TODAY'S TOP STORY: As the UK Parliament's culture select committee prepares for its inquiry into the economics of streaming and how monies generated by the streaming services are shared out across the music industry, the European Music Managers Alliance has called for a pan-European debate on some of the key issues, including legacy record contracts, black box distributions and user-centric royalty distribution... [READ MORE]
TOP STORIES Artist manager grouping calls for pan-European debate on the streaming business model
LEGAL Music industry welcomes confirmation that studio sessions and livestream shows can continue during new England-wide lockdown
Marc Jacobs seeks dismissal of Nirvana t-shirt case because Kurt Cobain didn't create the famous smiley face

Britney Spears moves to have father removed from conservatorship

DEALS Warner Chappell re-signs David Tao
RELEASES James Yorkston to release album with The Second Hand Orchestra
GIGS & FESTIVALS Beatport to stage 24 hour virtual event putting the spotlight on mental health
AND FINALLY... Kanye West secured over 60,000 votes in bid to become president
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Artist manager grouping calls for pan-European debate on the streaming business model
As the UK Parliament's culture select committee prepares for its inquiry into the economics of streaming and how monies generated by the streaming services are shared out across the music industry, the European Music Managers Alliance has called for a pan-European debate on some of the key issues, including legacy record contracts, black box distributions and user-centric royalty distribution.

The issues set to be discussed by the culture select committee - and those raised by EMMA today - have been talking points for years of course, pretty much ever since it became clear streaming was growing into the record industry's primary revenue stream.

However, the COVID-19 shutdown has reignited the debate. In 2020 most of the music industry's revenue streams have taken a hit because of the pandemic, except subscription streaming, which has continued to grow throughout the year.

With many artists seeing their income from live, merch, sync and the public performance of their music declining - in the case of live pretty much down to zero - much more attention has fallen on what happens to the money generated via the sale of streaming service subscriptions.

Under the current model, of the approximately 70% of subscription money paid to the music industry, the majority is allocated to the recording rights. Traditionally recorded music is the one aspect of an artist's business where the business partner - ie a record label - gets to keep the majority of the money, because of the label's upfront investment and marketing. Therefore the one revenue stream that has been COVID immune is the one revenue stream where many artists get a minority share.

EMMA, which brings together various groups across Europe that represent artist managers, notes that - as a result of the ongoing streaming boom, the fact the majority of streaming money goes to the recording rights, and the tendency for record deals to pay artists a minority share - labels, and especially the major labels, have had a good 2020. Meanwhile other strands of the music industry, and many artist businesses, have been majorly impacted by COVID.

As a result, the ongoing streaming boom is not, EMMA says, the "cause for celebration" it should be. "Commercial inefficiencies alongside outdated licensing and contractual practices mean too little of this revenue is reaching artists and other music makers", the trade group says.

EMMA puts the spotlight on three issues with the streaming business in particular. On the recordings side, legacy artist contracts where terms written for the CD era are being applied in a digital age. On the songs side, data issues that mean not all monies can be accurately allocated to the songs that have actually been streamed. And finally the perceived problems with the current service-centric system for royalty distribution.

On record contracts, EMMA states: "Artist contracts need updating. Analogue royalty rates should not apply to digital income, outdated deductions should be removed, and unrecouped balances reviewed after a reasonable period of time. Artist debt should not be carried forwards for decades".

As for song royalties that are not accurately matched to actual songs - resulting in monies ending up in the so called 'black box' - EMMA says: "While unidentified and non-matched writers revenues will frequently belong to the lowest-earning songwriters, they are typically reallocated by market share to the highest-earning, or to those with inside knowledge of [collecting society] mechanisms. This is unjustifiable, is not in the interests of [societies'] wider membership and needs reform with immediate effect".

Those reforms, EMMA adds, should begin with societies and other entities involved in digital licensing being entirely transparent about how much money is not being accurately matched to works and how that black box cash is being distributed. Meanwhile, the sharing of data between societies and licensing entities needs to increase so that more royalties can be accurately matched to the songs that were streamed.

And finally, EMMA supports a trial of a user-centric rather than service-centric approach to distributing streaming royalties, so that each subscriber's monthly payment is exclusively shared with the people and companies behind the music that subscriber listened to.

Many argue that the user-centric approach is fairer, while others point out that the current service-centric system - where all subscription monies are pooled and are then shared out based on total service-wide consumption share - is easily scammed.

That scam involves people uploading some music onto a streaming platform and then signing up for loads of premium accounts that are set to play that music. Under the current royalty distribution system, the scammers can get more money out in royalties than they paid in via subscriptions.

Deezer is currently trying to persuade the music industry to take part in a pilot of the user-centric approach in its biggest market, France.

"To counter stream manipulation and fraud and to boost consumer confidence in streaming models", EMMA declares, "[we] would like to see a full and transparent trial of what are known as user-centric payment systems. This method of distribution would reconnect the music played by streaming subscribers with the revenue received by artists and songwriters".

Commenting on EMMA's demands for reform, the group's Chair Per Kviman says: "When live music shut down in Europe and across the world, the incomes of artists, songwriters, producers, DJs and their wider teams went into freefall. They are fast becoming the collateral damage of COVID-19".

"The robustness and growth of music streaming through the pandemic should have been a lifeline to these people", he adds. "However, because of fundamental inequalities with how streaming services are licensed and how revenues are distributed, the vast majority are being cut further adrift".

EMMA also calls on European governments to properly implement last year's EU Copyright Directive, and especially those articles that seek to provide artists and songwriters with more transparency and fairer deals.

Meanwhile, beyond the specific streaming issues, the manager group also calls for a "unified response" to the wider challenges posed by COVID-19, concluding: "The music and cultural industries of Europe need EU-wide strategies to restart and reopen, financially supporting artists' businesses to return post-pandemic".


Music industry welcomes confirmation that studio sessions and livestream shows can continue during new England-wide lockdown
The music industry has welcomed confirmation that recording studios can continue to operate - and music venues can still host rehearsals and livestreaming events - during the new COVID lockdown that begins in England today.

Although increased measures seeking to tackle the second surge in COVID cases across England kick in today, those measures are not as extreme as the original lockdown in the UK earlier this year.

It does impact on the high street and means that those venues that had started to stage socially distanced shows must cancel any gigs planned for the rest of November.

However, workplaces can stay open for any work-based activities that cannot be undertaken at home, and it has been confirmed that that means recording sessions, rehearsals and livestreams can still go ahead in studios and venues around England.

On studios, culture minister Caroline Dinenage said: "Our world-renowned recording studios form the backbone of the recorded music sector, provide vital employment for musicians, engineers and producers, and make important contributions to our economy. The Prime Minister has been clear that workplaces should stay open where people cannot work from home. This includes professional music recording studios, where work activity can continue in line with COVID-secure guidance".

Meanwhile, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden talked about how venues can still be used in a short FAQ session about the new lockdown restrictions on Twitter earlier this week. He wrote: "Arts venues are places of work, so people can come into them for work if it cannot be undertaken from home. This includes rehearsals and performance. Audiences are not permitted".

Welcoming the confirmation on studios, the boss of cross-sector trade group UK Music, Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, said: "This is extremely welcome news and an important vote of confidence by the government in the UK music industry and our world-leading recording studios. I am delighted that ministers have recognised the huge amount of work that has gone into stringent measures to ensure that our studios are COVID-safe environments where work can and should continue".

Meanwhile, the confirmation that livestreamed performances can still take place in venues was welcomed by artist manager Ric Salmon, who has launched a specific business for staging ticketed livestreamed shows and which has livestreams upcoming involving the likes of Niall Horan, Kylie Minogue and The Vamps.

He told IQ: "Given the disruption everyone's currently facing elsewhere, it's absolutely crucial that artists, musicians, crew and all in the wider music sector can still have this outlet for work, and we can keep building what is proving to be a vibrant and long-term business that audiences love".


Marc Jacobs seeks dismissal of Nirvana t-shirt case because Kurt Cobain didn't create the famous smiley face
Fashion firm Marc Jacobs has returned to court again seeking dismissal of the ongoing legal battle over those Nirvana-esque t-shirts it sold.

In 2018, the retail chain run by fashion designer Jacobs put on sale a grungy clothing line that included a t-shirt clearly influenced by the famous smiley face image used by Nirvana on its merchandise back in the 1990s.

Nirvana LLC, which controls many of the band's IP rights, sued the Marc Jacobs company in December 2018, arguing that the fashion firm's smiley face shirt infringed its intellectual property.

Jacobs initially argued that there were enough differences between the old Nirvana t-shirt design and his company's t-shirt design to reject any claim of copyright infringement. However, in November last year, a judge rejected the designer's motion to have the case dismissed based on that argument.

The fashion firm subsequently presented other arguments to the court, including disputing claims that Kurt Cobain had created the band's smiley face image and then assigned the rights in it to the Nirvana company. That argument has now been expanded with Jacobs claiming that the smiley face design was actually created by a record label designer, meaning Nirvana LLC doesn't own the copyright in the original image. And based on that claim, Jacobs again asks for the case to be dismissed.

In a new legal filing this week, Marc Jacobs states: "This entire case starts from the false premise that Mr Kurt Cobain created the t-shirt design that is the subject of the registration. However, the evidence in the record shows that the creator of the registered t-shirt design is art director Mr Robert Fisher, who was not an employee of plaintiff's processor Nirvana Inc, the copyright claimant listed on the registration, and who has sworn that he did not transfer his rights [to] anyone. There is no written or oral agreement that says otherwise".

Elsewhere in the motion to dismiss, the clothing company again argues that the two smiley face images are not sufficiently similar to constitute copyright infringement. Meanwhile, responding to an additional claim by Nirvana LLC that its smiley face is also protected under trademark law, albeit as an unregistered mark, the new legal filing says "the disputed smiley is not protectable because it is a ubiquitous symbol".

It remains to be seen if this latest attempt to get the smiley face case dismissed is successful. Marc Jacobs is also seeking sanctions against Nirvana LLC, mainly on the basis it incorrectly presented as "fact" in its original complaint that Cobain created the allegedly infringed image. It will be interesting to see how the judge responds to that request too.


Britney Spears moves to have father removed from conservatorship
In the ongoing battle over her legal guardianship, Britney Spears has once again asked for her father to be removed from his conservator role. She claims that Jamie Spears is attempting to "retain full functional control of her assets, books and records" after her business manager unexpectedly resigned.

Earlier this year Spears confirmed that the decision back in 2008 to have her personal and business affairs overseen by a conservatorship coordinated by her father had "rescued her from a collapse, exploitation by predatory individuals and financial ruin" and allowed her to become "a world class entertainer". However, she also argued that changes now needed to made to that arrangement.

Spears Senior actually temporarily stood down as his daughter's conservator last year due to ill-health but moved to resume the role earlier this year. At the time, Britney herself requested that Jodi Montgomery, who had filled in for her father as her conservator, stay involved on a permanent basis.

However, following some initial arguments, the present arrangement was extended by the courts to February 2021. In a subsequent court filing, Britney then said she wanted the Bessemer Trust Company to manage her business affairs.

According to TMZ, a new court filing suggests that relations between Spears and her father have deteriorated further of late. In that legal filing, she requests that the Bessemer Trust Company now be made sole conservator of her business affairs, rather than it sharing the role with her father.

Giving context to the increased tensions between her and Spears Senior, the star reveals that Tristar Sports & Entertainment Group resigned as her business manager late last month, and her father then promptly appointed accountant Michael Kane to the role without giving his daughter notice or any explanation of the recruitment process.

In her filing, Britney says that Kane's appointment aims "to introduce a new gatekeeper who ... has a major working relationship with [Jamie's] legal team". This, she reckons, is an attempt to regain full control over his daughter's business affairs, which she is opposed to.

In related news, after fans expressed concern about the conservatorship dispute and the current state of her mental health, Britney posted a video on Instagram earlier this week insisting that she is fine, saying: "So I know that there have been a lot of comments and a lot of people saying a lot of different things about me, but I just want to let you guys know that I am fine. I'm the happiest I've ever been in my life".


Warner Chappell re-signs David Tao
Warner Chappell has renewed its publishing deal with Chinese R&B artist David Tao.

"Warner Chappell has always had my back", says Tao. "I've worked with the team for many years and I do enjoy the professional service. The team manages my songs well and I am happy to continue our relationship. Their efforts have meant my time has been freed up to pursue my belief in music, education and film production. Also, I'm really excited about the projects we have worked together, particularly the opportunities to work with writers and artists from different backgrounds and cultures".

President of Warner Chappell Asia Pacific, Monica Lee, adds: "I'm delighted that David has put his trust in us as always. His evergreen songs have been very influential to the development of Asian music and he's been absolutely integral to the success of the Mandopop scene. His own artist career has been stellar, he's the go-to artist for the biggest stars, and he's always seen the importance of giving something back by nurturing the next generation of talent. It is our pleasure to be a part of his musical journey and we will continue to strive for excellence together".

Tao plans to release a new album in 2021.


Approved: Yard Act
Continuing an impressive rise to recognition over the last nine months - their first single 'The Trapper's Pelts' having appeared early on in lockdown - Yard Act return with single number three, 'Peanuts'. The follow-up to July's brilliant 'Fixer Upper', it keeps their storytelling style strong, with a sound and delivery that owes no small debt to The Fall but still manages to stand out on its own.

"While 'Peanuts' is quite clearly about a woman killing her imaginary husband, it's also about accepting that we don't all see the world in the same way", says frontman James Smith. "It feels to me that divisions are getting more extreme. We're continually squeezing what should be a wide-ranging spectrum of opinions and beliefs into two immovable castles towering either side of an unelected, unaccountable line in the sand. We're so certain we're right that we can't comprehend why someone else could see the world differently to the way we do".

"I'm as disappointed in those who chortle 'gammon' as I am those who cry 'snowflake', because it's just doing the same thing but filtered through a different version of reality", he continues. "I think the only way we're going to get through this is by communicating and empathising with each other, so even though people might have been brainwashed into believing utter bollocks it's important to accept that their emotions are real".

"That's why 'Peanuts' ends with a compromise in the kitchen", he adds. "Empathising with her friend and validating her emotions is the only way she can help her begin to move on from the bonkers version of reality that's built up around her. We've all got tunnel vision, and we're all cowering in the burrows of our own stubborn minds".

Listen to 'Peanuts' here.

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James Yorkston to release album with The Second Hand Orchestra
James Yorkston has announced that he will release an album with The Second Hand Orchestra, titled 'The Wide, Wide River', in the new year. First single, 'The Struggle', is out now.

"It's me telling my kids that it's OK to not be OK, and that indeed, sometimes I struggle", says Yorkston of the song.

Of recording the track with The Second Hand Orchestra - led by music producer Karl-Jonas Winqvist - Yorkston goes on: "The band were sat in the studio by themselves, looping the verses over and over. I was in the control room, drinking sweet tea. I just had to wait for the right moment and jump on board, like when I'm pushing my kids round on a roundabout in the local park".

"I love that everyone was singing along so freely when we recorded this", he adds. "There were vocal mics for everyone, and people would just lean in with a harmony, every now and then. It gives it a very communal feeling".

The album is set for release on 21 Jan 2021. Watch the video for 'Struggle' here.


Beatport to stage 24 hour virtual event putting the spotlight on mental health
Dance music platform Beatport has teamed up with not-for-profit organisation When The Music Stops to present a 24 hour virtual festival on Twitch this weekend that will put the spotlight on mental health. Between DJ sets from the likes of Adam Beyer, Archie Hamilton, Angie Vee, Boys Noize and Junior Sanchez, there will be discussions and educational segments on how you can protect and enhance your mental health and general wellness.

When The Music Stops seeks to provide support, especially in the dance music community, for those tackling depression, anxiety and burnout. The organisation says that it aims to "create a supportive community with a culture of honesty where vulnerability is the norm when the music stops".

Among those taking part in the discussions and educational segments are When The Music Stops founder Josh Donaldson, psychotherapist Dr Aida Vazin, breathwork expert Stuart Sandeman, and producer and sleep coach Tom Middleton.

The event is also being supported by Silentmode, a company that sells gadgets and training to help with relaxation, and its founder Bradley Dowding-Young is also taking part.

Commenting on the event, which kicks off at 3am on Sunday, UK time (it starts at 7pm on Saturday evening, Pacific Time), Beatport boss Robb McDaniels says: "These are trying times for our industry. Now more than ever taking care of ourselves - our minds, our wellbeing and the wellbeing of others - is truly vital. Mental health has been one of the most talked about topics in our industry for years, and this is a global topic that should continue to be discussed and destigmatised. Everyone at Beatport takes this topic very seriously and will continue to bring visibility to it".

Meanwhile, Josh Donaldson from When The Music Stops adds: "With loneliness, depression, and suicide on the rise, Beatport is becoming a leader in normalising these conversations. When The Music Stops is honoured to collaborate on such a powerful initiative. These issues affect all races and all religions. Together we can make an impact and let people know 'you are not alone'. We will continue to do everything we can to be there for you, we understand and relate to your struggles".


Kanye West secured over 60,000 votes in bid to become president
Vote counting in some states is still to be completed, but pending a last minute surge, it appears that Kanye West managed to secure just over 60,000 votes in the twelve states where he was standing for the US presidency.

The largest portion of West's votes are in Tennessee, where more than 10,000 people voted for him, meaning he finishes in fourth place with around 0.3% of the total vote. Although Donald Trump has a comfortable lead in the state, which is yet to declare a final winner, any fears that West's real aim was to draw down Joe Biden's voting share seem to have proven unfounded.

West, of course, conceded defeat in the election fairly early on, announcing his intention to run again in 2024 - possibly in enough states to actually have a chance at moving into the White House.

Meanwhile, West already has something new to concentrate on. He is being sued by a group of people who worked on his 2019 'Nebuchadnezzar' opera over allegedly unpaid wages. According to The Blast, the lawsuit is being led by a hair assistant, who says that she is owed "unpaid wages, continuing wages, damages, civil penalties, statutory penalties and attorney's fees and costs".

It goes on to say that West "failed to properly compensate the hair assistant and many dozens of other persons who performed services on the production, including the background actors, performing as audience members. Defendants oversaw, controlled and ran the production, and the aggrieved employees worked many hours on the production and were not timely paid for their work, or paid at all".

The lawsuit demands $1 million in compensation.


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
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.
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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.
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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.
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