TODAY'S TOP STORY: Donald Trump has given his "blessing" to the deal proposed by TikTok owner Bytedance in response to all the concerns expressed in Washington over allegations that the Chinese government has access to the video-sharing app's global audience and userbase. Though there remains some mixed messaging around the specifics of that deal and the exact position of the Trump government which had, of course, threatened to ban the use of TikTok within the US... [READ MORE]
TOP STORIES TikTok's Oracle deal has Donald Trump's "blessing", though confusion remains over an accompanying educational fund
LEGAL Stream-ripping case could be put on hold pending petition to US Supreme Court
More artists return fees to Fyre Festival trustee
DEALS Warner teams up with Super Simple Songs
LABELS & PUBLISHERS Tom Hoare returns to [PIAS] as UK Head Of Digital
ENTERTAINMENT RETAIL Taylor Swift gifts signed albums to UK record shops
MEDIA Bauer Media buys up another local station for its Greatest Hits Radio network
AND FINALLY... Van (versus) The Man
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TikTok's Oracle deal has Donald Trump's "blessing", though confusion remains over an accompanying educational fund
Donald Trump has given his "blessing" to the deal proposed by TikTok owner Bytedance in response to all the concerns expressed in Washington over allegations that the Chinese government has access to the video-sharing app's global audience and userbase. Though there remains some mixed messaging around the specifics of that deal and the exact position of the Trump government which had, of course, threatened to ban the use of TikTok within the US.

More details about that deal - which centres on the previously announced alliance between TikTok and American technology firm Oracle - have emerged in recent days. A standalone business based in the US will run TikTok's operations outside of China. Both Oracle and supermarket giant Walmart will have a stake in that US-based company, which will then IPO on an American stock exchange within the next year.

Prior to the IPO, China-based Bytedance will own 80% of the global company, while TikTok's technology and algorithm will still be wholly owned by the main Bytedance business.

However, because 40% of Bytedance's stock is currently controlled by American investors, technically the new TikTok Global company will be majority owned by Americans. And the idea is that with Oracle getting involved on the technology side, Americans can be assured that the Chinese authorities don't have access to their data.

So basically TikTok's grand plan is designed to placate Team Trump in at least three ways. First by having Americans technically own more than 50% of TikTok Global. Secondly, with the promise of an IPO within the US within the year. And thirdly, by arguing that Oracle's involvement overcomes the data protection issues that were the official reason for banning the app in the first place.

There are other sweeteners too though. Oracle is headed up by Larry Ellison, one of the few tech sector chiefs who has publicly supported Trump. Plus, the new TikTok Global business has made some commitments on hiring lots of new American employees, paying lots of tax within the US and funding a big fat new education initiative.

Given Trump's comments to the effect that the proposed deal had his "blessing", it seems that list of goodies was sufficient to circumvent the ban. Though, as noted, there does seem to be some confusion about some elements of the deal, mainly in relation to the extra sweeteners.

For example, Trump this weekend indicated that TikTok had not only committed $5 billion to a new education fund, but that the fund would be used to enable an initiative the President announced last week that will provide young Americans with a "patriotic" education telling them the "real history of our country".

Which basically means a version of American history palatable to Trump's core supporters. So a version of American history full of the rumours and bullshit that has gone down so well with those voters ever since the President's shift into politics.

However, sources on the TikTok side say that, while an AI-driven online education initiative is part of the proposal, there is no $5 billion commitment and no plans to fund Trump-esque history lessons. It's actually possible that the $5 billion figure originates in a statement from Oracle on how much tax income the new TikTok company might generate for the US treasury if everything goes according to plan.

Whether these confusions could as yet scupper the deal from getting formal approval from the US government remains to be seen. On Friday, despite having received TikTok's grand plan, the US government's commerce department told Apple and Google to block new downloads of the TikTok app within the US as of yesterday. That demand was then put on hold for a week pending a full review of the TikTok/Oracle proposal.

Nevertheless, with the actual ban put on hold and Trump's comments about the Oracle deal having his "blessing", the interim boss of TikTok, Vanessa Pappas, yesterday published an upbeat post on the company's blog.

She said that "while we strongly disagree with the implications of TikTok as a national security threat, we nonetheless understand the concerns". She then listed various measures the company has introduced in the last year to allay concerns over what happens TikTok user-data, before formally commenting on the Oracle alliance.

"We're pleased that today we've confirmed a proposal that resolves the [US government's] security concerns and settles questions around TikTok's future in the US", she went on. "[That plan includes] working with Oracle, who will be our trusted cloud and technology provider responsible for fully securing our users' data".

"Both Oracle and Walmart will take part in a TikTok Global pre-IPO financing round in which they can take up to a 20% cumulative stake in the company. We will also maintain and expand the US as TikTok Global's headquarters while bringing 25,000 jobs across the country".

She concluded: "Our team works tirelessly to provide a safe and inclusive platform, and we're THRILLED that we will be able to continue serving our amazingly diverse and creative community. This is just the beginning for TikTok, and we're so excited to be with you in this journey for the long run".


Stream-ripping case could be put on hold pending petition to US Supreme Court
The Russian owner of stream-ripping sites and has asked a court in Virginia to put his ongoing legal battle with the record industry on hold while he petitions the US Supreme Court about the case.

Stream-ripping sites – which allow people to turn temporary streams into permanent downloads – have been a top piracy gripe of the music industry for some time, of course. And, as a new report from PRS confirmed last week, from a music industry perspective the use of such sites remains a key concern.

With that in mind, for a few years now the record companies have been suing or threatening to sue various popular stream-ripping set-ups, the aim being to force the closure of those sites. And in most cases that's been successful.

However, Tofig Kurbanov – operator of Russia-based and – fought back when his websites were sued for copyright infringement by the American record industry.

And at first instance he successfully got the labels' lawsuit dismissed on jurisdiction grounds, on the basis that his Russian websites had no direct business dealings with the US, even though Americans used those sites to illegally stream-rip content.

The labels then took the case to the Fourth Circuit appeals court which overturned the lower court's ruling. The appeal judges listed various reasons why it could be deemed that and were actively trading in the US even though the websites are formally based in Russia and don't require any sign-up from users.

After the appeals court declined to reconsider the case en banc - so with more judges involved - legal reps for Kurbanov confirmed they were considering taking the matter to the US Supreme Court. At the time they told Torrentfreak: "The Supreme Court has not yet decided a case concerning personal jurisdiction based on internet contacts and we think this case would be a good opportunity for the court to address the issue head-on".

Last week it was confirmed that Team Kurbanov are indeed taking the dispute to America's highest court. That confirmation came via filings back with the court that originally heard the case. Following the Fourth Circuit ruling on jurisdiction, the labels' lawsuit returned to the lower court where the so called 'discovery process' in the case is now due to get underway.

However, the Kurbanov side have requested that the judge put any proceedings in his court in relation to the case on hold pending the outcome of their petition to the Supreme Court.

Their recent court filing stated: "Mr Kurbanov, a Russian national and citizen, who has never set foot in the United States, has a right to challenge this court's exercise of jurisdiction over him as violative of the Due Process Clause. And, of course, with that comes his right to be free from the expensive and onerous discovery obligations inherent in US litigation".

It remains to be seen how the lower court responds. Meanwhile, Kurbanov is expected to formally petition the Supreme Court later this month.


More artists return fees to Fyre Festival trustee
The trustee of the Fyre Festival bankruptcy says he has reached settlements with more of the artists who were paid to play the disastrous 2017 event. The deals now done cover artists including Major Lazer, Disclosure, Pusha T and headliners Blink 182.

The companies behind the Fyre Festival debacle all fell into bankruptcy after the big party in the Bahamas was cancelled just as it was getting starting. It transpired, of course, that those companies hadn't put in place much of the infrastructure required to deliver even a basic music festival, let alone the luxury experience they'd promised ticket buyers.

The debacle resulted in the festival's founder Billy McFarland being convicted of fraud. Plus there was a big stack of litigation against McFarland and his former companies, as well as the efforts by Greg Messer, the trustee of the bankruptcy, to get back some of the fees that had been paid upfront to artists who were set to play the festival and influencers who had promoted it.

Although such upfront payments are often non-returnable if festivals do not go ahead, Messer had previously successfully negotiated the part return of fees that had been paid to Migos and Kendall Jenner.

According to Billboard, Messer has now also confirmed that deals have been done with three booking agencies and the acts they represent that were due to play the festival.

Paradigm, whose Fyre-booked acts included Major Lazer and Disclosure, has returned $225,000; Neu Agency, which reps Pusha T among others, has returned $100,000; and CAA, which is agent for headliners Blink-182, has paid back $135,000.

Seemingly now on a bit of a roll in terms of getting some cash back for Fyre Festival's defrauded investors, according to Bloomberg, Mercer is also seeking the return of some or all of the fee McFarland's former companies paid to an agency to film the failed festival. Footage filmed by said agency appeared in Netflix's popular Fyre Festival documentary.

It remains to be seen if the trustee has any success on that front.


Warner teams up with Super Simple Songs
Warner Music's Arts Music division and the major's Warner Chappell publishing company have entered into a new partnership with Skyship Entertainment - owner of the endlessly infuriating children's video brand Super Simple Songs.

"Ask any family with preschool-aged children – they all know and love the songs and colourful characters that Super Simple has brought into their homes", says Arts Music President Kevin Gore. Yeah, fuck Super Simple Songs.

"I'm excited to be working with such a dynamic and creative team at Skyship", he goes on. "Their vision for creating engaging and educational content founded on English as a second language learning has real purpose and value".

He concludes: "We're looking forward to making these beloved songs and new songs available to more children across the globe and to continue to grow Arts Music's footprint with meaningful content in the kids and family space".

Skyship CEO Morghan Fortier adds: "The core of our mission is to create fun, educational songs that kids love and that makes the day-to-day lives of parents, teachers and caregivers a little easier. We're delighted to be continuing that mission alongside Arts Music and Warner Chappell. They're building something really special in the kids and family space and we're really pleased to have Super Simple Songs be a part of it".

I'm glad someone's pleased.


Tom Hoare returns to [PIAS] as UK Head Of Digital
Independent music firm [PIAS] has announced the appointment of Tom Hoare as its new UK Head Of Digital. The hire sees Hoare return to [PIAS] after stints at Universal's Polydor and Sony's Syco.

In the new role, Hoare will "have overall responsibility for the strategy, direction and management of [PIAS]'s UK labels' digital activities", which includes digital marketing, social media stuff and the exploitation of the catalogues [PIAS] owns and represents through all the various digital music platforms.

He reports in to [PIAS] UK MD Jason Rackham, who says: "We are absolutely delighted to welcome Tom back to [PIAS] in this key role in which he will play a major part in driving the success of our artists and business forward. Since leaving us in 2015 Tom has gained invaluable experience and brings back a wealth of experience and insight that will add real strength to our digital offering".

Hoare himself adds: "It's great to be back at [PIAS] which played such an important part in my early career. I've always stayed in touch with the business, and have watched with pride and admiration as it has grown from strength to strength in the intervening years. I look forward to working with the [PIAS] team on behalf of the many amazing artists and labels they represent".


Taylor Swift gifts signed albums to UK record shops
Taylor Swift has lent a couple of UK independent record shops a helping hand by delivering them each a box of signed copies of her new album 'Folklore'. Assai Records, which has branches in Edinburgh and Dundee, and Resident Records in Brighton both received shipments last week.

Assai owner Keith Ingram told BBC Scotland: "The last 24 hours have just been bonkers. We've had Twitter messages from people all over the world saying they wish they were able to visit the shop and warm wishes about being able to get a signed CD".

Ingram split the CDs across his two shops and only made them available to people who came in to buy them in person. Resident, meanwhile, made them available through their web store. Ingram added that he had "no idea" why he'd been selected to receive the CDs, saying that a rep for Universal contacted him to offer them the day before they arrived.

"She's obviously keen to support the independent shops, and it drives people towards the stores", said Ingram. "She certainly doesn't need to do it, she's a major music star, so it's a lovely gesture".

Last month, Swift also donated boxes of signed 'Folklore' CDs to various independent record shops in the US.


Bauer Media buys up another local station for its Greatest Hits Radio network
Bauer Media continues to buy up local radio stations around the UK to further expand out its Greatest Hits Radio network. The latest acquisition is the previously totally independent Radio Plymouth.

Because the Plymouth station is not currently allied to any other radio network or group, the acquisition will likely have a significant impact on the business, given it currently creates all its programmes locally.

Once rebranded as Greatest Hits Radio it seems likely it will take most if not all of its programming from that existing Bauer network, which means predominantly national programming, while sharing a somewhat localised drive time show with the rest of the South West region.

Some news content and advertising will also still be made more locally, which will likely require the involvement of some current Radio Plymouth staff.

Confirming the latest acquisition last week, Bauer Radio Group MD Dee Ford said: "We are delighted to welcome Radio Plymouth to Bauer. It complements our offering and extends our geographical reach into the Plymouth area".

The independent Radio Plymouth first began trial broadcasts in 2003 before going on air full time in 2010. It's MD, Tricia Duff, added: "The broadcasting landscape is significantly different from when Radio Plymouth first launched with trial broadcasts back in 2003, so we are pleased to secure a more stable future for many of our staff and continuing radio diversity in this dynamic and exciting waterfront city".


Setlist: Kanye West puts record deals in the spotlight
CMU's Andy Malt and Chris Cooke review key events in music and the music business from the last week, including Kanye West's big dispute over the structure of record company deals with artists (and the contents of the deals he dumped on Twitter), and Facebook's deals with the music industry to include music in video game livestreams on its Twitch rival Facebook Gaming.

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Van (versus) The Man
A number of artists - including Noel Gallagher and Ian Brown - have spoken out against various aspects of the COVID-19 restrictions that are currently in place, but so far they haven't put those concerns into lyrics. Well, never fear, Van Morrison is making up for lost time.

The musician has announced three anti-lockdown songs to be released over the course of a month, starting this week. This Friday, Morrison will put out the not exactly subtly titled 'Born To Be Free'. That will be followed on 9 Oct by 'As I Walked Out' and then on 23 Oct by one final track to push the point home, 'No More Lockdown'.

The songs are apparently part of a campaign to save the live music industry. The concern for live music isn't really reflected in any of the lyrics though. They more focus on those increasingly popular if ill-founded claims that the government is using lockdown for more nefarious reasons than protecting public health, and that COVID-19 doesn't actually pose any serious risk at all.

"I'm not telling people what to do or think, the government is doing a great job of that already", says Morrison of the songs. "It's about freedom of choice, I believe people should have the right to think for themselves".

Ahead of their release, Morrison planned to premiere the three songs at his London Palladium shows this week, which were rescheduled from March due to lockdown.

While those performances were set to go ahead with the required social distancing measures in place, it appears that the shows will not now take place this week, having been postponed again to November.


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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