TODAY'S TOP STORY: The founders of ticketing company Skiddle have hit out at the news that two of their competitors have received sizeable grants from the Culture Recovery Fund despite them being led to believe that the Arts Council England initiative was meant to be primarily supporting venues and event organisers. Meanwhile, they add, a number of venues and event organisers that they admire were unsuccessful in their bids... [READ MORE]
TOP STORIES Skiddle hits out at the Culture Recovery Fund grants received by rival ticketing firms
LEGAL Channel 4 strongly defends Leaving Neverland director in legal wrangling with Michael Jackson estate
Post Malone collaborator allowed to proceed with Circles copyright dispute

DEALS BMG moves into live music through promoter acquisition
RELEASES Paul McCartney announces lockdown album, McCartney III
GIGS & FESTIVALS Original Damned line-up reunite for 2021 tour
ONE LINERS SoundCloud, Raekwon, Ariana Grande, more
AND FINALLY... Fyre Festival's Billy McFarland launches podcast from prison to tell his side of the story
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Skiddle hits out at the Culture Recovery Fund grants received by rival ticketing firms
The founders of ticketing company Skiddle have hit out at the news that two of their competitors have received sizeable grants from the Culture Recovery Fund despite them being led to believe that the Arts Council England initiative was meant to be primarily supporting venues and event organisers. Meanwhile, they add, a number of venues and event organisers that they admire were unsuccessful in their bids.

The Culture Recovery Fund, of course, is distributing a significant chunk of the £1.57 billion in sector-specific COVID funding provided by the UK government to the cultural and heritage industries. Two rounds of grants have been confirmed so far, with monies going to an eclectic mix of businesses operating in music, theatre, dance and other performance disciples, as well as the visual arts and museums.

In an open letter, Skiddle co-founders Richard Dyer and Ben Sebborn talk through the challenges they have been tackling this year as the COVID-19 shutdown brought the entire live industry to a standstill. That has obviously had a major impact on the firm's revenues, while also resulting in lots of extra work as an unprecedented number of cancellations had to be processed in a very short time.

"Unfortunately", they write, "we have had to lose some fantastic members of staff (around 20 in total), we have closed one of our offices. We had to outlay on digital phone systems and purchase a whole load of hardware so we could maintain our usual levels of customer service whilst working from the sofa, kitchen table or garden shed. We've tried to laugh, we've definitely cried, we are tired and a little bit broken".

Skiddle made use of both the UK government's Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme and the furlough scheme, the latter covering most of the wages of employees whose roles with the company were paused during shutdown. However, the company was not eligible for any business rates relief because its base near Preston in Lancashire was not categorised as "hospitality or cultural". After reaching out to a local MP about that latter exclusion, the firm was "signposted ... to a discretionary grant, of which we were not eligible for as we had too many employees".

Which brings us to the Culture Recovery Fund. When that was announced, Dyer and Sebborn say, "we checked the criteria which reads 'by cultural organisation, we mean an organisation that works in one of our supported artforms or disciplines: music, theatre, dance, combined arts, visual arts, museums, or literature'. Or, as our MP Ben Wallace put it, 'This support package will benefit cultural sector services by providing support to cultural venues and many other organisations in the creative industries that host live events, to stay open and continue operating'".

They go on: "Skiddle took the decision not to apply, as we frankly did not fit the criteria as a cultural venue or host live events. We felt, and still feel, that the money was best distributed to the many thousands of amazing venues, promoters and arts organisations across the country that frankly, without you Skiddle would be nothing".

"Imagine our sheer disgust then", they add, "when the lists are published of who received grants, and amongst the many great people that received money we see companies like Resident Advisor – a website that writes music reviews of events across the world, whilst generating income from tickets – or Ticketline (the clue's in the name) receiving vast sums of money – whilst at the same time some of the best venues and event creators in the country/the world were not successful as they 'didn't fit the bill'".

"We are talking about The Frog And Bucket in Manchester who helped launch the careers of Peter Kay and Jack Whitehall, or Printworks in London which has been a simply magnificent addition to UK nightlife. Many venues who did apply were not awarded, whilst publications or dormant event brands were. This is frankly ridiculous and yet more evidence of how disconnected our government is from culture. [Culture Secretary] Oliver Dowden bleats on about the opera whilst our industry dies. A fund that was designed to save venues, to save culture has been savaged by people who knew how to write better applications than others – even if they don't appear to fit the criteria".

Dance music website Resident Advisor received a £750,000 grant in the first round of CRF funding, while Ticketline Network received £508,820 in the second round.

The Skiddle founders are not the first to criticise the amount of money awarded to Resident Advisor in particular. Though some other critics of that grant did seem to base their criticism on the assumption that Resident Advisor was primarily an editorial operation, not realising that selling tickets for clubbing and dance music events is a key revenue generator for the company, and therefore it has been significantly hit by the COVID-19 shutdown.

Following that earlier criticism, Resident Advisor co-founder Nick Sabine defended the grant his company had received, insisting that the pandemic had resulted in a "95% loss in revenue" at the firm. Adding that he expected "no meaningful recovery for at least the next six months", Sabine said the grant would cover about 30% of its losses until April 2021. Most of the money, he said, would "go towards retaining jobs and continuing to support 'critically important causes'", while 25% of the grant would benefit the company's "network of creative freelancers".

The Skiddle founders, of course, are well aware that ticketing is key to the Resident Advisor business. Their argument is that CRF was never positioned as a scheme to benefit cultural industry service providers like ticketing companies. And, in their opinion, the priority of the scheme should have been to first and foremost support venues and event organisers, rather than service provider businesses.

There have already been calls, from the Night Time Industries Association in particular, for the Arts Council to publish the criteria it employed when selecting which organisations to support with CRF grants.

And, while the Arts Council did stress when the CRF scheme was first announced that it was encouraging applications from a particularly wide range of cultural organisations, it does seem that there was some confusion in the music industry over exactly who could apply. Some companies were under the impression that they were not eligible but then saw their competitors secure grants.

Dyer and Sebborn end their letter by writing: "Skiddle will be OK. The road to recovery will be a long, bumpy one, but as long as we stick together with the remainder of our fantastic team then we will be able to continue serving both the event organisers and customers for a long time to come. Our approach to finance has always been simple, we never touch event organisers ticket money for our own use, we don't have any investors to please. Nearly 20 years of hard work was constantly reinvested into the company to further our growth. We will pay back our CBILS loan. Eventually".

"Now it is time for our leaders to listen. Time to listen to some of the amazing people in this industry that actually have the slightest clue of the UK events scene and the importance of it to our culture. We made our greatest friends on the dancefloor, and we would like our children to be able to as well".

"In summary, we call on you, the UK government to get a grip. A funding process should be fair. There should be clear guidance across all authorities and agencies regarding who can apply for what support and why. Define culture, define hospitality, define retail. Alongside this, there needs to be a clear roadmap out of the pandemic, and a conversation around what the future might hold for the fantastic music and cultural sector this country has been proud of for so long".


Channel 4 strongly defends Leaving Neverland director in legal wrangling with Michael Jackson estate
Channel 4 has criticised two companies operated by the Michael Jackson estate while strongly defending Dan Reed, the director behind the controversial 'Leaving Neverland' documentary.

Broadcast last year, the film put the spotlight on abuse allegations made against the late king of pop by Wade Robson and James Safechuck. Reed is currently working on a follow-up to 'Leaving Neverland', examining the ongoing legal battles between Robson and Safechuck on the one side and the Jackson companies MJJ Productions and MJJ Ventures on the other.

Legal action by both Robson and Safechuck was able to resume last year after a change to the law in California. Under the previous rules, both men had left it too late to pursue legal action in relation to alleged past child abuse. But changes to the statute of limitations under Californian law meant those lawsuits could be relaunched.

Safechuck's case has now been dismissed, however, on the basis MJJ Productions and MJJ Ventures did not directly owe him any duty of care in relation to the time he spent with Jackson as a child. Although he has already vowed to appeal, while Robson's case is expected to reach court next year.

Meanwhile, according to Deadline, after Reed began filming court proceedings in relation to those two lawsuits, the Jackson companies sought to pull the director into the litigation himself.

They served subpoenas against Reed and his production company Amos Pictures demanding that he hand over documents relating to 'Leaving Neverland' and its sequel, and that he agree to give a deposition about the projects. A subsequent legal filing by the Jackson companies then also sought to discredit Reed and persuade the court that he is not a legitimate journalist, while also requesting that the director be banned from filming in the courtroom.

Reed fired back last week stressing that he is a UK resident and that his company Amos has no base in California, meaning it will be difficult for the courts there to force him to hand over any documents. He also outlined his career as an Emmy and BAFTA-winning film-maker and stressed that the 'Leaving Neverland' sequel will document both sides' arguments in the ongoing legal battle. To that end, he adds, he had invited representatives of the Michael Jackson estate to take part in the new documentary, but those invites had been declined.

Reed's legal filing is backed by Louisa Compton, Head Of News And Current Affairs at Channel 4, which co-produced 'Leaving Neverland' and has commissioned the sequel. She states: "Understandably, the MJJ companies are not happy with 'Leaving Neverland' or the making of the follow-up documentary. It is easy to see why they do not want the subject matter of these films to be reported to the public. However, as much as they may dislike the messages that are being conveyed by these documentaries, we strenuously oppose their efforts to 'shoot the messenger'".

"In particular, we at Channel 4 oppose their effort to use subpoenas to try to force Reed and his company to turn over all of their unpublished materials and drag this journalist into depositions", she goes on. "In the UK, as in the United States, the courts are very reluctant to order journalists to hand over unbroadcast and other journalistic material, given the strong legal protections that exist to protect freedom of expression. The motives of the MJJ companies are further revealed by their attempt to ban Reed from filming in the courtroom and thereby prohibit him from getting footage to report on the proceedings".

She concludes: "We oppose these efforts to suppress journalism by preventing Reed from further informing the public about these matters of vital public importance".


Post Malone collaborator allowed to proceed with Circles copyright dispute
A judge in California has allowed Post Malone collaborator Tyler Armes to proceed with his lawsuit in which he claims co-ownership status on the former's hit 'Circles', but only in relation to the song copyright, not the accompanying recording copyright.

Armes – a songwriter, producer, multi-instrumentalist and member of Canadian rap-rock outfit Down With Webster – claims that he co-wrote 'Circles' during an all-night jamming session with Malone and producer Frank Dukes back in August 2018.

When the track was released he contacted Malone's manager who allegedly conceded that Armes co-wrote the track, offering him 5% of the copyright. But when Armes pushed for a better deal, his request was rejected, and the songwriter was subsequently denied both a credit on and share in the song.

The Malone side have been trying to get Armes' case dismissed. One argument they presented was that - although both Malone and Dukes are defendants in Armes' lawsuit - there are other co-writers on 'Circles' who are not party to the litigation. Those co-writers are "necessary and indispensable" to the lawsuit, the Malone side argued, but one of them is Canadian, meaning the Californian court lacks personal jurisdiction.

That seemed like an optimistic argument, not least because Armes is not making any claim over the copyright shares and royalty revenues of those other co-writers. Which is something the judge overseeing the case stresses in his decision to deny Malone's motion for dismissal.

"Defendants offer no practical explanation for why the court could not 'accord complete relief among existing parties', considering that Armes expressly disclaims any attempt to reach the non-party individuals' shares of the profits", judge Otis D Wright states.

"Armes alleges he wrote a significant portion of 'Circles' with Post and Dukes on 8 Aug 2018, but he admits he does not know who else subsequently worked on the song", the judge goes on. "Thus, he acknowledges he has no basis to contest the non-party writers' claims as co-writers or their shares of the profits, whatever those shares may be".

The judge also notes that Malone has filed his own lawsuit relating to this dispute in the New York courts and none of the other collaborators on the track are directly involved in that litigation either. Therefore, how can he argue their participation is a prerequisite in the Californian case? The judge writes: "[Malone's] failure to join the alleged co-owners as parties in the [Southern District of New York] action seriously undermines defendants' argument here".

However, although Armes' legal claim in relation to the song rights in 'Circles' can proceed, his claims over the separate recording copyright cannot.

The judge goes on: "The court finds that Armes fails to allege his co-authorship of the recording because he does not plead facts showing 'the most important factor': that he superintended control over its creation. Specifically, Armes alleges that he made several creative recommendations while Dukes created a recording of Dukes and Post performing the co-written musical composition. These allegations do not establish that Armes exercised control over the creation of the recording".

Armes does actually have the option of resubmitting his claims regarding the sound recording within fourteen days to deal with the issues raised by the judge. We will see if he does, and - indeed - how Malone and co fight back in the next stage of this copyright dispute.


BMG moves into live music through promoter acquisition
Music rights company BMG has announced plans to move into the live music market in Germany. Odd timing, you might think. Although the move comes through the acquisition of a majority stake in promoter Undercover, which it presumably got at quite a good price.

Undercover's team - including CEO Michael Schacke - will launch a new live entertainment division within BMG. The aim is for the company to be able to offer concert promotion and ticketing services to the artists signed to its recordings and publishing divisions. It will also work with other parts of the Bertlesmann empire, including book publisher Penguin Random House.

"Moving into live is the logical extension of BMG's plan to integrate all the services an artist could need under one roof, with the artist brand at the centre of it all", says BMG, EVP Repertoire & Marketing Continental Europe, Dominique Casimir. "Crucially, we have found in Michael Schacke and his team a partner who shares our values. We look forward to working with the other [Bertlesmann] divisions and together adding even more value to our artists and media brands by creating bespoke live experiences".

Schacke adds: "I founded [Undercover] in 1991 to be able to perform with my band and that's how I became a promoter. This idea has since grown into a nationwide concert agency with over 30 employees. Discussions about a partnership with BMG commenced long before the coronavirus pandemic, but we are now perfectly set up for when the market returns. There is a significant opportunity for us working together to offer a genuine alternative for artists in Germany and beyond, building on Undercover's established recipe of 'live entertainment and artist partnership'".

The acquisition is expected to be finalised by the end of this month.


Approved: The OBGMs
The OBMGs - that's short for The oOoh Baby Gimme Mores, if you were wondering - are set to release their second album, 'The Ends', at the end of this month - ten punchy, poppy punk tracks that are gone in under 25 minutes, but will leave a strong mark on you nonetheless.

"This is rock music that hits differently", says frontman Densil McFarlane. "It's Kurt Cobain shit. It's Jimi Hendrix shit. It's the Steve Jobs of this rock shit. The whole album is about not being bashful and just going out and getting it. A lot of people who do music sink into self-deprecation, but we're comfortable telling people how we feel about ourselves - good and bad - and the good is: I don't think there's a band that does what we do on a record".

That boldness comes after a period where McFarlane was ready to ditch the band and give up on music altogether. "My life wasn't very good at the time, people around me were dying, and everything I was making sucked", he explains. "I thought it was a sign that I needed to do something else".

"I basically had a conversation with myself and found that the reasons I was making music were wrong and upside-down", he says on turning things around. "I was making it to fit a certain mould, but it lacked truth. It lacked honesty. That's why it wasn't able to come out the way I wanted it to. So I changed my strategy on songwriting. I started talking about things that were more relevant to me and more relevant to my community - and just talking about how I actually feel in words that are not compromising".

That new vigour comes through in the new songs - including the album's first single 'Cash' and the newly released 'Not Again' - and is incredibly infectious. As you can discover for yourself with 'The Ends' is released on 30 Oct.

Watch the video for 'Not Again' here.

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

Paul McCartney announces lockdown album, McCartney III
Paul McCartney has announced a new solo album recorded during lockdown, which completes a trilogy he began 50 years ago. Although I'm not sure he knew it was a trilogy until recently.

'McCartney III' - which follow's 1970's 'McCartney' and 1980's 'McCartney II' - was recorded truly solo, with McCartney himself playing every instrument. It began when he returned to a song, 'When The Winter Comes', which he originally recorded in the early 90s, and finally completed earlier this year.

"I was living lockdown life on my farm with my family and I would go to my studio every day", he says. "I had to do a little bit of work on some film music and that turned into the opening track and then when it was done I thought what will I do next? I had some stuff I'd worked on over the years but sometimes time would run out and it would be left half-finished so I started thinking about what I had".

"Each day I'd start recording with the instrument I wrote the song on and then gradually layer it all up, it was a lot of fun", he continues. "It was about making music for yourself rather than making music that has to do a job. So, I just did stuff I fancied doing. I had no idea this would end up as an album".

The new LP is set for release on 11 Dec. Here's a trailer.


Original Damned line-up reunite for 2021 tour
Well, here's a novel thing, given current circumstances. The original line-up of The Damned have announced that they're getting back together.

Vocalist Dave Vanian, guitarist Brian James, bassist Captain Sensible and drummer Rat Scabies appeared at The Roundhouse in Camden for a socially distanced press conference yesterday to confirm that they plan to tour together next summer for the first time since the early 1990s. The event also coincided with the 44th anniversary of the release of their debut single, 'New Rose'.

The band acknowledged that they had chosen the "worst possible time" to get back together, and admitted that they had not yet had any rehearsals, but said that they were excited to get back on stage together again.

They also seemed unsure exactly when and where they would be playing. I can tell you though. They have four UK shows booked in, which they are currently insisting will be the only reunion dates. Tickets go on sale on Friday. Here are the listings:

9 Jul: London, Hammersmith Apollo
16 Jul: Birmingham, Academy
17 Jul: Glasgow, Academy
18 Jul: Manchester, Apollo



SoundCloud has launched a new subscription tier aimed at DJs. It will allow said DJs to store tracks offline when using the platform as a source of music in approved DJing software. The lack of offline playback is a downside to many streaming service DJing integrations.



Scooter Braun's Ithaca Holdings has signed a podcast development deal with Spotify. Its first show is 'Country Shine', about the Nashville music industry. "As an early investor in Spotify many years ago, we've collaborated closely with the entire team and have watched as they continue to trailblaze the industry", says Braun.



Raekwon has announced that he will release his autobiography, 'The Story Of Raekwon', next year. "This is my story", he confirms, "from being a wide-eyed kid full of hopes and dreams, through hard times and sadness and so many situations I'm amazed I survived. This is all of it, the good, the bad, the ugly, the whole truth and nothing but".

Ariana Grande has announced that she will release new single 'Positions' tonight. TONIGHT! She said recently that her new album will be out this month. So next Friday then. Pre-save the single here .

Finneas has released new single 'Can't Wait To Be Dead'. "I'm happy for this song to mean anything to anyone who listens to it but to me, it's a song about my relationship with the internet", he says. "Especially in an election year. Especially during a pandemic. Sometimes, the internet makes me laugh, sometimes it makes me cry, sometimes it makes me hopeful. But sometimes, it really makes me wanna be dead".

HER has released new single 'Damage'.

Keith Richards has released a video for his 1992 solo single 'Hate It When You Leave'. Better late than never. Coincidentally, the album the song is from, 'Main Offender', will be re-issued as a special vinyl release for Record Store Day this Saturday, and it comes with an additional seven-inch single featuring previously Japan-only track 'Key To The Highway' and the aforementioned 'Hate It When You Leave'.

Aminé has released new single 'Woodlawn'.

Ella Mai has released the video for recent single 'Not Another Love Song'.

Yaeji has released 'When In Summer, I Forget About The Winter', which was previously only available on the CD release of her 'What We Drew' mixtape in Japan and South Korea.

Liturgy have announced new album 'Origin Of The Alimonies', which is set for release on 20 Nov. From it, this is 'Lonely OIOION'.

Shygirl has released new single 'Slime', produced by Sophie, Sega Bodega and Kai Whiston. Her new EP 'Alias' is out on 20 Nov.

King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard have announced that they will release their new album, 'KG', on 20 Nov. Here's new single, 'Automation'.

Lucrecia Dalt has released the video for 'Ser Boca', from her new album 'No Era Sólida'.

MT Hadley has released new track 'Suddenly'. It "was born out of an all too fleeting encounter", he says. "I met her in Athens on the night I arrived there, and saw her every day the week I stayed. She always had to leave before the night was through because she lived on the outskirts of town. One night she took me to a truly dismal exhibition of violent graphic drawings. The evening was good, but the drawings were not. It was fairly easy to extend the song outward from this week of wishful romance. None of it is true, and yet it all is. She has heard the song but I did not elucidate the connection between the first lines and her name". His new album, 'There Isn't A Window That I Won't Look Out Of', is out on 12 Nov.

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


Fyre Festival's Billy McFarland launches podcast from prison to tell his side of the story
Imprisoned Fyre Festival founder Billy McFarland has launched a podcast to tell his side of the story of the big failed event in the Bahamas. Called 'Dumpster Fyre', episode one was released this week and features an interview with McFarland from prison.

The show promises that, as well as McFarland, it will also speak to various other people involved with the event in order to tell the story "from all sides". Although, as the show is apparently a response to McFarland's annoyance at how he was portrayed in the Netflix and Hulu documentaries about the Fyre Festival, some sides may be a little obscured.

"I hurt many people, and I'm aware of the pain and suffering that I've caused", says McFarland in episode one, which came out yesterday. "What I did was completely wrong and stupid. Not only did I harm people financially, I know that I violated their trust. I let them down. And I'm truly sorry about that".

From now on, he says, he plans to start "building trust" by operating with "extreme transparency".

It's possibly worth remembering here that when sentencing him to six years in prison two years ago, judge Naomi Reice Buchwald said that McFarland was "a serial fraudster" who "has been dishonest most of his life". And this was after McFarland claimed to be remorseful about his actions.

His conviction, of course, was not for being shit at festivals, but for defrauding investors of that event. He then also committed further fraud while out on bail awaiting sentencing - something Buchwald said was "unique in this court's memory".

In the podcast, he says that spending three months in solitary confinement was the turning point that made him realise the error of his ways. He says that he realised there how "stupid and idiotic" his actions had been, leaving him wanting to dedicate himself to "helping those I hurt and helping those I let down".

So, you can make your own mind up about whether or not that is true. According to the Daily Mail, McFarland has said that he hopes to be able to repay some of the $26 million he was ordered to return to investors using proceeds from the podcast project. Although a disclaimer at the beginning of the show says that he will receive no proceeds from the podcast.

Whatever, it is kind of impressive that three and a half years on, we're still talking about Fyre Festival. And that apparently there is any more to be said about it. It remains to be seen how the series unfolds - McFarland says in the show that he hopes the makers can track down some of the people he insists had a good time, despite everything. For now, you can listen to episode one 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
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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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