TODAY'S TOP STORY: TikTok has hit back in a patent dispute with Triller by asking a San Francisco federal court to confirm that it isn't infringing its rival's intellectual property via its super popular video-sharing app. For its part, Triller has quickly hit back at the hit back. It says that TikTok's new legal filing is simply an attempt to "skirt the law", positioning the dispute as a David and Goliath battle between a greedy Chinese conglomerate and a hard-working American start-up... [READ MORE]
TOP STORIES Triller says TikTok is trying to "skirt the law" in ongoing David v Goliath patent dispute
LEGAL MU joins Equity and Writers' Guild in seeking clarity on the impact Brexit will have on musicians and performers
Song-theft dispute over Ed Sheeran's Shape Of You set for 2022 court hearing

DEALS Instrumental confirms Tencent partnership
LIVE BUSINESS Marc Geiger returns with plan to save US small venues
INDUSTRY PEOPLE UK Music diversity survey finds improvements, but says more needs to be done
ONE LINERS Arctic Monkeys, Sony/ATV, Downtown, more
AND FINALLY... Dave Grohl overcomes coffee addiction with FreshPotix
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Triller says TikTok is trying to "skirt the law" in ongoing David v Goliath patent dispute
TikTok has hit back in a patent dispute with Triller by asking a San Francisco federal court to confirm that it isn't infringing its rival's intellectual property via its super popular video-sharing app. For its part, Triller has quickly hit back at the hit back. It says that TikTok's new legal filing is simply an attempt to "skirt the law", positioning the dispute as a David and Goliath battle between a greedy Chinese conglomerate and a hard-working American start-up.

Music-centric video-sharing app Triller first sued TikTok for patent infringement back in July. The US-registered patent allegedly being infringed is good old 9,691,429, which covers "systems and methods for creating music videos synchronised with an audio track". Triller alleges that TikTok is infringing that patent by allowing its users to "stitch together multiple videos while using the same audio track".

According to Bloomberg, in the new legal filing this week, TikTok and its Chinese owner Bytedance are seeking a court order that confirms that neither they, nor their products, nor their users "infringe the patent and that none of them are liable for damages or injunctive relief".

However, Triller CEO Mike Lu strongly criticised TikTok's legal filing yesterday, questioning why the company has chosen to file its own lawsuit with the courts in San Francisco rather than properly responding to Triller's litigation, which was filed with the courts in Waco, Texas.

Lu told reporters yesterday: "TikTok and its parent company, ByteDance, have been infringing on Triller's patents and stealing its technology for many years - enriching themselves and their investors at Triller's expense. We brought a claim against them for this violation over three months ago, and they have failed to respond, claiming they didn't have the time".

On the new legal filing, he went on: "This is nothing more than a transparent attempt by a Chinese conglomerate with tens of thousands employees to manipulate the US legal system by not responding to Triller's complaint or answering for their violations. Instead, they are attempting to skirt law so that they can keep stealing IP and technology".

Bytedance, of course, is still fighting efforts by the American government to ban the use of TikTok in the US over concerns that - because the app is owned by a Chinese company - the Chinese government has access to its global user-base and user-data. The TikTok owner is seeking to block the proposed ban in the American courts, while also concurrently trying to placate its critics in Washington via a proposed alliance with American tech firm Oracle.

Lu's response to TikTok's lawsuit very much capitalises on those concerns in Washington regarding his rival's Chinese ownership. "This is not about TikTok and Triller", he continued, "this is about all of the hard-working US entrepreneurs whose companies and technology continue to get ripped off by Chinese-based and Chinese government-controlled entities with unlimited resources - entities that play by a different set of rules".

"This is a David and Goliath story", he concluded, "and we look forward to our day in court, as well as our David and Goliath ending. We're not only standing up for Triller; we're standing up for its investors, its entrepreneurs, its employees, and all US-based businesses who have to deal with this on a daily basis".


MU joins Equity and Writers' Guild in seeking clarity on the impact Brexit will have on musicians and performers
As everyone in the live sector continues to deal with the huge challenges of COVID-19, it's easy to forget that, come January, British musicians and performers could well face a load more challenges when pursuing performance projects elsewhere in Europe because of bloody Brexit.

In the same way there remain so many unknowns regarding COVID-19 and how long it will continue to impact on live entertainment, there remain plenty more unknowns regarding what new costs and bureaucracy Brexit might create for musicians and performers touring Europe, once such touring is possible again.

With that in mind, organisations representing musicians, actors and writers - the Musicians' Union, Equity and the Writers' Guild respectively - have called on UK Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden to provide more clarity on what Brexit - deal or no deal - will mean for British performers and creators looking to work elsewhere in Europe.

And also regarding what those people should be doing now to prepare, and what the government is doing to mitigate disruption, whether or not the UK and EU agree and ratify a new trade deal before the end of the year.

The three organisations said in a statement: "Musicians, actors and writers face hardship caused by the pandemic, which has put a stop to live performance and new commissions. At the same time, uncertainty caused by Brexit means finding new work after the transition period ends in January looks more and more challenging as the final countdown begins. Many performers represented by the unions say they need opportunities to work in Europe more than ever".

In a letter to Dowden, the three organisations ask the government to "clarify their position on ensuring creative work across Europe remains viable for British artists", and to "set out its position on copyright and the position of the arts in future trade deals, amid fears that the impact of leaving the bloc on the creative industries is not top of the agenda".

Commenting on the letter, MU General Secretary Horace Trubridge said: "We lack any clear information on what the government is doing to ensure performers can take up work opportunities in Europe after January. Our members need to know they will be able to work and travel freely before they can plan their jobs. The government should make their position clearer".


Song-theft dispute over Ed Sheeran's Shape Of You set for 2022 court hearing
Disappointed that the big court hearing relating to the copyright dispute between Ed Sheeran and the Ed Townsend estate - originally due to take place in a New York next month - has been postponed into 2021 because of COVID? Worry not, we have an update for you from an entirely different Ed Sheeran copyright dispute, this one being fought out in the London courts. Although the full court hearing on this dispute isn't scheduled to take place until 2022.

The dispute in the London courts relates to Sheeran's 2017 hit 'Shape Of You'. On that song, he is accused of ripping off an earlier track by Sami Chokri - aka Sami Switch - called 'Oh Why'. Sheeran went legal in 2018 after the dispute with Chokri resulted in 'Shape Of You' royalties collected via the collective licensing system being put on hold, and the lawsuit has been slowly working its way through the courts ever since.

Last year there was an interesting side debate over whether or not the Chokri side could present as evidence various other occasions when Sheeran and his songwriting pals have been accused of lifting elements of other songs, basically in a bid to show that the Sheeran team are prone to plagiarise when creating new music.

That related less to other legal battles involving Sheeran - like the aforementioned dispute with the Townsend estate, which claims Sheeran's 'Thinking Out Loud' rips off Marvin Gaye's 'Let's Get it On, which Townsend co-wrote - and more with song-theft claims that the Sheeran team have quietly settled. For example, when the writers of TLC's 'No Scrubs' were given songwriting credits on a Sheeran song that seemed to borrow from the earlier hit. That song being 'Shape Of You'.

The latest side debate in the ongoing litigation was much more tedious. Basically it related to requests the Chokri side had made for information about the writing and recording of 'Shape Of You', and allegations that the Sheeran side had failed to respond to those requests in a timely or appropriate manner. Were the requests the Chokri side made relevant to the case? And did Sheeran's lawyers follow due process when pushing back against those requests?

The judge overseeing the case ultimately concluded that the Sheeran side's response to the Chokri side's requests was "plainly inadequate". However, he also concluded that it would be unfair to penalise Sheeran in the case for his legal team's procedural errors.

And so the case continues. And, despite the judge's very long discussion about the requests for information made by Team Chokri and the resulting response from Team Sheeran (and the COVID-based excuses that came up along the way), what most people have honed in on in the latest court papers for this case is the January 2022 date that's been set for a full trial.

Oh, and the £3 million that the two sides reckon they'll have spent on legal costs by the time that court hearing is done and dusted. Proving, once again, that when it comes to copyright disputes, it's always the lawyers who win.


Instrumental confirms Tencent partnership
UK-based data-driven talent scouting set-up Instrumental has confirmed that Chinese web giant Tencent, and its Tencent Music Entertainment business, have taken a minority stake in the company. The investment will be accompanied by one of those "strategic partnerships" you all love.

As well as helping labels and promoters to identify and develop new music talent by crunching lots of streaming and social data, Instrumental says that it also wants to increasingly take insights, services and partnerships directly to new artists who are busy building an audience online DIY, and part of the Tencent tie-up is about expanding that activity.

Instrumental CEO Conrad Withey says of the deal: "We are incredibly excited about our new strategic investors, Tencent and TME, and the opportunity we now have to achieve great things together. Like us, Tencent have identified the power and potential of data science in the discovery and development of high potential new artists. I am looking forward greatly to collaborating with Tencent and TME, including the opportunity to expand our business into China".

"This deal will allow Instrumental to accelerate our commitment to becoming an 'artist first' business", he goes on, "delivering insights and partnerships directly to the great talent discovered by our app. That includes expanding our label and publishing services, but also launching new products that meet the needs of high growth artists at the earliest stages of building a career in the music business, including merchandise, digital live events and brand partnerships".

Confirming the deal on Tencent's side, the Group VP of Tencent Music Entertainment, Dennis Hau, adds: "As the leading online music entertainment platform in China, TME has always been committed to capitalising on cutting-edge and emerging technologies to transform its services, [and] amplify social functionalities to encourage user engagement".

"With years of advanced research and application of AI technologies, we have improved the efficiency in selecting, discovering and distributing quality content and promoting the growth of artists, which allowed our hundreds of millions of users to enjoy more diversified content with high quality", he then says. "The cooperation with Instrumental will certainly bring greater impetus to the innovation of TME in AI technology application, as a win-win combination of better service for our users, good promotion for the growing artists, and the sound development of the entire online music industry".


Marc Geiger returns with plan to save US small venues
Following his departure from talent agency WME this summer, Marc Geiger has announced his return with a new company called SaveLive. Having raised $75 million, the company will acquire majority stakes in small music venues around the US to help revive the live music scene post-COVID.

Speaking to the New York Times, Geiger says: "One of my favourite things in the world is to go to a club, be treated well and see an incredible band. So I thought, 'OK, I'm going to raise a bunch of money and I'm going to backstop all these clubs. I'm going to be a bailout solution for them, and I'm going to call the company SaveLive'".

The aim, he says, is to buy stakes of 51% or more in dozens of clubs around the US, helping them to weather the COVID storm until the live music scene returns to full capacity - which will be 2022 at the earliest, he reckons. In the process, he hopes to build a national network of small venues.

"The hope here is to create a network effect", he says. "To be a long-term backer, helper, grower of these businesses, and enjoy the wins".

Negotiations are already underway with a number of venues. The fear of agreeing to such a deal on the venue's side, though, might be that the ultimate plan here is to actually sell the acquired premises off to developers once the pandemic is over.

Such fears would probably make independent venues nervous of considering deals of this kind under normal circumstances. There are also concerns that Geiger is taking advantage of businesses left in dire straits by COVID-19.

However, co-founder of SaveLive, John Fogelman, tells the NYT that his company is very much viewing these deals as partnerships, rather than acquisitions. Meanwhile, primary backer Jordan Moelis of Deep Field Asset Management insists: "We don't see this as a distressed-asset play. We see this as a business-building play, a play to be a long-term partner and to be around for a long time".

For many smaller US venues, this may seem like the only option. Particularly as efforts to secure extra government relief Stateside as the COVID crisis extends have been stalled by Donald Trump until after the presidential election. A revised version of the Heroes Act, which includes $10 million in grants for small venues, was passed by the House Of Representatives at the beginning of this month, but is yet to get the support of Senate or the President.


UK Music diversity survey finds improvements, but says more needs to be done
UK Music has published its biennial Diversity Report, which seeks to track changes in diversity across the UK music industry. According to research by the trade body of trade bodies, there have been improvements in ethnic and gender diversity across the music industry, particularly in younger age demographics. Although issues remain.

Representation of black, Asian and other ethnic minorities among those aged 16-24 in the music industry now stands at 30.6% - the highest percentage since the report first launched in 2016. The most significant growth was in entry-level positions. At a senior executive level, there has been a rise from 17.9% in 2018 to 19.9% in 2020.

The percentage of industry roles held by women now stands at 49.6%, although there has been a drop in the 45-64 age bracket, where executive roles are more likely to be held by men. Women accounted for 38.7% of execs in that age bracket in 2018, but 35% in 2020.

Although there are some positive shifts in UK Music's latest diversity stats, the trade group's Diversity Taskforce - which leads on the research - says that there is still plenty more to be done, and has laid out a ten-point plan of recommendations to further affect change.

This includes the eradication of the term 'urban' to describe certain genres of music and the halting of the use of the acronym BAME - rather, the full term 'black, Asian or ethnic minority' should be used.

It also recommends that the various trade groups that make up the UK Music membership allocate budget to diversity training, and programmes to boost diversity in middle and senior management.

In addition, it calls for greater transparency and reporting on pay gaps and progress on improving diversity. This includes encouraging music companies to work to increase the response rate to the Diversity Report survey ahead of the next edition in 2022.

UK Music Diversity Taskforce Chair Ammo Talwar says: "Against a backdrop of global change the Diversity Taskforce has been carefully listening, challenging and working behind the scenes to help shape a transformational and game-changing ten-point plan. This plan is data-driven, evidence-based, with metrics and lived experience. It's the accumulation of nine months' work across the whole music industry to support yet hold the industry to account. No tokenistic statements, no short-term wins, but a truly collaborative long term plan that reboots the sector and ensures diversity is front and centre of all major decisions".

Commenting on the report and resulting plan on behalf of its record label members, BPI boss Geoff Taylor adds: "We promoted [the Diversity Report] survey strongly to our membership, since it shines a powerful light on whether progress is being made promoting equality of opportunity and inclusion in labels, and right across our industry. While there is some good news to welcome, in particular it is clear that we have more to do to ensure proportionate representation of women and executives of colour at the most senior levels. The BPI has signed up to the ten-point plan so that, working together, our industry can deliver lasting and meaningful change".

Meanwhile, the Deputy Chair of the UK Music taskforce, Paulette Long, says: "The last four and a half years has seen our Diversity Taskforce lead the way with a survey giving evidence of issues that needed highlighting, and introducing a ten-point plan to address and rectify some of the underlying obstacles. It's good to see industry organisations review and reset imbalances on their boards, but I am still wary of 'knee jerk' reactions and want to task industry gatekeepers to look towards making long-lasting systemic changes. Let us resolve to never turn back".


Approved: Ela Minus
"We always know in the first minute or so if something's worth staying for", intones Ela Minus on 'They Told Us It Was Hard, But They Were Wrong', the first single from her debut album 'Acts Of Rebellion'. She finishes that line 51 seconds in, at which point you should be hooked on her warm and welcoming electronic music.

Minus studied jazz drumming and synthesiser design at Berklee College Of Music, but clearly the synths eventually won out. However, her training as a drummer is still apparent. Making her music exclusively on hardware synths, without a laptop in sight, there's a physicality to the way she plays and performs. Rhythm plays a strong role in the construction of her melodies, and there's a drummer's ability to pull together a collection of different sounds into a complete whole.

"I deeply identify with club culture, and want to make music to dance to", she says. "I also want to make songs in the more traditional sense, with melodies, lyrics, and singing. I want to make songs that stay with people through the years. I always start writing by improvising alone. Once I have some instrumentals I'm happy with, I intuitively grab the mic and sing a phrase with a melody in it. I always keep that initial phrase".

'Acts Of Rebellion' was released through Domino last week. She's also scheduled to play live at Electrowerkz in London on 2 Mar. From the album, this is previous single and standout track 'Megapunk'.

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


Ninja Tune has signed Black Country, New Road and will release the band's debut album, 'For The First Time', on 5 Feb 2021. "This [album] is basically representative of our first eighteen months", says frontman Isaac Wood. "I've always been interested in a really honest portrayal of what a band is and what they've been working on. I think it's really nice if people can see an artist like: this was them in the early days, this was their next phase, and that they're quite clear and honest about genuine progression as people and musicians".

Sony/ATV has signed singer-songwriter Nomcebo Zikode to a worldwide publishing deal. "I'm THRILLED that Nomcebo has decided to join Sony/ATV", says the publisher's International President Guy Henderson. "A wonderful songwriter with a great voice, Nomcebo has co-written one of the top global hits of 2020. As a South African overseeing Sony/ATV's international companies around the world, it gives me an added THRILL that my team will be able to work not only on a South African penned global hit like 'Jerusalema', but on all the other songs that Nomcebo has written".



Sony/ATV has promoted John Pire to the role of EVP Global Business Development. "John has been instrumental in creating opportunities for Sony/ATV's songwriters and expanding our business worldwide", says CEO Jon Platt. "I'm pleased to recognise his many contributions as a leader with this well-deserved promotion, and I look forward to working with him on a variety of new ventures".

Downtown has made a number of changes to its executive team. Former CEO of CD Baby, which Downtown acquired in March last year, Tracy Maddux, becomes the wider company's Chief Commercial Officer. Meanwhile, Amber Charania joins as Legal Counsel, Dean Luck is in as International Controller, and Joel Andrew becomes President of CD Baby.

The UK's Association Of Independent Music has appointed five new board members: Domino's Clare Mckinney, Stones Throw's Maya Kalev, MIC Records' Nicole Mckenzie, !K7's Rachael Patterson, and Cooking Vinyl's Suzanne Lachapelle. The trade body has also announced a new free associate membership tier for all and any self-releasing artists and smaller record labels that utilise the services of AIM's distributor members. More info here.



Ticketing app Dice has launched in India. Needless to say, its initial focus is the delivery and ticketing of livestreamed shows in the country, something it's been doing elsewhere in the world since April when the COVID shutdown resulted in a spike in interest in all things livestreaming. The firm's lead in India, Arnav Banerjee, adds: "Dice's long term aim in India is to build a more sustainable live industry to help venues, promoters and artists thrive".



Arctic Monkeys have announced that they will release new live album, 'Live At The Albert Hall', on 4 Dec. All proceeds from the release will be donated to War Child - as was income from the show, when it was performed in June 2018.

Stereophonics frontman Kelly Jones has announced that he will release his new solo album, 'Don't Let The Devil Take Another Day', on 4 Dec. The album features reworks of Stereophonics songs and previously released solo tracks, plus a cover of Kris Kristofferson's 'Help Me Make It Through The Night', which is the album's first single.

Karen O and Willie Nelson have released a cover of Queen's 'Under Pressure'. "I've heard this song countless times without processing the gravity of what Bowie and Freddie were singing about, maybe because their performances are so exhilarating you get swept away in the high of that duet", says Karen O. "Our cover was meant to be more intimate but just as saturated with the power of love".

Taio Cruz has released new single '2020'. "I decided to write a story where 2020 is imagined to be a real person, with zero empathy who revels in chaos", he says. "Conceptually one might think of the Grinch's disdain of all things fun, coupled with the flippant narcissistic poise of Mary Poppins. 2020 walks in like they own the place, and promptly fucks shit up".

Rhye has announced that he will release new album, 'Home', on 22 Jan 2021. From it, this is new single 'Black Rain'.

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


Dave Grohl overcomes coffee addiction with FreshPotix
Dave Grohl has released a sequel to his classic(?) 'Fresh Pots' video, which portrayed him as out of control and in the grips of an addiction to caffeine. Now, a decade later, in a spoof advert for a drug called FreshPotix, he shows how he overcame his problem.

"Ten years ago, I was in the grips of a debilitating caffeine addiction", says a sombre Grohl in the video. "My ability to maintain personal relationships and solid bowel movements were compromised by crippling sleep deprivation and noxious coffee breath. As the bean took over, I found myself doing anything for a fix".

You then get to watch Grohl ingest coffee grounds in a variety of ways, from snorting them to putting them in a sandwich. But that's all changed since he started taking FreshPotix, which lists an alarming range of side-effects, he says.

Anyway, you can watch the new video here, and then prepare yourself for the completion of this trilogy in 2030.


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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