Impala, more
AND FINALLY... Wiley and Stormzy issue follow-up diss tracks, as Dot Rotten also enters the fray
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Merlin appoints Facebook's Jeremy Sirota as new CEO
Merlin, the global digital licensing agency for indie labels and distributors, has revealed Jeremy Sirota as its new CEO. He joins from Facebook's music team and replaces Charles Caldas, who announced his plans to step down last June after more than a decade leading Merlin ever since it was set up in 2007.

On top of Sirota's appointment to the CEO role, former Epitaph Records General Manager Dave Hansen has also been announced as the organisation's first ever Executive Chair.

Getting right down to work, he says the following about Sirota taking on the CEO job: "Having committed to an incredibly rigorous and wide-reaching search, Merlin has found an exceptional individual to lead the organisation forward. In addition to his experience at Facebook, Jeremy brings a deep-seated knowledge of independent music and a reputation for embracing new, exciting and transformational technologies".

"We believe he can build on the groundbreaking work of Charles Caldas and ensure Merlin's membership continues to thrive in a global digital music market", he adds.

That there mentioned "deep-seated knowledge of independent music" was fostered during Sirota's long tenure at... well... erm... major label Warner Music. Where, to be fair, he did for a time run the mini major's artist and label services division ADA.

Sirota has said some words too and those words are these: "I am honoured by this opportunity to lead Merlin and serve independents throughout the world. Merlin's team of executives and employees are widely respected throughout the music and DSP communities, and I look forward to working closely with them to write the next chapter".

That next chapter, of course, will likely include new business models to navigate, understand and license. Many, initially at least, in the user-generated content space which - although part of the YouTube business for more than a decade - only really became a priority for the music industry once Sirota's former employer Facebook finally got around to signing some licensing deals two years ago.

Looking ahead at that next chapter, Sirota goes on: "With the digital music market potentially on the brink of another wave of transformative change, it's vital that independents continue to have an organisation that represents their interests, ensures the value of their repertoire is respected, and keeps pace with innovation".

These aren't the only changes at Merlin by the way. A total of eight new indie label reps have been appointed to its fifteen strong board. The new additions are Alexandria Hock (Better Noise Music), Carlos Mills (Mills Records), Chan Kim (Fluxus Inc), Katie Alberts (Reach Records), Marie Clausen (Ninja Tune), Merida Sussex (Stolen Recordings), Michael Ugwu (Freeme Digital) and Pieter van Rijn (FUGA).


Baseball player Bieber hits snag in his Not Justin trademark application
A baseball player called Shane Bieber has run into a problem in his bid to trademark the brand name Not Justin. Though don't be thinking that has anything to do with the poppy Bieber, who is far too busy flogging his new single to be interfering with the sporty Bieber's sneaky business plan.

Sporty Bieber first used the line "Not Justin" on the back of a shirt he wore last summer, acknowledging in a jokey way that there was a much more famous Bieber over there in the pop world. Poppy Bieber responded by subsequently wearing a shirt bearing the less snappy line "Not Shane Bieber".

A trademark application from Sporty Bieber then followed, he seemingly wanting to start selling clothing and other 'apparel' bearing the "Not Justin" line.

However, according to Law360, a Texas-based shoe company called Justin Boots has objected to sporty Bieber's trademark bid. It argues that if a range of sporty clothing - and especially sporty shoes - were now released bearing the brand name Not Justin, consumers might confuse those products with, or assume some sort of endorsement from, Justin Boots. Consumers being famously stupid and therefore presumably unfamiliar with the meaning of the word "not".

In a filing to the US Patent And Trademark Office, reps for Justin Boots wrote: "In view of the similarities between opposer's marks and applicant's mark and the fact that applicant's opposed goods are identical or closely related ... there is a likelihood that applicant's opposed goods will be perceived as being sponsored or affiliated with opposer".

Sporty Bieber is now reviewing the filing. Poppy Bieber is yet to comment. Maybe he could try to trademark "Not Shane" for a new range of clothing. Then one time cricketer Shane Warne could seek to block that via his clothing business.

And then we could all enjoy a whole load more legal wrangling between the worlds of music, sport and fashion all because one mediocre joke got out of control. Needless to say, we'd be THRILLED about that.


Spotify launches new podcast-centric advertising tools
Spotify is hoping to solidify its position in the podcast market by launching new tools for brands looking to advertise in or alongside podcast programmes on its platform. The firm is hoping to woo advertisers on the basis that, because its podcasts stream - whereas with traditional podcast apps the content is downloaded - it can provide much more data to brands about the programmes they choose to ally with.

Podcasts have been a big part of the Spotify conversation in the last couple of years, of course, as the firm has increasingly pushed podcast content to the fore in its app and marketing, while behind the scenes acquiring technology and talent from the podcasting world.

One big benefit of podcasts for Spotify is that, for podcast makers, apps and platforms are seen as delivery channels rather than B2B customers who pay for content. So unlike with music, Spotify gets most of its podcast material for free. The podcasters are used to making money by selling advertising (or advertorial and product placement) themselves or via separate ad platforms. Or they make money in other ways such as merch sales, or through Patreon or a Kickstarter campaign.

However, for Spotify to make money itself from podcast content it needs to monetise the medium. And if it can crack podcast monetisation and then share the benefits of that with the podcast makers, that could give it an edge within the podcaster community, who might then direct their listeners away from other podcast apps towards Spotify. And in particular away from the traditionally dominant podcast app of Spotify's biggest overall rival Apple.

Obviously it helps that Spotify already has an ad sales business, even if the advertising side of its music service has always seemed like a bit of a lacklustre loss-leader to hook people in and then upsell them a premium subscription.

But with Spotify's podcast business, advertising income could become a serious part of the mix. Even if - where brands buy product placement within a podcast - that means you have the problem of premium subscribers hearing advertising content, even though a key selling point of premium is that it's ad-free. Nevertheless, opportunities abound.

Which is why it's perhaps unsurprising that Spotify's first big announcement of 2020 is the launch of a thing called Streaming Ad Insertion, what the company defines as a "new proprietary podcast ad technology that powers Spotify Podcast Ads".

As noted, it's all about providing advertisers with the kinds of data that has not been available from traditional podcast platforms - or the radio industry, for that matter, given Spotify is also competing with radio companies for ad spend.

Spotify explains: "This includes data such as actual ad impression, frequency (number of times a listener heard the ad), reach and anonymised audience insights (age, gender, device type). This is the first time this type of data is available for advertisers and podcast creators".

"The shift in [podcast] consumption from downloads to streaming", it then adds, "has opened the door for advances in data-driven podcast advertising, and here at Spotify, we're moving beyond these constraints to reimagine what's possible for this uniquely powerful and intimate medium".

It then brags on: "With this technology, we are offering the intimacy, quality and efficacy of traditional podcast ads with the precision and transparency of modern-day digital marketing. In short, we're keeping what podcast listeners, creators, and advertisers love about podcast ads and making the medium addressable for digital advertisers".

Now, at launch the new ad tools will only apply to Spotify's own podcasts, ie those that it creates in-house or carries on an exclusive basis. So in the short term it's more about boosting Spotify's own revenues rather than reinventing the wider podcast business.

Capitalising on the bigger opportunities in this space also means navigating tricky questions around the nature of Spotify's relationship with third-party podcast makers, not to mention the challenges around licensing music for podcast programmes.

But Spotify is certainly getting ready to navigate those tricky questions and challenges. Yesterday's big announcement signed off with: "This is only the beginning for Spotify Podcast Ads. Watch this space". Oh, we will Spotify, don't you worry. That we will.


Approved: Charlotte Rose Benjamin
Following a number of self-released singles, Charlotte Rose Benjamin allied with Moshi Moshi Records last year and will release her debut EP for the label next month.

Penning well-crafted songs that are, she says, linked by being "about not having all the answers", the latest - 'Party City' - is the EP's title track.

"It is an ode to the beloved party supplies store of the same name", she says. "It's a time capsule of my first year in New York throwing house parties on weekends. The verses recount a list of 'could'ves', places we could've gone, people we could've been or been with, while the chorus celebrates the present, emphasising the importance of enjoying the moment".

Alongside previous releases from the EP - 'Ten Thousand Pesos' and 'Cursed' - the new track marks her out as a new talent bursting with potential. The 'Party City' EP is set for release on 21 Feb. For now, here's the video for its namesake.

Stay up to date with all of the artists featured in the CMU Approved column by subscribing to our Spotify playlist.

Emika announces new solo piano album
Emika has announced that her second solo piano album, 'Klavirni Temna', will be released next month. It follows 'Klavirni', which came out in 2015.

Recorded while she was pregnant with her first child, Silvy, the album was made, she says, "in a state of ultra hyped up creativity combined with a massive fear about losing my identity or creativity as an artist once I would become a mother"

"I had this record on the shelf for a long time ready while I was nursing Silvy and one day I decided I better get back to finishing the production and listen to the vinyl test presses", she adds. "At that moment Silvy came in from her nap and touched my tummy and said 'mummy', which freaked me out, as she seemed to associate these pieces and the piano sound with me. Music is a powerful and sometimes unexplainable force".

The release - due out on 14 Feb - also marks the fifth anniversary of the launch of the musician's own Emika Records label.


Summer Camp announce new album, Romantic Comedy
Summer Camp have announced that they will release their first album since 2015's 'Bad Love' next month. Titled 'Romantic Comedy', it also serves as the soundtrack to a new documentary of the same name directed by the duo's Elizabeth Sankey.

The latest single from the record is 'Women In Love', about which the duo say: "'Women In Love' is about falling for a woman who is packed full of idiosyncrasies and complexity".

"Obviously the 'manic pixie dream girl' trope of rom coms has been discussed in great detail, but for us this song is less about those more modern heroines, and more about the classic rom com queens who completely befuddle and complicate the lives of the men who are attracted to them", they go on.

"It's Katharine Hepburn in 'Bringing Up Baby', Marilyn Monroe in 'Some Like It Hot', and Goldie Hawn in 'The Housesitter'. It's about how their love interests feel so lucky to be adored by such strange, complicated, and surprising women".

Listen to 'Women In Love' here.

As well as songs featured in and inspired by the 'Romantic Comedy' documentary, the album will also feature portions of an instrumental score written by the other half of the duo, Jeremy Walmsley, as well as audio snippets of the film itself.

The documentary, by the way, is "a painfully honest love letter that both celebrates and skewers the way romance has historically been portrayed in cinema, and how these depictions have affected the way the audience conducts and pursues their own relationships".

Here's a trailer.


Celeste tops BBC Sound Of 2020 poll
Celeste has been named the winner of BBC Music's Sound Of 2020 poll. She can put the trophy alongside her BRITs Rising Star Award and BBC Music Introducing Artist Of The Year 2019 prize. It's almost as if we don't need quite so many new talent awards.

In the BBC Sound Of competition, Celeste pushed Easy Life down into second place, with her closest BRITs poll rival Joy Crookes in fourth. She now takes over all the official sound-making duties from last year's winner, Octavian.

"2019 was an incredible year for me and I could never have predicted half of the things that happened", says Celeste. "Some of my favourite memories have been the live shows. From performing 'Strange' for the very first time at the Lexington for BBC Introducing, going live with Annie Mac from Maida Vale, to Jools Holland, I'm so grateful for every opportunity I've had so far and am looking forward to what 2020 will bring".

Basically, the BBC's had her back for a while now. And one of the there mentioned supporters, Annie Mac, was on hand to say something about the Sound Of win.

"Celeste is a phenomenal talent", she declares. "A voice that does not come around often and when you are exposed to it, is impossible to ignore. I have received countless emotional texts from listeners who have had to sit in their car and lose themselves to her song 'Strange' before carrying on with their evening".

Mac adds: "Her songwriting is personal and poignant but with universal appeal. I think she could easily join the longlist of Sound Of winners who went on to be global stars. I can't wait to hear more from Celeste and all of our longlist in 2020".

A special live broadcast featuring performances from all ten artists longlisted for the Sound Of 2020 will be broadcast on Radio 1 on 5 Feb, presented by, you guessed it, Annie Mac.

Now, as everyone keeps banging on about this song 'Strange', I guess we should finish with that.



Hipgnosis has signed another producer, this time Emile Haynie. He has worked with artists including Kanye West, Eminem, Lana Del Rey, Bruno Mars and Kid Cudi. The Hipgnosis deal covers both his producer and songwriter royalties. "He is one of the most influential producers of the last decade", says Hipgnosis boss Merck Mercuriadis.



Keane have released three new EPs, featuring demos, session tracks and live recordings. It could have been an album really, but EPs are all the rage, aren't they? And here they all are, one, two, three.

Tame Impala have released new single 'Lost In Yesterday'. Their new album, 'The Slow Rush', is out on 14 Feb through Fiction Records.

Squarepusher has released new track 'Neverlevers'. His new album, 'Be Up A Hello', is out on 31 Jan through Warp.

Susanne Sundfør has released new song 'When The Lord'. The track is taken from her soundtrack to a new documentary about photographer Lene Marie Fossen, 'Self Portrait'. The full soundtrack will be out on Friday.

Guided By Voices have announced that they will release their latest album, 'Surrender Your Poppy Field', on 20 Feb through their own GBV Inc label. From it, this is 'Volcano'.

Hip hop producer Knxwledge has released new solo single 'Do You'. His new album is due out on Stones Throw later this year.

Grouplove have released new single 'Deleter'.

Sign Libra has announced that she will release her second album, 'Sea To Sea', through RVNG Intl on 21 Feb. From it, this is 'Sea Of Islands'.

Lyra Pramuk will release her debut album, 'The Fountain', through Bedroom Community on 20 Mar. Listen to 'Tendril' from the album here.



Noah Cyrus has announced that she will play her first ever UK show at London's Islington Academy on 11 Feb.

Oh Sees have announced new UK and Ireland tour dates in May, including a two night run at the Electric Ballroom in Camden. Tickets are available now.

Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.


Wiley and Stormzy issue follow-up diss tracks, as Dot Rotten also enters the fray
We're still less than ten days into 2020 and already Wiley and Stormzy have put out two diss tracks apiece. And if you count the new offering from Dot Rotten, that's three Stormzy sends this week. Maybe everyone will have done one before the year is out.

Stormzy could be very busy indeed addressing all of them. For now though, he's just focussing on Wiley (still quite a job).

Following on from 'Eediyat Skengman 1' earlier this week, Wiley has now released 'Eediyat Skengman 2', in which he takes swipes at Stormzy's family. "If I see your mum down Croydon market/I'm gonna rip that weave off her head, dead", he says in one particularly inspired line.

He also claims a parent-like responsibility for the career he is now trying to take down, telling Stormzy: "I've done more for you than your Dad has".

In his response - having already laid into Wiley's brother in his first track - Stormzy also keeps things personal, rapping: "I'm a real G, and your dad's a witness/Boy'd your bro, then your sister begged it/I told that little bitch, 'Don't ask for pictures'.

Later he spends a large portion of the track accusing Wiley of forcing his mother to move to Cyprus after he "put her life in danger". Then says that he wants to have sex with her. So that's a thing now.

Before all this, Dot Rotten entered the fray with his track, 'Oi Stormzy, Sit Back Down'. Given that he is arguably responsible for this whole feud, it having grown out of an earlier beef between him and producer Jay1, it is perhaps appropriate for him to comment. Who knows though, eh? Whatever, it's out there.

Whether Stormzy will deliver a shot back at Dot Rotten's effort remains to be seen. Maybe he'll just let it lie. Of course, what we're all really waiting for is Ed Sheeran's contribution.


ANDY MALT | Editor
Andy heads up the team, overseeing the CMU Daily, website and Setlist podcast, managing social channels, reporting on artist and business stories, and writing the CMU Approved column.
[email protected] (except press releases, see below)
CHRIS COOKE | Co-Founder & MD
Chris provides music business coverage, writing key business news and CMU Trends. He also leads the CMU Insights and CMU Pathways consultancy units and the CMU:DIY future talent programme, as well as heading up CMU publisher 3CM UnLimited.
[email protected] (except press releases, see below)
SAM TAYLOR | Commercial Manager
Sam oversees the commercial side of the CMU media, leading on sales and sponsorship, and also heads up business development at CMU InsightsCMU Pathways and CMU:DIY.
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CARO MOSES | Co-Publisher
Caro helps oversee the CMU media as a Director of 3CM UnLimited, as well as heading up the company's other two titles ThisWeek London and ThreeWeeks Edinburgh, and supporting other parts of the business.
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