TODAY'S TOP STORY: Spotify has announced it is piloting a new service that will allow artists and labels to influence the algorithm that selects what music is played when users use the streaming platform's auto-play or personalised radio functionality. This is a development many artists and labels will welcome, although the costs associated with accessing the new service is proving controversial in some quarters... [READ MORE]
TOP STORIES Spotify to allow artists and labels to influence its curation algorithm - in return for a royalty discount
LEGAL 110 creative industry groups call for more support for post-COVID recovery from EU and European governments
MU and ISM welcome increased COVID support for freelancers, but say more still needs to be done

Wolfe estate throws one last punch in Stairway case: requests a Supreme Court rethink

DEALS Sony Music agrees licensing deal with TikTok
AWARDS Oram Awards winners announced
ONE LINERS WEAREBLK, Ticketmaster, Warner Chappell, more
AND FINALLY... Beyonce is a beekeeper
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Spotify to allow artists and labels to influence its curation algorithm - in return for a royalty discount
Spotify has announced it is piloting a new service that will allow artists and labels to influence the algorithm that selects what music is played when users use the streaming platform's auto-play or personalised radio functionality. This is a development many artists and labels will welcome, although the costs associated with accessing the new service is proving controversial in some quarters.

Spotify's curation algorithm influences what music the platform's users hear in a number of ways. The most obvious is the algorithm-based personalised playlists like Discover Weekly. However, many users also have auto-play set up on their Spotify account, meaning that when a playlist or album they have specifically selected finishes, the service just keeps playing related music. And then there's the 'radio' option, that plays a constant personalised stream of music based on a favourite artist.

The Spotify algorithm crunches lots of data in order to decide what music to play. The streaming firm calls each of the things the algorithm considers a "signal". In a blog post yesterday, the company revealed what some of those signals are, including things like what a subscriber is listening to when, preferred genres and languages, what tracks they saved to their library, the listening habits of other subscribers with similar musical tastes, the time of day, and so on.

With the new service, artist or label input will become one of those signals. Spotify wrote in its blog post that "artists tell us they want more opportunities to connect with new listeners, and we believe our recommendations should also be informed by artists - their priorities and what they have to say about their music. And soon, we will roll out a test of a service that gives artists a say in how their music is discovered".

Unlike Spotify's existing playlist pitching tool, which is focused on new releases, the new service will allow artists and labels to inform the algorithm about catalogue as well as new tracks that they think the system should be prioritising. That might mean, Spotify added, a song the artist is "particularly excited about, an album anniversary they're celebrating, a viral cultural moment they're experiencing, or other factors they care about".

There's also another difference between this service and Spotify's playlist pitching tool. That tool is free to use, whereas this will be a paid-for service. Partly to stop artists and labels telling the algorithm that all their tracks are a priority, and partly because Spotify is slowly expanding the range of paid-for marketing services it sells to the music industry.

However, Spotify revealed in its blog post, artists and labels using the new service won't have to pay anything upfront. Instead, when an artist or label asks the algorithm to prioritise a track, a lower recording royalty rate will then be paid on any subsequent streams that the algorithm generates.

Although Spotify clearly sees that approach as being pro-artist and pro-indie - in that it means the service doesn't require an artist or label to have a big upfront marketing budget - it's a potentially controversial move in the context of the debate around streaming royalty rates that has gained new momentum during the COVID-19 shutdown of live music.

For those that argue those royalty rates are already too low, the prospect of an even lower rate being paid on any streams is worrying, despite the marketing value of the new service.

Of course, any artist or label that doesn't think the new service as adding any value isn't obliged to use it. Though any talk of lower payouts and paid-for marketing probably empowers those who argue that the streaming business model only works for the platforms and the majors - despite, as noted, the proposed payment model seeking to ensure grassroots artists and indie labels can take part.

Some might also see a system that allows artists or labels to pay to push their music towards listeners as being good old 'payola'. That viewpoint possibly depends on whether you see Spotify as the new radio or the new retail. Paying for airplay on radio has always been frowned upon and is often illegal. But, in the heyday of the CD, it was common for major retailers to seek discounts or fees for priority racking and in-store promotions.

It should also be noted that Spotify is keen to stress that this new service will only influence the algorithm, not control it. "Listener satisfaction is our priority", the blog post insisted, "we won't guarantee placement to labels or artists, and we only ever recommend music we think listeners will want to hear".

The pilot of this new service - branded 'discovery mode' on the industry side - will start in the US, with the focus on Spotify's autoplay and personalised radio functions. However, as it rolls out, the service could also be expanded to other areas of the platform where the algorithm curates.


110 creative industry groups call for more support for post-COVID recovery from EU and European governments
As a second COVID surge occurs across Europe - with lockdowns and other restrictions back in force in multiple countries - 110 organisations representing the cultural and creative sectors across the European Union have called on the European Commission and the national governments of EU member states to "place culture at the core of each and every recovery plan".

The organisations, who have signed open letters to the EC and all the EU national governments, say that they represent "millions of European creators and cultural and creative businesses". At a basic level, they call on political leaders across Europe to "at the very least [ensure that] 2% of each national recovery and resilience facility budget is allocated to the cultural and creative sector, in line with the European Parliament's recent call in its resolution on the cultural recovery of Europe".

The open letter to the EC states: "Culture has always been a vibrant social resource, able to heal wounds in times of crisis. Culture carries tremendous intrinsic value and contributes significantly to the economy, with 4.2% of the EU GDP and 7.4 million jobs created. Culture is a vital component of the European integration and solidarity. It unites the European multitude of mentalities and histories in all their diversity, and shapes a common space for Europeans to develop a shared identity".

Focusing on the crisis caused by the COVID pandemic, it goes on: "Cultural and creative sectors themselves are among the most seriously damaged by the pandemic. Cultural activities are being halted, millions of jobs are frozen or wiped out, micro and small businesses are on the brink of bankruptcy and many talents are forced to leave the sector altogether". It then adds: "There is a risk that citizens will not find their vibrant cultural life back in the post-pandemic world".

While noting some positive moves at both an EU and national level to support the cultural and creative sectors through the COVID crisis and beyond, the open letters say that more clarity and concrete support is still needed, and that the Recovery And Resilience Facility set up by the EU to support post-pandemic recovery has a key role to play.

"Now that the dialogue with the member states on the design of their national recovery and resilience plans has kicked off", it says, "it is crucial that culture and creative sectors are fully included in the attainment of the main Recovery And Resilience Facility objectives".

Music organisations signing the letters include the IFPI, IMPF and ICMP, the International Artist Organisation Of Music, the International Federation Of Musicians, song right collecting society grouping GESAC, performer right collecting society grouping AEPO-ARTIS, pan-European independent music company trade group IMPALA, and various live industry organisations like the European Arenas Association, Live DMA, Liveurope and Yourope.

Participating organisations will be sharing social media posts to back up the letters later today using the hashtags #actforculture and #cultureneedsmore.


MU and ISM welcome increased COVID support for freelancers, but say more still needs to be done
Both the Musicians' Union and the Incorporated Society Of Musicians welcomed the news yesterday that the UK government's financial support scheme for the self-employed will be increased during the newly announced COVID lockdown. However, they also expressed concern about the level of support beyond November and the fact that many freelancers are still unable to access the funding scheme.

When a new national lockdown was announced for England this weekend in a bid to counter the latest surge in COVID cases, it was quickly confirmed that - as a result - the furlough scheme to support employees unable to work as a result of COVID restrictions would be extended through to the end of November. The more generous furlough scheme was set to be replaced this month by an alternative support programme providing a lower subsidy.

However, there wasn't an immediate announcement about the separate funding programme to support the self-employed, known as the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme. That was also due to change this month so that the total subsidy available to freelancers negatively impacted by COVID restrictions would be 40% of average earnings (originally support was going to be cut to 20%, but that was then increased to 40% late last month).

Given the large number of freelancers in the music industry - especially among musicians and songwriters - news on what the new lockdown meant for SEISS was much anticipated in the music community. Yesterday it was announced that support for the self-employed would be set at 80% of average earnings in November, before returning to 40% for December and January. Therefore over the quarter, the subsidy will be 55% of average earnings.

This change was welcomed by the MU and ISM. However, given that - even once the month-long lockdown is over - opportunities for musicians to play live are likely to be few and far between for at least a few more months, both organisations argued that more still needs to be done. And then there's that fact that the government has continually ignored - that the specific criteria for SEISS means many freelancers are unable to access the funding.

Responding to yesterday's announcement regarding support for freelancers, MU General Secretary Horace Trubridge said: "We appreciate all the government has done to support our members through the furlough and self-employment income support schemes so far, but they must not abandon our world-class musicians who are the driving force behind the multi-billion pound UK music industry".

"This latest announcement clearly does not achieve parity with employed people on furlough", he went on. "We will lobby the treasury on that point as well as continuing to argue that the many musicians who have been ineligible for this scheme must now be included".

He concluded: "We know from our research, that a third of musicians are considering abandoning the industry completely, due to financial hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Half of our members have already been forced to seek work outside of the industry, with seven in ten unable to undertake more than a quarter of their usual work. Once again, we strongly urge the government to recognise the unique situation that our members are in, and to provide sector-specific financial support for musicians".

Meanwhile, ISM CEO Deborah Annetts said: "We are pleased that the government is supporting the self-employed with 80% of trading profits for November, which increases the total grant to 55% of trading profits across the November to January period. Today's announcement, coming so soon after previous changes to SEISS, follows the ISM's tireless campaigning on this issue. This is a further acknowledgement from the government that its initial approach was insufficient and that more had to be done to support the self-employed, including the thousands of musicians who cannot work while performance venues remain closed".

"However", she went on, "the increased rate of SEISS is only for the first month of the three-month grant period and three million self-employed workers continue to be excluded from receiving it at all. So maintaining a higher level of grant, expanding the eligibility criteria and developing a clear roadmap for the return of live performance are all now essential for preventing an exodus of highly skilled talent from our world-leading arts sector".


Wolfe estate throws one last punch in Stairway case: requests a Supreme Court rethink
The long-running saga regarding the song-theft claims made against Led Zeppelin over 'Stairway To Heaven' is basically over. Although we do have an epilogue. An epilogue which might just lead to a sequel. I mean, probably not. But it could. Legal reps for the Randy Wolfe estate have formally asked the US Supreme Court to reconsider its decision to not hear the 'Stairway To Heaven' legal battle.

The estate of the late Randy Wolfe, aka Randy California, sued Led Zeppelin in 2014 claiming that the band's 1971 track 'Stairway To Heaven' ripped off an earlier song called 'Taurus', which Wolfe had written for his band Spirit. The case then went before a jury in 2016 who ruled that the two songs were not – in fact – similar enough to constitute copyright infringement.

The Wolfe estate then took the matter to the Ninth Circuit appeals court criticising various decisions made by the judge in the original jury trial. The appeals court initially concurred with the estate and ordered a retrial. But then it reconsidered the matter en banc – with more judges involved – and that time decided that the original ruling in Led Zep's favour should stand.

So the estate's lawyers marched up to the Supreme Court asking the judges there to intervene, arguing that precedents set in the Ninth Circuit ruling on the dispute were "a disaster for the creatives whose talent is often preyed upon". However, last month the Supreme Court formally declined to consider the case, meaning that the Ninth Circuit ruling in Led Zep's favour stands.

That's technically the end of it, except the Wolfe estate has one last option to pursue, which is basically to petition the Supreme Court to reconsider its decision not to consider the case.

Even the lawyer repping the estate, Francis Malofiy, admitted that the prospect of getting the Supreme Court to reconsider was "against all odds". However, he told Law360 yesterday: "[We] still have one last punch to throw and we are throwing it".

The estate's filing with the Supreme Court on Friday makes similarly bold statements to its original petition to the highest court in the land. The Ninth Circuit's ruling heralds the "death of music copyright", it states.

"Copyright law is meant to protect the creatives who create, not the industry who takes", it goes on. The "death of music copyright" line, it then adds, "is not a hyperbolic warning, but a fact unless this court grants review".

"The reformulation of the copyright test by the Ninth Circuit essentially gives the unscrupulous a licence to steal and commit plagiarism", it argues. "These changes to the law were heavily lobbied for by the recording industry for years, an industry which dominated the amici briefing before the Ninth Circuit (often referred to as the Hollywood Circuit because it is hostile to creatives)".

It seems unlikely that the Supreme Court will have a rethink, but still, we'll get one more song out of this when I finally get round to writing 'Led Zeppelin Thieved My Music: The Opera'.


Sony Music agrees licensing deal with TikTok
Sony Music and TikTok have finally agreed a proper longer term licensing deal, covering use of the major label's music on the video-sharing platform. So that's good news for both TikTok and Sony, along with any TikTok users who were worried that Sony's catalogue might get pulled off the platform if a deal wasn't reached. Anyone?

In terms of what this means for your average TikTok user, probably not much. Although behind the scenes there are reports that TikTok is now paying higher fees than were agreed in the short-term deals all three majors signed earlier this year.

"Short-form video clips have developed into an exciting new part of the music ecosystem that contribute to the overall growth of music and the way fans experience it", says Dennis Kooker, President of Global Digital Business and US Sales at Sony Music. "TikTok is a leader in this space and we are pleased to be partnering with them to drive music discovery, expand opportunities for creativity and support artist careers".

TikTok's Global Head Of Music Ole Obermann adds: "We are THRILLED to enter into this agreement with Sony Music so that we can continue to work together to connect the incredible roster of Sony artists in the US and across the globe to new audiences and harness the power of TikTok. Especially during this time when the artist community is challenged to find new ways to reach fans with their music, we are committed to working together to do just that".

Don't breath a sigh of relief just yet though, because longer-term deals with Warner and Universal are still in the works. Although, given TikTok's reputation as a hit-maker at the moment, it seems likely that those will follow soon.


Approved: Ambar Lucid
Ambar Lucid is back with new single 'Head Down', wasting no time getting back to releasing new material following the release of her debut album, 'Garden Of Lucid', in April. Wrapped in dream-like R&B production, the new song makes a forthright plea to engage directly with the world's ills.

"When I was writing 'Head Down' I wanted to write a song about the importance of being present", she says. "Many people, including myself, can easily disconnect and distract themselves by getting lost in whatever it is they do on their phones. Because of that we may miss the messages and lessons the universe is trying to communicate with us".

"I wanted to express the eerie feeling that is present when I choose to snap out of dissociating", she goes on. "Everyone feels so far away because of the distance constantly being on a phone has created. This song is a reminder to put your phone down and examine the things occurring around you in the present moment".

'Garden Of Lucid' showed a young artist with plenty to offer both in her songwriting and crafting a sound for herself. There are no signs of that letting up with 'Head Down'. Listen to the track here.

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

Oram Awards winners announced
Loula Yorke and NikNak have been announced as the main winners of this year's Oram Awards, both winning £1500 bursaries from the PRS Foundation. Poulomi Desai, Una Lee, Vicky Clarke and Yifeat Ziv also receive £500 bursaries.

Now in its fourth year, the Oram Awards is a collaboration between the New BBC Radiophonic Workshop and the PRS Foundation, recognising innovation in music and sound by women, girls and gender minorities.

"I will be able to access mentorship for the first time, and I hope to take my instruments on a mini-tour, creating connections and performing to new audiences in other regions of the UK", says Loula Yorke.

NikNak - real name Nicole Raymond - adds: "I believe that turntablism has not yet been represented in the New BBC Radiophonic workshop and so to be the first turntablist to be in the cohort is a true honour".

One of this year's judges, composer Nik Void, commented: "I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of being involved in this year's Oram Awards judging panel. I joined a panel whose collective experience across the industry brought diverse perspectives and a lively discussion. It was a real pleasure to see such a display of commitment across a range of practices from the applicants, and it was no easy task choosing the final six winners".

"With thanks to PRS Foundation and The New BBC Radiophonic Workshop for their role in championing the work of women and gender minority music creators", Void added, "I look forward to seeing this new community of next generation musicians and artists thrive, creating new and exciting work that pushes the boundaries of innovation".

The winner's ceremony has been postponed until 2021. However, each winner will be profiled on BBC Radio 3's 'Unclassified' over the next six weeks. You can also see a brief winners video here.



Sony Music has launched a new joint venture with record label WEAREBLK. Label founders Antz Robb, Abdi Abdille and Aidan Glennon will work with Sony execs DJ Semtex and Dipesh Parmar on signing and developing new talent. "Individually Abdi, Antz and Aidan bring a unique skillset to the table", says DJ Semtex. "Collectively, they have a fresh methodology for discovering artists and rapidly building audiences".



Live Nation's Ticketmaster has announced three executive promotions in North America. So that's nice. Marla Ostroff is now Managing Director of Ticketmaster North America, Trevor Allin is now EVP Business And Commercial Operations North America, and Maura Gibson is EVP Client Solutions And Strategy North America.

Warner Chappell has announced that Caroline Molko is stepping down as head of its French business after eighteen years. She will be replaced in January by Matthieu Tessier, who has served as Head of A&R for the last five years.

Today is, of course, the big election day. That's right, voting for independent representatives on the BPI Council is now open. The six candidates for the two positions are Donna Vergier (Good Soldier), Fred Jude (Snapper Music), Henry Semmence (Absolute Label Services), Jamie Oborne (Dirty Hit), Stefania Passamonte (Master Chord Records) and Steve Long (Signum Records). Full members of the record label trade body have until 17 Nov to cast their votes.



UK promoter TEG MJR has launched a new Irish division in partnership with booking agency MPI Artists. "This new promotions company makes sense from so many angles", insists TEG MJR CEO Richard Buck. "The winners will be Irish music fans and artists".



Frank Turner and Jon Snodgrass have released new single 'The Fleas', taken from their upcoming new album 'Buddies II: Still Buddies'.

Alter Bridge have released new single 'Last Rites'. Their new EP, 'Walk The Sky 2.0', is out on 6 Nov.

Lord Apex has released the video for 'Life Goes On', taken from his latest album 'Supply & Demand'.

Greentea Peng has released new single 'Revolution'.

King Khan has released the video for 'Wait Till The Stars Burn' from his new album 'The Infinite Ones'.

Lunatraktors have released new single '16,000 Miles'. The song is "based on '16,000 Miles From Home', an Irish-Australian emigration ballad, the song tells the story of somebody who goes to seek their fortune in Australia", say the folk duo. "There's a strange sense of humour in the narrative – a kind of dark, absurdist nihilism – that really appeals to us".



Doves will play a Forest Live show at Delamere Forest in Cheshire on 20 Jun 2021. Hopefully. Tickets go on sale on Friday. Details here.

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


Beyonce is a beekeeper
Beyonce has revealed that one of her more unexpected hobbies is keeping bees. The revelation comes in a new interview with Vogue.

The most exciting part of this news is that her comments on beekeeping can be transposed directly into one of my favourite jokes, so that will be the delivery mechanism for this piece of news today...

Three beekeepers meet up in a pub and they're discussing their different approaches to the profession. One turns to another and says, "So how many bees do you have?"

"I have two beehives", says Beyonce. "Real ones. I've had them at my house for a while now. I have around 80,000 bees and we make hundreds of jars of honey a year".

"Ha, well, I've got a few more bees than you", says the first beekeeper. "I have over four million bees".

"Wow, and how many hives do you put them in?"

"I have a similar split to you. I reckon 50,000 bees per hive, so I have 80 hives".

Both then turn to the third beekeeper who up to this point has remained quiet. "And how about you? How many bees do you have?"

"I've got about a billion bees", he says, looking up from his pint.

"That's a lot of bees", says the first beekeeper. "How many hives do you have?"

"One", he shrugs.

"You've got a billion bees and you keep them in just one hive?" says the first beekeeper.

"Yeah", says the third beekeeper. "Fuck em".


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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