TODAY'S TOP STORY: The relatively recently appointed American boss of TikTok, Kevin Mayer, has resigned as the video-sharing app continues to tackle assorted political challenges, in the US and elsewhere. Even if the China-based company can successfully navigate all those political challenges, the likely outcome is some fundamental changes to the structure of the TikTok business. And, Mayer says, that means the role he signed up for will no longer exist... [READ MORE]
TOP STORIES TikTok's new American CEO quits amidst the app's political drama
LEGAL Empire copyright case shouldn't impact on Shake It Off litigation, say Swift's song-theft accusers
DEALS Sony/ATV signs Bernie Herms
LABELS & PUBLISHERS Dirty Hit launches US and Australian divisions
MANAGEMENT & FUNDING ACE provides another £2 million in COVID support for music and theatre makers
RELEASES War Child to reissue Help album for 25th anniversary
ONE LINERS 6ix9ine, Disclosure, Princess Nokia, more
AND FINALLY... Nas missed out on recording with Notorious BIG because he was "too high"
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TikTok's new American CEO quits amidst the app's political drama
The relatively recently appointed American boss of TikTok, Kevin Mayer, has resigned as the video-sharing app continues to tackle assorted political challenges, in the US and elsewhere. Even if the China-based company can successfully navigate all those political challenges, the likely outcome is some fundamental changes to the structure of the TikTok business. And, Mayer says, that means the role he signed up for will no longer exist.

Long-time Disney exec Mayer joined TikTok as CEO in May, also becoming COO of its parent company Bytedance. Political woes were already mounting for the TikTok business by then, of course, with politicians in multiple countries expressing concerns over what access the Chinese government has to the app's data and audience.

Indeed, the hiring of Mayer and concurrent ramping up of TikTok's on-the-ground operations in countries like the US and the UK was all seen as an effort on Bytedance's part to play down the significance of its China base and to big up its credentials as a global tech company that could work with Western governments.

However, the political problems have only increased, especially in the US where President Donald Trump has made TikTok a key target in his wider sparring with the Chinese government. That resulted in two executive orders being issued, one banning Americans from transacting with TikTok from mid-September and another ordering Bytedance to sell all its US assets by mid-November.

Opinion is divided as to what extent those orders are based on legitimate concerns about TikTok's operations, and to what extent they are really about Trump's election campaign and his bid to seem 'tough on China'. Though Bytedance's lawyers have presented some pretty compelling arguments as to why the President's demands overreach his legal powers and ultimately breach the US Constitution.

But, of course, while going on the PR and legal offensive against Team Trump, Bytedance has also been busy looking into offloading the US TikTok business, possibly to Microsoft, in order to placate American politicians. Those talks are ongoing and, according to sources, could result in a US-based company operating the TikTok app in multiple markets, not just the US itself.

Those increasingly likely structural changes - and the long-term impact of them - seem to have been a key factor in Mayer's decision to quit the top job, in particular that he could end up running TikTok from the US but not in the US. In a memo to staff he wrote: "I understand that the role that I signed up for - including running TikTok globally - will look very different as a result of the US administration's action to push for a sell off of the US business".

The same memo stated: "In recent weeks, as the political environment has sharply changed, I have done significant reflection on what the corporate structural changes will require, and what it means for the global role I signed up for. Against this backdrop, and as we expect to reach a resolution very soon, it is with a heavy heart that I wanted to let you all know that I have decided to leave the company".

However, while the politics may make the CEO's role very different, he was keen to stress that TikTok users and employees elsewhere in the hierarchy should be less impacted by the outcome of any moves to placate Trump.

"As we look to the next phase of this company", he went on "there is no doubt that the future is incredibly bright. For our users, any potential structural changes should not affect their experience, and I strongly believe that our community will be more creative and diverse than ever. The platform will continue to provide our global community an amazing and integrated experience as it does today. Similarly, from an employee perspective, I believe that the vast majority of work will be unchanged".

In a separate letter to staff, Bytedance boss Zhang Yiming said: "Kevin spoke to me, and I fully understand that the resulting outcome that we land upon due to the political circumstances we are operating within could have significant impact on his job in any scenario, but particularly given his global role while he's based in the US. I thank Kevin for his efforts towards a resolution to these issues and wish him well".

Noting the actual TikTok ban in India as well as the potential ban in the US, the Bytedance chief continued: "I want to let everyone know that we are moving quickly to find resolutions to the issues that we face globally, particularly in the US and India. I cannot get into details at this point, but I can assure you that we are developing solutions that will be in the interest of users, creators, partners, and employees".

Meanwhile, TikTok has also made an official statement on Mayer's departure: "We appreciate that the political dynamics of the last few months have significantly changed what the scope of Kevin's role would be going forward, and fully respect his decision. We thank him for his time at the company and wish him well".

And so the TikTok dramas continue.


Empire copyright case shouldn't impact on Shake It Off litigation, say Swift's song-theft accusers
The songwriters who accuse Taylor Swift of ripping off their song when she wrote 'Shake It Off' would like everyone to know that a recent ruling on another copyright dispute over the TV show 'Empire' is not relevant to their case. That's only important because Swift's lawyers reckon that it is.

Sean Hall and Nathan Butler accuse Swift of ripping off their 2001 song 'Playas Gon Play' on her 2014 hit in which, of course, she sang that "the players gonna play, play, play, play, play/And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate". The earlier song contained the lyric "the playas gon play/them haters gonna hate".

Hall and Butler's lawsuit was originally dismissed on the basis that players playing and haters hating was all too banal for the duo's lyrics to be protected by copyright. But the Ninth Circuit appeals court overturned that decision on the basis that the banality, or not, of Hall and Butler's lyrics and the impact that has on their copyright status was a matter for a jury not a judge to decide.

That means the case is now back with the original district court. And earlier this month Taylor Swift's legal team filed new court papers summarising once again their various arguments as to why their client's 2014 lyrics did not infringe any copyright in Hall and Butler's 2001 song.

Then earlier this week they made another much shorter filing with the court alerting the judge to a recent Ninth Circuit ruling in relation to a copyright dispute over the music-industry-set US TV show 'Empire'. In that lawsuit a man called Jon Astor-White accused Fox TV of ripping off a treatment he had written for an unproduced music-industry-set TV show called 'King Solomon'.

That dispute has been bouncing around the US courts for a while now. The most recent Ninth Circuit ruling went against Astor-White, in the process noting that the similarities between his 'King Solomon' treatment and the 'Empire' series were unprotectable ideas and concepts, and/or common elements of TV shows.

That is why a lawsuit in relation to a TV show concept is of interest to those involved in a lawsuit in relation to a song. After all, Team Swift's core argument is that the only similarity between 'Playas Gon Play' and 'Shake It Off' is the unprotectable idea and concept that players play and haters hate.

However, shortly after Swift's reps made the district court aware of the Ninth Circuit ruling, the Hall and Butler team submitted their own legal filing explaining why the 'Empire' case is not relevant to their dispute. Like, at all.

That explanation includes the fact that a key issue with Astor-White's copyright claim was that he had only ever shared his treatment for 'King Solomon' with three other people and couldn't really show how it might have got into the hands of Fox and the creators of 'Empire'.

Whereas 'Playas Gon Play' was commercially released, so it's much easier to demonstrate how Swift or one of her collaborators may have had access to it prior to writing 'Shake It Off'.

And while the Ninth Circuit does also discuss the limitations of copyright regarding ideas and concepts in its most recent 'Empire' ruling, because that was not key to the court's ultimate decision such chatter is "pure dicta", Hall and Butler say. So, just idle commentary by judges that is not a fundamental part of the judgement.

Plus, Hall and Butler's lawyers go on, just in case that first argument doesn't work, whereas the 'King Solomon' treatment and 'Empire' series only loosely shared unprotected ideas and concepts, the shared ideas and concepts in 'Playas Gon Play' and 'Shake It Off' are expressed in a very similar way, which is where the copyright claim comes from.

So, basically, Hall and Butler would like you all to ignore the 'Empire' ruling. Which, you possibly were already. Though really it's the judge in the 'Shake It Off' song-theft case who needs to completely ignore that totally irrelevant telly case that really doesn't matter.


Sony/ATV signs Bernie Herms
Sony/ATV has signed producer and songwriter Bernie Herms to a worldwide publishing deal. Herms has worked with a broad range of artists during his career, including Barbra Streisand, Josh Groban, Kelly Clarkson, Andrea Bocelli and Selena Gomez.

"Bernie is one of smartest, most genuine and open-hearted songwriters I have ever met", says Sony/ATV Nashville CEO Rusty Gaston. "Simply put, his music makes the world a better place. We are THRILLED to welcome Bernie to the Sony/ATV family and I'm confident we will earn great success together as a team".

Herms adds: "I feel incredibly fortunate to have worked with so many iconic artists and songwriters throughout my career. Joining the Sony/ATV family becomes a pinnacle highlight for me, and I'm excited to have the opportunity to work with Rusty and the rest of his world-class creative team".


Dirty Hit launches US and Australian divisions
London-based indie label Dirty Hit yesterday confirmed the launch of bases in the US and Australia. The American operations will be run out of LA, headed up by Greg Carr, while in Australia Rachel Jones-Williams will oversee the label's Asia-Pacific operations from Sydney. The new divisions will both work with Dirty Hit's global distribution partner Ingrooves.

Announcing all this, Dirty Hit boss Jamie Oborne says: "Our ethos as a label has always been to maintain and develop a roster of diverse and culturally important artists and an exciting and forward-thinking team with a distinctive identity, across a global sphere. Opening offices in territories where we have seen huge growth in recent years feels like the natural next step in the global expansion of the label. We are excited to build upon these early successes and have huge ambitions for the future of the label".

Carr joins the indie from Universal Music, while Jones-Williams was previously with Sony Music. Oborne goes on: "Having worked with both Greg and Rachel for the past few years across much of our roster, we are delighted that they are joining the team at Dirty Hit. They bring with them a wealth of expertise and experience and are the perfect people to ensure we are offering our artists a truly global platform".


ACE provides another £2 million in COVID support for music and theatre makers
Arts Council England has announced another £2 million in COVID-related funding, with half going to music-makers via the Help Musicians COVID-19 Financial Hardship Fund. The other million will be distributed by the Theatre Artists Fund.

The latest announcement of ACE funding for those negatively impacted by the COVID-19 shutdown comes amid concerns that much of the £1.57 billion committed to the creative sector by the UK government will go to venues, institutions and businesses, rather than individual creators, or the large number of freelancers who work in the creative industries.

The funds getting the latest £2 million are specifically skewed towards individuals rather than organisations. ACE has already provided £4 million to similar funds since shutdown began, including £900,000 to HMUK. However, the latest cash injection shows that individual creators and freelancers are still facing significant hardship as COVID continues to impact on the creative sector, and especially live performance.

ACE Deputy CEO Simon Mellor said: "We're pleased to invest in the Theatre Artists Fund and Help Musicians' Financial Hardship funding, which are providing a lifeline during this unparalleled crisis to thousands of professional musicians and theatre workers – including those from our most under-represented communities. We hope that our investment in these funds will also attract and encourage other creative industries organisations and donors to make much-needed contributions".

Meanwhile, Help Musicians CEO James Ainscough added: "We're extremely pleased to see Arts Council England's support reach freelance music creators, without whom our cultural landscape would be left decimated. With live events and the future of work for performing musicians still uncertain, this further financial help is crucial to the survival of their careers. This funding will enable Help Musicians to provide much needed additional financial support to more musicians during autumn and hopefully well into winter".


Approved: Sharp Veins
Over the last few years, Sharp Veins - aka musician Harrison King - has put out electronic music spanning everything from pop to ambient. Now he's back with the second track from his debut album, 'Armor Your Actions Up In Quest', which sees him delving into... what? I don't know.

"These are synthetic rock/metal approximations, emo indie into post-grunge played by automation, straight-synth-power-pop, and new wave sped up", he explains. Sort of.

"It's harshness for the sake of harshness", he goes on, "asynchronous manipulated sample scree and wavering experimentalism. It's shlocky shredding, histrionics, wailing vocals, huge drums and bulbous bass. It's a dinky pocket orchestra and triumphant trance drama. It's cheesy songs imagined for an arena, and it's a lullaby".

The first track from the album, 'Therapist Wrestle', which was released earlier this month, is relatively pure in its rock influence, although it is still ultimately electronic music. Meanwhile new track 'Built Camp, Reflected On Failed Quest' gives more of a hint at the lengths King is willing to stretch the album's influences to.

"I revisited and analysed new and old records, most of which weren't electronic, front to back, and eventually, I figured, 'fuck it, I might as well elucidate sonic intentions'", he says. "I wanted to make conspicuously plastic, garbled and mismatched music; pieces that, added together, amounted to something garish and bursting".

"These cartoonish versions of established and appreciated rock and metal tropes are reduced to their strata, mixed and matched, strained to MIDI and forcibly ripped and pasted back together with no regard for tastefulness", he goes on. "It seemed like a good way to at once overcome writer's block and turn my nose up at the notions of musical purity that were consistently giving me fits of imposter syndrome".

'Armor Your Actions Up In Quest' is out on 18 Sep. Listen to 'Built Camp, Reflected On Failed Quest' here.

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

War Child to reissue Help album for 25th anniversary
The War Child charity is marking the 25th anniversary of its seminal 'Help' compilation with a limited edition vinyl reissue. It will also be made available on digital services for the first time.

Recorded in a single day in 1995, and released a week later (on CD, kids, it was harder to just put stuff out back then), the record featured performances by various artists of the day, including Oasis, The Stone Roses, Radiohead, Portishead, The KLF, Blur, Massive Attack and Paul McCartney.

The inspiration for the record came from a John Lennon quote from 1970, saying: "The best record you can make is recorded on a Monday, cut on Tuesday, pressed up on Wednesday, packaged on a Thursday, distributed on Friday, in the shops on Saturday".

"The 'Help' album enabled War Child UK to bring security and education to thousands of children in 1995 and created an enduring bond between the UK music industry and the fate of children caught up in wars", says the organisation's CEO Rob Williams.

"Since then War Child UK has developed into a global charity, helping over 1.5 million children to recover from the trauma of war, get access to education, and move on to productive adult lives", he goes on. "We draw our strength from the musicians, artist and donors who came together around the 'Help' album in 1995".

The album will be reissued on 9 Sep - 20 years to the day it was originally released.



6ix9ine has announced that he will release his new album, 'Tattle Tales', on 4 Sep.

Disclosure have released new single 'Birthday', featuring Kehlani and Syd. "Syd and I were going through a similar thing at the time", says Disclosure's Howard Lawrence of the creation of the track. "Trying to work out if it was cool to call your ex to say 'hi' or is it too awkward or mean to do so out of the blue?"

Princess Nokia has released the video for 'I Like Him' from her 'Everything Sucks' album.

Kojey Radical has released new track 'Progression Freestyle 1'. "The 'Progression' freestyle is me going back to basics in order to bring forward a social commentary in a way that feels organic to the issues that most concern me", he says. "Without any censorship or any of the routine tropes that come with releasing singles. Just raw and heartfelt raps. This is only part one".

Scribz Riley has released new single 'Mandy'.

Cxloe has released the video for recent single 'One And Lonely'.

Noga Erez has released new single 'You So Done'. "At some point, exactly one year ago, I started flashing back to one of the darkest times in my life. I really do hope to make it clear [with this song] that even the darkest places are not impossible to free yourself from. They are eventually an opportunity to learn, grow and to become a stronger person".

Ms Banks has released new track 'Novikov'. "It's bossy, it's raw, it's edgy", she says of the track. "In a new world where women know their power, let's switch roles".

Seventeen years on from its original release, Scorzayzee's UK hip hop classic 'Great Britain' is being released on vinyl "to celebrate the fall of the House Of Windsor, the world's most notorious crime family". Pre-order here.

Lotic is back with new single 'Cocky'. It is, she says, "a song for the girls. It's a reminder to always recognise and demand your worth. It grants permission to radically stand in your truth, even when it may shock or offend, and most of all, it's a celebration of growth, prosperity, and confidence".

Cults have released new single 'Monolithic'. Their new album, 'Host', is out on 18 Sep.

Coucou Chloe has released new single 'Drop Ten'. She's also announced that she plans to release her debut album early next year.

Hockeysmith is back with new single 'Hyper Kobra'.

Lizzy Waps has released her debut single 'Thanos (One Snap)', blending R&B and drill in a style she calls 'rhythm and drill'.



Aluna will host a virtual launch party for her debut solo album 'Renaissance' later this week, with a live performance followed by a Q&A. It'll kick off on the Mad Decent Twitch channel at 1am UK time on Saturday. Aluna explains more here.

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


Nas missed out on recording with Notorious BIG because he was "too high"
Why did Nas never record with Notorious BIG? The answer is simple. Despite arriving at the studio to record verses on a couple of tracks for Biggie's debut album 'Ready To Die', Nas says he simply got "too high" to actually perform anything on tape.

"I got too high", Nas tells Power 105.1's 'The Breakfast Club' show. "I was in the studio and Big was rolling up some of that chocolate from Brooklyn and he didn't warn me. You know, I was zonked out, yo".

Among the tracks he was supposed to rap on while in the studio that day was 'Gimme The Loot', one of the album's more controversial tracks, on which Biggie ended up rapping both sides of a conversation between two thieves.

The obvious question, of course, is why didn't Nas just come back the next day and try again? "Still high", he says. "I'm not messing with Big and... man, that smoke. We were smokers, man. [I] still am. I don't know, things happened. I lived far out in Long Island at the time. Coming to the city was like a mission. It was just hard to get me to move, man".

Of course, both rappers were young at the time and didn't have the benefit of hindsight to know just how significant that album would become. On the plus side, Nas wasn't too high to record his own debut album, 'Illmatic', which came out the same year as 'Ready To Die'.

Nas is also still with us and recording new music. Last week he put out new single 'Ultra Black'. Watch the video here.


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.
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CHRIS COOKE | Co-Founder & MD
Chris provides music business coverage, writing key business news and CMU Trends. He also leads the CMU Insights consultancy unit and the CMU:DIY future talent programme, as well as heading up CMU publisher 3CM UnLimited.
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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 Insights 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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