TODAY'S TOP STORY: The Music Venue Trust yesterday announced that the entire grassroots venue network in the UK is now on "red alert" and facing complete collapse after last week's announcement by the UK government that its new general COVID support schemes have been designed for those companies and freelancers whose businesses are now slowly returning to normal... [READ MORE]
TOP STORIES Grassroots venues on red alert as music community awaits Cultural Recovery Fund decisions
LEGAL Travis Scott sued over his Cactus Jack thumbsticks
DEALS Polaris signs YouTube deal, ending video site's standoff with Koda in Denmark
LIVE BUSINESS Audience Access Alliance calls for events industry to include deaf and disabled people in COVID recovery
DIGITAL & D2F SERVICES Twitch launches library of pre-cleared indie label music
ARTIST NEWS Independent artists increased output during lockdown, but direct-to-fan opportunities still being under-utilised
ONE LINERS NZCA Lines, Jxdn, McFly, more
AND FINALLY... Iggy Pop's cockatoo stars in Gucci advert
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Grassroots venues on red alert as music community awaits Cultural Recovery Fund decisions
The Music Venue Trust yesterday announced that the entire grassroots venue network in the UK is now on "red alert" and facing complete collapse after last week's announcement by the UK government that its new general COVID support schemes have been designed for those companies and freelancers whose businesses are now slowly returning to normal.

The problem is that the same government's ongoing COVID restrictions mean that most live music and events companies are either operating at a fraction of their usual capacity or - in many cases - are still in full on shutdown.

For its part, the government insists that - while its general COVID schemes are no use for the live and event sectors - the £1.57 billion in sector-specific support already committed to the cultural and heritage industries will fill the gap.

A significant portion of that money will be distributed later this month via Arts Council England's Cultural Recovery Fund. With competition for that funding fierce, it remains unknown for the time being to what extent those monies will benefit venues, festivals, and other music and event businesses, let alone the many freelancers who rely on those companies and organisations for work.

Noting just how much now rests of the funding decisions ACE will imminently announce, MVT boss Mark Davyd said yesterday: "After six months of struggling to survive, grassroots music venues now face a two week period of huge uncertainty in which their future will be decided by the outcome of a single government funding announcement. The government has put all its eggs in one basket and has no back up plan to prevent the complete collapse of this entire cultural sector, placing at risk over 200,000 jobs and billions of pounds of economic activity".

The Trust's Strategic Director Beverley Whitrick added: "Music Venue Trust is extremely concerned that the situation has become 'Schrödinger's fund'; hardly anyone has received any significant support from the Cultural Recovery Fund yet, but everyone is going to be saved by it. This is not a coherent strategy; the government does not even control the distribution of the funding they have made available and on which their entire strategy for the UK live music sector now rests".

There also remain concerns that even those organisations that get money from the CRF may only be bought a few months of extra time by the grant they receive.

The government has admitted that the current COVID restrictions, which prevent most shows, tours and festivals from going ahead, could be in place for at least another six months.

Given the general COVID support schemes are of little use, there is a danger that the live and events sectors could have a two-stage collapse: those who do not get CRF funding going out of business now, and those that do in the new year.

With all the in mind, MVT is again calling on the music industry, music fans and the local communities around each grassroots venue to provide further support, especially once the CFR funding decisions have been announced.

"Any venue that is not successful [in getting a CRF grant], or any venue that is ineligible, will still be unable to open, will still have to pay rent and will still have no possible income sources from the day those decisions are announced until the day they are finally able to open", Davyd went on.

"We need everyone who cares about the future of grassroots music venues to take note of these decisions as they are made and if necessary to take direct action to save any venue that is unsuccessful", he concluded. "It's up to us – the government may very well fail to save our venues but we as individuals can still fight for their survival".


Travis Scott sued over his Cactus Jack thumbsticks
Gaming accessory company KontrolFreek has sued Travis Scott and his label Cactus Jack accusing them of ripping off its thumbstick products.

Scott's thumbsticks were so similar to its own, says KontrolFreek, that people assumed the rapper must have a partnership with the firm. To add insult to injury, the company alleges, Scott's rip off products were really rubbish, which made it even worse that people assumed the gaming firm had made them.

According to PageSix, KontrolFreek's lawsuit claims that Scott first ripped off its product back in April when he did some virtual gigs within Fortnite. Keen to capitalise on all the gamer love those shows created, the rapper started promoting Cactus Jack branded thumbsticks, which are basically widgets you add to your games console controller for "enhanced grip, increased accuracy and added height".

However, Scott didn't actually have any branded thumbsticks to sell. So, it's alleged, he grabbed photos of KontrolFreek's product, photoshopped the Cactus Jack logo onto them, and used those images for promo.

When KontrolFreek formally complained about the rip off - and copyright infringement - Cactus Jack, it's claimed, suggested that the two companies work together. However, says KontrolFreek, it was asked to provide Scott with versions of its product featuring his brand for free.

When the gaming firm declined that offer, it says that Cactus Jack got knock-off products manufactured instead, borrowed KontrolFreek's slogan and copy for the packaging, and sent out the shoddy gizmos to Scott's fans.

KontrolFreek wants the court to order Scott to hand over any monies he made from his thumbsticks product plus damages, while also demanding that any unsold Cactus Jack thumbsticks be destroyed.

The rapper and his label are yet to respond.


Polaris signs YouTube deal, ending video site's standoff with Koda in Denmark
Polaris - the copyright hub that brings together the Danish, Finnish and Norwegian song right collecting societies - has announced a new licensing deal with YouTube. It's a particularly notable deal because it brings to an end the standoff between the Google video site and Danish society Koda.

Koda - like Teosto in Finland and Tono in Norway - had its own deal with YouTube prior to the launch of the Polaris digital licensing alliance. That deal officially ran out in April, meaning the Danish society needed a stop-gap arrangement while talks continued to finalise the new Polaris/YouTube licence.

The society proposed that its previous deal roll on while the Polaris talks continued, as is quite common in a digital music sector where licences often expire before the next licensing deal has been fully agreed.

However, YouTube didn't like that plan, insisting that a lower royalty rate should apply during the limbo period. Koda, which unsurprisingly hit out at that proposal, claimed that that lower rate would cut the society's YouTube income by 70%.

With the two sides not able to agree on a temporary deal, videos on YouTube containing Koda controlled works start to be blocked, with hundreds of thousands of videos reportedly affected on the Google platform within Denmark. But with the Polaris deal now done and due to go into immediate effect, that video-blocking stand-off is now at an end.

Confirming all that, Polaris said that its new deal with YouTube replaces "the local agreements previously entered into by the individual countries. The agreement encompasses a range of music uses including traditional music videos and TV-style content that has music in the background, and cover versions. It covers both ad-supported as well as subscription services".

The new deal also sees the Nordic societies directly license their repertoires to YouTube in more markets, making them less reliant on reciprocal deals with other societies in other countries. The agreement covers Europe, the Middle East, Africa and parts of Asia.

Publishers and societies directly licensing their respective catalogues to streaming services in more markets is key to overcoming some of the complexities that make digital licensing on the songs side of the business inefficient and confusing.

Polaris itself points out that by dealing directly with YouTube in more markets, its member societies will have more control over their music, payments should be faster, and fewer commissions will be charged as a songwriter's royalties flow through the system.


Audience Access Alliance calls for events industry to include deaf and disabled people in COVID recovery
A group of audience accessibility organisations, led by music charity Attitude Is Everything, has formed a new coalition under the name the Audience Access Alliance. The launch coincides with the tenth anniversary of the UK's Equalities Act coming into force, and the group's aim is to further improve access to events for deaf, disabled and neurodivergent people.

Announcing its launch, the alliance has posted an open letter offering solidarity with the struggling event and live entertainment industries during the COVID-19 crisis - and adding its support to the #WeMakeEvents campaign - but also calling for businesses in those sectors to ensure that they include strategies for further improving accessibility in their recovery plans.

"Deaf and disabled people are a vast and diverse group in the UK, 14.1 million - 1 in 5 people - people", says the letter. "The total spending power of families including at least one disabled person is estimated at £274 billion a year".

"In 2019/20, 76% of deaf and disabled people engaged with the arts - vs 77% of non-disabled people - closing the estimated 9% gap in engagement recorded in 2008/09. Narrowing of participation gaps have also been seen across heritage, museums and galleries. And deaf and disabled people made up 12% of Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation audiences in 2018/19".

"COVID-19 is deeply affecting all of us at a personal level", it adds. "Deaf and disabled people are amongst the groups most impacted, with 2.2 million people told to shield and millions more having to take extra precautions due to existing and newly acquired COVID-related access requirements and health conditions".

"Not every disabled person is medically 'vulnerable' to COVID-19", it continues, "but our deep concern is that all disabled people will be impacted if COVID-19 erodes the growth in accessible choices we have worked so hard to secure".

It adds that the organisations in the Audience Access Alliance can offer support and advice across music, sport, heritage, tourism and other areas of culture.

As well as Attitude is Everything, members of the alliance include Disability Collaborative Network, Euan's Guide, Hynt, The Access Card, Performance Interpreting Inc, Shape Arts, Signed Culture, Stagetext, Stay Up Late, Transport For All and VocalEyes.

Read the full open letter here.


Twitch launches library of pre-cleared indie label music
Twitch yesterday announced the launch of a new service that will provide gamers and creators on the livestreaming platform with access to a library of pre-cleared commercially-released music. Those gamers and creators can now have that music playing in the background on their streams without running into any copyright issues.

The new service is launched as the Amazon-owned livestreaming platform comes under increased scrutiny by the music industry, partly because of the boom in livestreaming during the COVID shutdown, and partly because Twitch itself has been more proactively courting creators beyond its core community of gamers, including artists and musicians.

The issue of unlicensed music appearing in Twitch streams has come up before, including when the record industry started more prolifically issuing takedown notices against the platform in 2018 and affected gamers started discussing the copyright alerts they were receiving.

Twitch has made some nominal moves in legitimising music on its platform before too, including a previous, smaller and subsequently aborted attempt at launching a pre-cleared library of music like the one it announced yesterday. Plus the service has had licensing agreements with the US song right collecting societies for a while.

However, it's in more recent months that Twitch's music licences - or lack of licences - has become a much bigger talking point, and the need to sort everything out has become much more pressing.

First, because a more aware music industry is issuing more takedowns. Secondly, because the reforms of the copyright safe harbour in Europe could end up affecting livestreaming services more than user-upload platforms. And thirdly, because Facebook's smaller rival live gaming app, Facebook Gaming, just announced a load of music licences.

With all that in mind, it's perhaps unsurprising that the Amazon company seems to be ramping up its efforts to secure licensing as well as marketing partnerships with the music industry, including its recently announced licensing deal with French collecting society SACEM.

Soundtrack By Twitch is enabled by a number of licensing deals with digital distributors like DistroKid and UnitedMasters, a small number of indie labels, and fellow streaming platform SoundCloud, which also offers digital distribution services these days. Twitch says that the new music library, currently in beta with restricted availability, launches with over a million tracks in place.

The specifics of the deals Twitch has done with its new label and distributor partners are, of course, not known, because they never are. Though Twitch generally likes to big up the promo value of having music in streams on its platform which - while a legit thing to talk about - is usually code for "we'd rather not pay you much money for your music".

It's also not clear how Twitch is covering the separate song rights in its new music library. It may be relying on the aforementioned collecting society deals. Although there are still plenty of those deals to be done - UK society PRS is not currently licensing Twitch, for example.

The jury is also still out on which elements of the copyright are actually being exploited by a livestream. Depending on what the industry decides in that domain, it may be that the societies are not able to provide a full licence for a service like Twitch, especially with Anglo-American repertoire, necessitating direct deals with the music publishers too.

Either way, as is usually the case when new digital music deals are done, artists, songwriters and their managers will likely have to do some detective work to figure all that out.

In the meantime, here's Twitch bragging about its new Soundtrack in a blog post yesterday: "We know how important music is to your creative process, and have heard how frustrating it is to understand and navigate the complex and evolving music ecosystem. Soundtrack gives you a curated collection of rights-cleared music and integrates with your streaming software to separate your audio sources, allowing you to keep your channel safe while you create compelling content and grow as a creator".


Approved: Tomorrow's Ghosts
Musician Mikey Ferguson - once of previously approved band Letters - launched his new project, Tomorrow's Ghosts, earlier this year with a single of the same name. With a dark pop sound, he draws on deeply personal experiences and converts them into something cathartic and ultimately positive.

New single 'Call Me Ishmael' builds on the purely electronic sound of the previous release, adding guitars and live drums into the mix. It also sees him courageously confront a particularly difficult time in his life.

"'Call Me Ishmael' is about a period of time I spent in a mental health hospital as a patient, dealing with various forms of depression and loss", he explains. "Checking in there was the scariest thing I've ever done and I believed, at first, that I didn't belong in a place like that".

"That changed quickly after finding solace in the company of others", he goes on. "I wasn't different to, better or worse than anyone else in there. That's where the title and the last verse in the song come from - as well as the obvious literary reference. The name on my hospital door belonged there as much as those of my neighbours. I needed to get better".

Watch the video for 'Call Me Ishmael' here.

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

Independent artists increased output during lockdown, but direct-to-fan opportunities still being under-utilised
Digital distribution firm Amuse has published the results of a new survey of the independent artist community undertaken in partnership with consultancy MIDiA Research, revealing some general trends about self-releasing artists, and also some lockdown specific data. On the latter, the study reveals that one of the few upsides of the COVID lockdown is that artist productivity increased.

"Nearly 70% of artists spent more time writing or making music since the COVID-19 lockdown and a further 57% created more content for social media", the company says based on its survey. "Another 36% of artists said they have been collaborating more online, and nearly 20% said they have been doing livestreaming performances. While it is still early days for livestreaming, it could represent a significant growth opportunity for independent artists".

In terms of the many negatives of lockdown, 30% of those surveyed said that they were more worried about their finances since COVID struck, and the number of artists who emphasise touring activity as a key measure of success dropped, from 50% last time Amuse surveyed the artist community to 39%.

That only about a third expressed COVID-related financial concerns - and a similar number specifically said that they were not that concerned - is very possibly a sign that many people in the independent artist community do not make a full-time living from their music, even in the good times. Those artists therefore generally have other sources of income, while other work commitments often mean that touring is less likely to be a major part of their lives.

Nevertheless, half of the artists surveyed expressed concerns about the royalties they receive when their music is streamed, echoing calls in the wider artist and songwriter community for a review of the way digital dollars are shared out. Though, in the short term, artists might be more likely to generate extra income by really capitalising on direct-to-fan - something that all that extra creativity and content will help with.

And, according to Amuse's survey, there is plenty of untapped potential in that domain. Only 8% of those surveyed are using Patreon as a way of monetising the fan relationship, with only 15% saying they were utilising any Patreon-style crowdfunding or tip-jar service.

Commenting on the study, Amuse boss Diego Farias said: "This report really shines a light on the significance of the independent and self-releasing artist sector, as well as the unique challenges it faces. The pandemic has displayed the need of a reinvented music industry, where artists have access to the tools they need to manage and grow their careers in an effective way, on their own terms. That's something we've been dedicated to since day one at Amuse".



NZCA Lines has postponed his upcoming live dates to May next year, but also added a new London show at Heaven on 19 May. He's also written a piece for Clash about the current state of independent music under COVID-19.



Warner Chappell has signed Jxdn to a worldwide publishing deal. The singer-songwriter is signed to Travis Barker's DTA Records for recordings. "My music really speaks to my personal experiences", says Jxdn. "As an artist and a songwriter, I want to continue to challenge myself to branch out, while staying true to my rock roots. I know Warner Chappell is going to open up so many opportunities for me to grow and experiment, and I couldn't be more thankful to be here".

Sony/ATV has renewed its deal with pop songwriter Phil Plested. "Plested is a brilliant songwriter", says Sony/ATV CEO Jon Platt. "His music has captured fans across the globe, and this is just the beginning for him. We're proud to continue this creative partnership and deliver the best opportunities for him and his music".



Believe-owned DIY distribution firm TuneCore has announced the promotion of Andreea Gleeson to Chief Revenue Officer and Matt Barrington to Chief Operating Officer, creating a partnership that will run the business. "The elevation of Andreea and Matt to oversee the company as co-heads affirms their contributions in strengthening TuneCore's services and growth in order to best serve artists at all stages of their careers on a worldwide basis", says Believe CEO Denis Ladegaillerie.

Warner Chappell has announced the return of Richard Manners, after four years away from the company, in order to lead plans to strategically expand and support the publisher's catalogue. "Getting to work with the Warner Chappell catalogue again is an absolute joy", says Manners. "WCM has a rich heritage and one of the greatest songbooks in the world".

Skunk Anansie frontwoman Skin will host a new ten part series on Absolute Radio, playing the songs that have shaped her life. "I'm really excited to be part of the team", she says. "It's been a long-term dream of mine to have my own radio show, and this format is exactly the sort of thing I've always wanted to do". The show will air on Sunday nights from 10pm to midnight, starting on 18 Oct.



McFly have released new single 'Tonight Is The Night'. "In a way 'Tonight Is The Night' is the perfect summary of the [upcoming new] album", says the band's Harry Judd. "It's got this classic Tom melody but with Danny production flourishes and great harmonies and hints of [McFly's 2006 album] 'Motion In The Ocean'". The new album, 'Young Dumb Thrills', is out on 13 Nov.

Andrea Bocelli has announced that he will release new album 'Believe' on 13 Nov. The record will feature a previously unreleased track composed by Ennio Morricone before his death in July. "The concept behind 'Believe' is based on three words: faith, hope and charity", says Bocelli. "These are the three theological virtues of Christianity, yet - quite independently of any religious belief - they are also the three extraordinary keys to giving meaning and completeness to the lives of every one of us". Here's a trailer for the album.

Toddla T has released a new track with Jada Kingdom, titled 'Happy Place'. "It's quite timely where I'm at in my life right now, with a new chapter in many ways, not just professionally but with family and my mental state, I truly am in a happy place; so the timing is unintentionally correct, natural vibes", says the producer.

Keeley Forsyth will release a new EP, titled 'Photograph', on 20 Nov. "I always work from home", she says. "This time, the isolation had a new influence on my lyrical ideas. I was contemplating the idea of homesickness within the home; when life is lived on the domestic grid, in rooms and in tasks. I was looking to reframe the day, to give sound to the picture". Listen to the title track here.

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


Iggy Pop's cockatoo stars in Gucci advert
Times may be tough for many in the music industry at the moment, but I'll tell you who's not struggling: Iggy Pop's cockatoo, Biggy Pop. His public profile has never been higher. A month on from becoming a patron of the Byron Bay Wildlife Hospital, he's now scored a lead role in a Gucci advert.

Actually, it's more of a supporting role. Some Johnny come lately parrot takes the lead, alongside Tyler, The Creator, A$AP Rocky and, oh yeah, Iggy Pop. Biggy Pop flaps around in the background at a couple of points, but he totally steals the final two scenes. And I've heard he's going around telling everyone he carried the whole project.

"A certain type of fun is portrayed, and the idea of how one's obsession with appearances can create a kind of common ground that can become a sort of brotherhood", says Gucci Creative Director Alessandro Michele of the ad, which was directed by Harmony Korine. "It was beautiful to see these three men together, seemingly different but very similar".

Errrrrrrrrr, what about the birds? I think this is really a bird thing. Surely the men are just there as handlers more than anything else. What, are we supposed be looking at what the men are wearing, or something? No, don't be silly.

Anyway, you can watch this advert 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.
[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.
[email protected] or call 020 7099 9060
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.
[email protected]
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