TODAY'S TOP STORY: Kanye West put the spotlight on major label record contracts in a big way last night by posting more than a hundred pages of agreements between him and Universal Music onto Twitter. Although doing so mainly confirmed - via 113 individually posted JPEGs - that major label record contracts are long, tedious, can involve significant upfront expenditure on the part of the label, and usually involve said label retaining master rights and paying a minority share of income over to the artist... [READ MORE]
TOP STORIES Kanye West publishes his Universal Music contracts as anti-label Twitter rant continues
LEGAL Apple again insists Fortnite ban should stay in place
Dispute over US IP Rights Distribution Fund becomes class action that could benefit at least 30,000 musicians

Night time industries welcome court ruling on COVID-related insurance claims

LABELS & PUBLISHERS Kobalt up for sale... possibly
MEDIA Podcasts are now on Amazon Music, just like you wanted
ARTIST NEWS Beatles to publish new book to accompany Peter Jackson documentary
ONE LINERS NetEase Cloud Music, Janelle Monáe, Travis, more
AND FINALLY... Lapsed Pirate Bay domain name sells for $50,000

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Kanye West publishes his Universal Music contracts as anti-label Twitter rant continues
Kanye West put the spotlight on major label record contracts in a big way last night by posting more than a hundred pages of agreements between him and Universal Music onto Twitter. Although doing so mainly confirmed - via 113 individually posted JPEGs - that major label record contracts are long, tedious, can involve significant upfront expenditure on the part of the label, and usually involve said label retaining master rights and paying a minority share of income over to the artist.

The splurge of contract tweets followed a flurry of posts in which West hit out at this two main business partners in the music rights industry, them being Universal on the recordings side and Sony/ATV on the songs side. However, Universal was feeling most of the heat, hence it was the rapper's recording contracts that were later made public.

This all began earlier this week with West, who sued both his label and publisher last year, declaring that he was going on strike as an artist until he was cut free from his contracts with Universal and Sony. He then likened record and publishing deals to slavery - as he has before - and attempted to widen his beef with the music majors so that he was speaking for all artists everywhere, in the process demanding to see "everybody's contracts at Universal and Sony".

After those tweets had been posted, West returned to Twitter firstly to express frustration Universal hadn't responded; then to state that he didn't want to talk to UMG boss Lucian Grainge because "I don't speak with non-billionaire employees"; and then to demand a meeting with Arnaud de Puyfontaine, CEO of Universal owner Vivendi.

Along the way he said he'd spoken to Katie Stanton, an independent member of Vivendi's supervisory board, and that that conversation had been positive. But then the Universal bashing resumed.

The flood of tweets was typically erratic and eclectic, including plenty of bible verses along the way. But West's primary beef is over labels taking ownership of the copyright in the recordings they release which has, of course, become a much bigger talking point in the music community in recent years. And, indeed, was that the heart Taylor Swift's big bust up with Big Machine.

"When you sign a music deal you sign away your rights. Without the masters you can't do anything with your own music. Someone else controls where it's played and when it's played", he tweeted at one point. "Artist[s] deserve to own our masters", he added, "Ima go get our masters ... for all artist[s]".

Of course, while record industry convention in most countries has always been that labels take ownership of any sound recordings they release - traditionally for life of copyright - that side of the business has been in considerable flux in recent years.

As several music industry execs pointed out in response to West's tweets, artists now have other options when they seek to manage and monetise their recordings, and can choose to work with distributors and artist services business where they retain rights ownership.

And traditional labels too are signing deals where rights revert to artists, or artists licence instead of assign rights, or where the label acts more as a service provider than a rights owner.

Though, more traditional record deals are also still being signed on a regular basis. And a basic rule remains - the more you want from a label in terms of money and services, and the bigger the risk a label is taking on a project, the more it is going to want to have in terms of rights and royalties.

That said, it is true that there are issues with legacy record contracts, even those signed in the 2000s, in relation to how labels implement and enforce those deals in the streaming age. Those issues are then exacerbated by the general lack of transparency that continues at many record companies.

So, on some of his arguments, West has a good point and is speaking for the wider artist community. Though whether artists who made millions from their record deals are the best people to front that fight is debatable. And literally pissing on your Grammy award in the middle of it all isn't really a helpful move either.

Either way, the posting of contracts relating to major deals done by major labels with major artists is definitely a major moment, even if most of those documents are as tedious as hell. What happens next in terms of West's very public squabble with Universal remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, for a concise summary of how record deals work, and the various options now available to artists signing new deals around their recordings, the MMF 'Deals Guide' produced by CMU Insights is a good starting point.


Apple again insists Fortnite ban should stay in place
The back and forth between 'Fortnite' maker Epic Games and Apple over the latter's App Store policies continues. Apple has again urged the court to refuse to issue any injunction forcing the Apple-rule-breaking version of 'Fortnite' back into the tech giant's App Store.

Epic, you will remember, says that Apple's rules over in-app payments on iOS devices are anti-competitive. That's on the basis that app-makers are forced to use Apple's own commission charging payments platform, and are forbidden from including or even sign-posting alternative payment options. Plenty of other app owners have made similar complaints, of course, not least Spotify.

As well as suing Apple for an alleged breach of competition laws, Epic also deliberately broke the App Store rules by adding an alternative payments option to the iOS version of 'Fortnite'. That resulted in the game being banned from the App Store, which allowed Epic to launch a high profile advertising and PR campaign telling 'Fortnite' users everywhere how evil Apple is.

Legally speaking, there are at least three elements to this dispute.

First, there is Epic's lawsuit accusing Apple of breaking competition laws. Then there's Apple's countersuit accusing Epic of breach of contract for sneaking a rule-breaking version of 'Fortnite' onto its platform. And then there's the side debate over the sanctions Apple has instigated against Epic, and whether those should be halted while the various lawsuits go through the motions.

Epic argues that Apple shouldn't be allowed to ban 'Fortnite' from its App Store while there is still a legal dispute over the rules that caused the ban. Apple counters that Epic could have sued over its rules without first breaking them and then - if it is successful in its competition law action - seek damages for any commissions it paid to the tech giant while the litigation was ongoing.

Last month the judge overseeing the dispute, Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, basically concurred with Apple on that point, though in a temporary restraining order sought to restrict the other sanctions Apple was instigating that went beyond Epic's apps being in its App Store.

Responding to that, earlier this month Epic filed new papers with the court again arguing that Apple should be forced to reinstate 'Fortnite' in its App Store while the legal dispute proceeds.

That legal filing mainly presented all the same arguments about how Apple is a monopolist and competition law breaker. Although it did also say a little about the more important argument that, because Epic came to court with 'unclean hands' having broken Apple's App Store rules, it shouldn't get an injunction in its favour restoring 'Fortnite' to the Apple platform. Epic said that argument is flawed.

Apple has now responded to that response, again stressing that Epic could have sued over its rules without breaking them, and again insisting that therefore any harm the games firm suffers from 'Fortnite' being banned from the App Store is "self-inflicted".

Arguing that Rogers made the right ruling regarding the 'Fortnite' ban last month, Apple says in its latest filing: "Epic's asserted harm is the self-inflicted and self-fixable result of its own cheating and breach and thus not irreparable".

Meanwhile, it adds, forcing Apple to allow a version of 'Fortnite' with alternative payment options into its App Store "risks harming the iPhone ecosystem and around a billion iPhone users around the world", so "the balance of hardships and public interest favour Apple".

In many ways, both sides are still presenting more or less the same arguments as they did last month regarding Apple's sanctions against Epic. It remains to be seen if the court therefore rules the same way when it considers this element of the big 'Fortnite' dispute once again later this month.


Dispute over US IP Rights Distribution Fund becomes class action that could benefit at least 30,000 musicians
The lawsuit being pursued by songwriter and record producer Kevin Risto over the distribution of equitable remuneration monies to session musicians in the US has been granted class action status. It means at least 30,000 musicians could benefit from any ruling in Risto's favour.

Risto's litigation targets American performer unions AFM and SAG-AFTRA and the IP Rights Distribution Fund that they set up to administrate various royalties due to performers who appear on sound recordings. Most importantly, that includes the so called Performer ER that is due to session musicians when their music is played on online or satellite radio services in the US.

That money is initially collected by the collecting society SoundExchange. However, whereas SoundExchange pays so called featured artists directly, the cut due to session musicians is paid out via the IP Rights Distribution Fund.

Risto's lawsuit takes issue with a decision made by the trustees of that Fund back in 2013 to start paying both AFM and SAG-AFTRA a 1.5% fee for the services and data they provide. He argues that the trustees violated their fiduciary duty to the fund's beneficiaries, ie the session musicians, by allowing regular payments to be made to the unions that set it up.

For their part, the various defendants have argued that the fund's governing document gives the trustees wide discretion on how best to run the royalty body and specific permission to pay the two unions for any services or information they provide. Which means that, although such payments only began in 2013, the right to pay the unions for their input was there from the start.

Risto intended his lawsuit to be a class action, benefiting all session musicians, when he first filed it in 2018. But back in June he filed new legal papers specifically requesting that the court officially recognise that class action status.

And earlier this week it did. The judge overseeing the case, Christina A Snyder, concluded that the action posed common questions of law that were of equal concern to all class members.

It's thought that class will include at least 30,000 session musicians who are paid ER royalties in the US. Though the Risto side says that tens of thousands more musicians could also be potential class members, those being music-makers who have never registered for those payments but are due them under law. The judge confirmed that those musicians would also qualify for class membership.


Night time industries welcome court ruling on COVID-related insurance claims
The Night Time Industries Association has welcomed a ruling in the English High Court earlier this week that clarifies to an extent the obligations of insurers to pay out to businesses that were forced to close as a result of COVID-19, which includes venues and nightclubs.

Early on in lockdown, the NTIA and others criticised a number of insurers for refusing to pay out to companies that had business interruption policies which - those companies argued - should have kicked in as soon as the government ordered high street business to close their doors in a bid to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Responding to that criticism, the UK's Financial Conduct Authority took eight insurers to court to basically get a judicial opinion on how various common phrases in insurance policies should be interpreted in the context of COVID-19. Of particular interest were phrases relating to business interruption caused by disease or government measures that force temporary closure.

The FCA hoped that its action would provide clarity on the various common phrases it had identified, to save each individual policyholder that had been denied a business interruption payout from having to separately fight their claim through the courts.

Responding to the high court's ruling on this case, the interim CEO of the FCA, Christopher Woolard, explained: "We brought the test case in order to resolve the lack of clarity and certainty that existed for many policyholders making business interruption claims and the wider market".

"We are pleased", he went on, "that the court has substantially found in favour of the arguments we presented on the majority of the key issues. Today's judgment is a significant step in resolving the uncertainty being faced by policyholders. We are grateful to the court for delivering the judgment quickly and the speed with which it was reached reflects well on all parties".

Elsewhere, the FCA acknowledged that "although the judgment will bring welcome news for many policyholders, the judgment did not say that the eight defendant insurers are liable across all of the 21 different types of policy wording in the representative sample considered by the court. Each policy needs to be considered against the detailed judgment to work out what it means for that policy".

It remains unclear quite how many companies still seeking payouts on COVID-related business interruption insurance policies will benefit from this week's ruling.

As the FCA noted, not all the possible policy wording it presented to the court was deemed sufficient to obligate the insurer to payout. And not all disputes by any means centre on clauses that talk about diseases or government measures that force temporary closure. However, for some companies the clarity provided by the court should help them secure payment.

Looking at this from the perspective of venues, clubs and other night time business - many of which are still closed because of COVID rules - the CEO of NTIA, Michael Kill, said: "This verdict is just what we've been waiting for".

He went on: "The night-time economy has been one of the hardest hit by lockdown measures during the pandemic, and many businesses are grassroots, family-owned venues, that are cultural cornerstones of towns and cities across the UK. The enforced lockdown since March has created unthinkable financial turmoil and stress for many business owners. This verdict gives some reassurance that these businesses will get the payments they deserve to help them survive this period".

Meanwhile, Simon Mabb, MD of insurance broker NDML, added: "We're so pleased that these months of hard work have paid off for our clients. This is the result we all knew was the right one from the beginning, and it's frustrating that it's taken so long to reach this point. But it's reassuring to know that we can now give some certainty back to the venues and businesses that have had their lives put on hold for so long".

The insurers could as yet appeal the judgement which would put everything on hold again. However, referencing a possible appeal in his statement, Woolard back at the FCA said: "Insurers should reflect on the clarity provided here and, irrespective of any possible appeals, consider the steps they can take now to progress claims of the type that the judgment says should be paid. They should also communicate directly and quickly with policyholders who have made claims affected by the judgment to explain next steps".

"If any parties do appeal the judgment", he went on, "we would expect that to be done in as rapid a manner as possible in line with the agreement that we made with insurers at the start of this process. As we have recognised from the start of this case, thousands of small firms and potentially hundreds of thousands of jobs are relying on this".


Kobalt up for sale... possibly
Kobalt Music Group is considering options to raise new capital, including an outright sale with a possible price tag of over $1 billion. The news comes as the company passes its 20th anniversary.

According to Bloomberg, negotiations are ongoing with potential buyers, although the company may as yet choose not to sell up.

A spokesperson for Kobalt tells Bloomberg: "We've always had great interest in the company. We're always evaluating the best capital structure for the business to make sure we have the right capital partners to continue to build and grow the world's best independent company for artists and songwriters".

The news follows a change of leadership at Kobalt at the beginning of the year, which saw founder Willard Ahdritz step down as CEO and move into the role of Chair. The company is now led by Laurence Hubert, who joined from BMG in 2016.


Podcasts are now on Amazon Music, just like you wanted
They're the biggest thing in music right now. That's right, podcasts. A music service is nothing without podcasts. I mean, when you're not leeching off other people's free content, your users might do something awful, like listen to some music and, in doing so, make you hand over some royalties to the music industry. So the good news is that - as expected - Amazon Music has officially confirmed that podcasts have arrived.

In an announcement, the Amazon streaming service trumpets that users in the UK, US, Germany and Japan can now listen to podcasts as well as music "at no additional cost". Woo! They're not charging to access stuff already available for free all over the internet. Hurrah!

"Our customers' listening habits are constantly evolving, and we know they're looking to us to provide them with a rich experience rooted in music and entertainment", says Steve Boom, VP of Amazon Music.

"With this launch, we're bringing customers even more forms of entertainment to enjoy, while enabling creators to reach new audiences globally, just as we've done with music streaming", he goes on. "Podcasts, paired with our recent partnership with Twitch to bring live streaming into the app, makes Amazon Music a premiere destination for creators".

Amazon Music will also be putting up some exclusive podcasts, including a new show hosted by DJ Khaled called 'The First One', in which he'll interview some of his favourite musicians.

"I'm recording my podcast with the greatest musicians of all time, and with some of my best friends who also happen to be the most iconic artists on the planet", says DJ Khaled. "We'll talk about fame, fortune, life and success. These stories are here to motivate you because everybody starts from somewhere, from the ordinary to extraordinary. Before you get to another one, you got to get to 'The First One,' only on Amazon Music".

That's nice that he's come up with a little tagline for his podcast there. Even if it doesn't really make any sense. Other podcasts coming exclusively to Amazon include existing show 'Disgraceland', which mixes true crime and music, and a show fronted by Becky G, called 'En La Sala', which will air in audio form on Amazon Music and video form on Twitch.

Having podcasts on Amazon Music, of course, means you can play them by shouting at whatever Alexa-enabled device you may have to hand.

"We're THRILLED to offer customers a convenient podcast listening experience that fits their lifestyle", says Kintan Brahmbhatt, Director Of Podcasts for Amazon Music. "Never before has listening to podcasts on the move, in the car, or at home been so simple. Our customers will be able to utilise the voice functionality they know and love with music to now enjoy a superior podcast experience and uncover a brand new selection of favourites".

I think it's quite a stretch to say that this makes it significantly easier to listen to podcasts, but feel free to ask Alexa to play the Setlist podcast to test this theory out.


Approved: King Hannah
The formation of King Hannah, as they tell it, was a long drawn out process. The duo's Craig Whittle recognised his now musical partner Hannah Merrick as a musician he had seen perform before when he took a job in a bar where she also worked. Suggesting that they write some songs together, they then began meeting up at his house before work and... not doing that.

"That went on for a year", says Merrick, explaining that she was simply too nervous to show Whittle any of her work. When the time came though, they had already formed a bond that glued their subsequent collaborations together. "It's just about finding the right people", Merrick goes on. "When I go to Craig with some chords and lyrics, he just gets it. There's nothing pretend about us".

And maybe there's something to be said for not making music together for a while before you actually do, because King Hannah's debut single - 'Crème Brûlée' - sounds like it's from a far more seasoned act.

The song slowly unravels, never rushing to reveal all the layers of Merrick's tale of longing. Eventually, her words give way to a long instrumental section that swells unhurriedly without feeling self-indulgent or overdone. "We don't want to sound clean or polished", says Whittle. "We want to sound real, and dynamic and authentic".

Newly signed to City Slang, you can expect more from King Hannah soon. For now, here's the video for 'Crème Brûlée'.

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

Beatles to publish new book to accompany Peter Jackson documentary
A new Beatles book is set to be released next year, to accompany the Peter Jackson directed documentary 'The Beatles: Get Back'. The book will tell the story of the making of the band's 'Let It Be' album in their own words. As will the film, for that matter.

As well as transcribed interviews with members of the band, the book will also feature photographs - largely previously unpublished - taken by Ethan A Russell and Linda McCartney.

"The Beatles gave my generation their genius and their joy and they changed the world through their art", says Nicholas Callaway of the book's publisher Callaway Arts & Entertainment. "The creativity and inspiration expressed in this landmark book and in Peter Jackson's film are as important and relevant today as ever".

Well that's good then. It'll be the first official book about the Beatles since 'The Beatles Anthology', which was published in 2000. This new one will be launched on 31 Aug 2021. The film is set to hit cinemas - assuming cinemas are still a thing by then - on 27 Aug 2021.



Chinese streaming service NetEase Cloud Music has announced a deal with BMG which will see the digital platform get direct access to the music firm's catalogue. The two companies will also collaborate on "unique initiatives and projects crossing cultures and genres". The latest NetEase licensing deal comes as global music companies start to have direct relationships with all the players in streaming in China, rather than working exclusively with one streaming firm, as was the norm in the Chinese market in the past.



Janelle Monáe has released the video for her recent single 'Turntables'.

Travis have released new single 'All Fall Down', from their upcoming new album 'Ten Songs'.

Eels have announced that they will release new album 'Earth To Dora' on 30 Oct. "These songs came about just before the pandemic hit and changed everything", says frontman Mark Everett. "Just one song was done in the thick of the early pandemic days, 'Are We Alright Again', which is kind of a quarantine daydream I desperately needed to have". Here is that very song.

Melanie C has released new single 'Fearless', featuring Nadia Rose.

Fontaines DC have released the video for 'A Lucid Dream' from their latest album 'A Hero's Death'.

Ride's Andy Bell has released new solo single 'I Was Alone'. He'll release his debut solo album, 'The View From Halfway Down', on 9 Oct through Sonic Cathedral.

Flohio has unveiled new track 'Unveiled'. She's also unveiled the news that she will release a mixtape, also titled 'Unveiled', on 27 Nov.

Kelley Stoltz will release new album 'Ah! (etc)' on 20 Nov. "I was guzzling wine at my favourite bar in San Francisco, the Rite Spot, and the entertainment that night was some local opera singers singing along with a big video screen showing a collage of various operatic moments with subtitles", he says. "One particular subtitle, 'Ah! (etc)', made me laugh. I thought it was a perfect description of life - the joy of existence against the etcetera of it all, the struggle". From the album, this is 'The Quiet Ones'.

Kojaque has released new single 'Shmelly'. "Kwes had given me his laptop one night on tour with Slowthai and I came across the beat", says the rapper of the origin of the track. "I put it on my phone and wrote the whole tune the day we got off tour. The beat felt real eerie and chaotic and I think shit felt really turbulent for me at the time".

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


Lapsed Pirate Bay domain name sells for $50,000
Fancy owning a piece of internet history? Well, this is your perfect opportunity. Several Pirate Bay domain names are expected to become available to buy again in the near future. What could you do with them? Print out the domain owner certificate and put it on your wall? Forward the domain to the FBI website? Set up some sort of online money making scam? The choice is yours! Although, it's probably worth mentioning that another just went for $50,000. So I'd say the scam idea is best.

Ownership of lapsed earlier this month and the domain was quickly snapped up and put on sale by a 'drop catch' domain trader (a company that monitors the ownership of popular domain names and buys them as they become available). Exactly why these domain names were allowed to lapse isn't clear, but they were quickly snapped up when they did. However, it's worth noting that the main TPB domain is, whereas the one just sold was not in common usage.

A number of other domain names linked to the site have also lapsed and are expected to be available to be newly registered again as early as this week. Exactly what will happen to them once they are resold isn't clear, but a common practice for owners of repurposed URLs like this is to fill them with advertising links, trading off their former owner's fame.

The Pirate Bay owns a lot of domain names, of course. The ones coming up for sale now seem to have been registered because of their similarity to the main ones that the file-sharing platform actually actively uses. However, the piracy site has registered plenty of others over the years, many because of concerns that its main domains were about to be seized by the authorities.

For a period in 2015 and 2016, the site shifted to numerous new domain names registered with various different domain registries around the world, due to fears that certain government bodies - under pressure from copyright owners - were about to seize the .se and .org domains that had been the primary addresses the site used.

However, in the end, those new domain names were shut down almost as soon as they were registered. Meanwhile, somewhat ironically, the main .org domain was not seized after all. So, in May 2016, the site wound up back at, and that remains the main domain to this day.

In Sweden, there has been a long drawn out legal effort to seize the .se domain, which has so far been unsuccessful - a brief shutdown notwithstanding. There were also fears (or hopes, depending on who you talk to) last year that the main .org domain could be lost if a sale of the entire .org registry went through, and the new owner took a harder line on copyright infringing websites.

That sale was blocked by ICANN in April this year though, due to uncertainty over what would happen to the domains of various non-profit organisations. And so The Pirate Bay lives on to fight another day. It's now more than a decade since the original founders of the piracy site were convicted of copyright infringement offences, which many thought would put an end to all that nonsense.


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 consultancy unit 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 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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