TODAY'S TOP STORY: Arts Council England announced another round of grants from its COVID Culture Recovery Fund this weekend, with the Academy Music Group, London Venue Group and Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club among the music venue beneficiaries this time... [READ MORE]
TOP STORIES Academy Music Group and Ben Lovett's London Venue Group among the latest Culture Recovery Fund beneficiaries
LEGAL Australian police planning to seize former MegaUpload assets
DEALS BDi Music signs AJ Wander
LIVE BUSINESS Night-Time Industries Association uses Parliament debate for another #Letusdance push
MEDIA BBC Young Jazz Musician Of The Year finalists announced
RELEASES Finneas bids farewell to Donald Trump with new song, Where The Poison Is
Foo Fighters announce album, Medicine At Midnight

AND FINALLY... Village People record label says it will sue over Trump YMCA video
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Academy Music Group and Ben Lovett's London Venue Group among the latest Culture Recovery Fund beneficiaries
Arts Council England announced another round of grants from its COVID Culture Recovery Fund this weekend, with the Academy Music Group, London Venue Group and Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club among the music venue beneficiaries this time.

The Culture Recovery Fund, of course, is distributing a significant portion of the £1.57 billion in sector-specific funding provided by the UK government to help the cultural and heritage industries weather the COVID storm. There have been four rounds of grants announced by the fund so far, the first two all grants under million pounds, the latter two over a million pounds.

Just eight organisations were included in the latest announcement. The Live Nation-allied Academy Music Group will receive £2,981,431; the London Venue Group, headed up by Ben Lovett from Mumford & Sons, secured £2,358,902; and the owner of the Ronnie Scott's venue in London gets £1,272,631. All three will use the monies to keep their venues ticking over while it's not possible to stage shows because of the ongoing COVID shutdown.

The funding for Lovett's London Venue Group comes as that business - which operates the Omeara and Lafayette venues - confirms an alliance with another London venue, The Social. It's hoped that partnership will help safeguard the future of The Social, which was already facing a number challenges before COVID kicked in.

On that tie-up, Lovett said this morning: "Ever since The Social announced that it was at risk of closure in 2019, I have been actively engaged in trying to figure out a way to prevent that from happening. We have been working together on a solution that retains the entire independence and ownership for the founders whilst teaming up together to ensure the long-term viability of the venue".

The Social's Robin Turner added: "When we met Ben and the Venue Group, we immediately knew they were kindred spirits - people who recognised the transformative power of a good night out, and were dedicated to offering audiences and bands the best gig experience possible. We're extremely excited about The Social taking its next steps forward with them".

Meanwhile, back at the Arts Council, Chair Nicholas Serota commented on the latest CRF grants, telling reporters: "Culture makes a huge and increasing contribution to our national life, bringing communities together, fuelling our creative industries, and representing our country on the world stage".

"These grants", he went on, "add to those announced last month, and will put these organisations in a better position to bounce back and help their communities recover from this crisis. The Arts Council is grateful to the government for the special support being made available to the arts and culture through the Culture Recovery Fund and we're proud to support all the organisations receiving awards today".


Australian police planning to seize former MegaUpload assets
While the latest non-development development in the long-running MegaUpload saga was happening in New Zealand last week, developments were also occurring in Australia. And possibly development developments, rather than non-development developments.

According to The Australian, federal police in the country are preparing to seize assets allegedly held there by Mat­hias Ortmann, a former senior exec at the long-defunct file-transfer platform and one of the defendants in the ongoing extradition case in New Zealand, which was subject to a Supreme Court ruling last week.

Ever since the US authorities shut down MegaUpload on copyright grounds back in 2012, there have been various efforts to seize assets owned by the former company and its senior executives, on the basis those monies were generated by encouraging and facilitating rampant copyright infringement. Many of those efforts were successful, although founder Kim Dotcom, in particular, has managed to reclaim some of the seized monies to fund his legal battle against extradition.

For the music and movie industries, having those assets frozen is particularly important, because both the record companies and the film studios have filed civil lawsuits against MegaUpload and its former bosses. Those civil lawsuits have been on hold for years as the US authorities seek to extradite Dotcom, Ortmann et al to face criminal charges in an American courtroom. But, assuming that eventually happens, and the civil lawsuits then get heard, obviously the music and movie companies want to ensure that there is money available to pay any damages they might win.

According to Torrentfreak, it's not entirely clear what assets the police in Australia are seeking to seize, nor why this is happening now, although paperwork filed by the US government back in 2015 listed various Australian bank accounts linked to MegaUpload and in Ortmann's name.

Last week the Supreme Court in New Zealand confirmed that Dotcom, Ortmann and two other former MegaUpload execs could be extradited under the extradition treaty between the US and NZ, which was definitely a development.

However, it also said that the MegaUpload team should be allowed to go ahead with a judicial review of the original district court ruling on that extradition, thus providing an extra route of appeal and meaning no actual extradition is going to happen any time soon. Hence it being a non-development development.


BDi Music signs AJ Wander
BDi Music has it has signed singer-songwriter AJ Wander to a new publishing deal. His debut single, 'Time Out', was last week.

"It's like finding a rare gem when a demo submission jumps out at you as AJ Wander's did to me during lockdown earlier this year", says BDi founder Sarah Liversedge. "I just couldn't help myself. I had his songs on a loop for days. They are addictive! His vocals are to die for, his lyrics strike a chord, and his songwriting talent and musicianship are truly outstanding. I feel very excited and privileged to be on this creative journey with him from the start".

Wander adds: "I'm massively excited to be joining the BDi family and can't wait to set off on this musical journey together. I know Sarah's vast knowledge and guidance will be a huge asset to my career, helping me to grow as an artist and songwriter. I feel very lucky to call BDi my publishing home and to share that home with so many amazingly talented humans. Time to get to work".

Listen to 'Time Out' here.


Night-Time Industries Association uses Parliament debate for another #Letusdance push
With a petition that called for more support for the electronic music and clubbing sectors during the COVID shutdown set to be debated in Parliament later today, the Night Time Industries Association is encouraging fans and those who work in those sectors to take to social media to put further pressure on government in general and Prime Minister Boris Johnson in particular.

The petition subject to a Westminster Hall debate later today called on government to ensure that clubs and dance music events and festivals were properly supported during the COVID shutdown.

In response, the government has stressed that ministers and Arts Council England have sought to ensure that the £1.57 billion in sector-specific support given to the cultural and heritage industries was available to all aspects of culture, and not just those that traditionally benefit from state funding. And it is true that some dance music venues and events have benefited, while recent extensions to general COVID support schemes in the UK have also been welcomed by the night-time sector.

That said, the NTIA continues to stress that venues, clubs and other night-time businesses have been particularly hard hit by the COVID shutdown, and will likely still be majorly impacted even once the current full-on lockdown in England comes to an end.

NTIA boss Michael Kill says: "Our sector has been marginalised and continues to fight for survival. Recent announcements have given some light, but we have lost so many businesses, employees and self-employed already, we are still in a very vulnerable state. Electronic music is a huge part of the night-time economy and events sector, and is a vital part of the UK's cultural tapestry, but needs to be recognised and valued alongside classic arts and live music. We are renowned globally for our electronic music scene".

"Our sector supports such a huge ecosystem of creative and talented people who are risk of losing their livelihoods and their jobs, with the future hanging in the balance as venues are unable to re-open", he goes on. "And not forgetting the human element with growing pressures within the sector which are starting to impact on the general wellbeing of individuals and their ability to cope, which is why it is so important to have an exit strategy and roadmap to re-opening".

NTIA and the Association For Electronic Music plan to use today's parliamentary debate to further push their existing #Letusdance campaign that has been calling for more government support.

They say: "We need you to let the government know what you stand to lose culturally or economically from the ongoing shutdown of nightlife and events. The government needs to hear our stories. Whether you have been directly affected, or this has affected your friends/family, favourite venues or events, it's time to speak up!"

Information on how to join this social media campaign today is available here.


BBC Young Jazz Musician Of The Year finalists announced
The finalists of this year's BBC Young Jazz Musician Of The Year have been announced, ahead of a socially-distanced final that will be recorded as part of the London Jazz Festival later this month. They are saxophonists Matt Carmichael and Alex Clarke, pianist Deschanel Gordon, guitarist Ralph Porrett, and double bassist Kielan Sheard.

"It is a source of particular joy at this time to showcase these special young performers and provide BBC audiences with a chance to hear their music", says BBC Young Musician Executive Editor Paul Bullock. "BBC Young Musician, in all its forms, is by definition about the future. We look forward to better times ahead and the chance to witness the careers of these young musicians as they continue to develop in the years to come".

The show's presenter, YolanDa Brown, adds: "What a year 2020 has been. Throughout this year music has been an outlet and a source of strength to many. I am absolutely delighted to present the BBC Young Jazz Musician finals again and pleased that the show must go on, in a safe socially distanced way. Witnessing the most outstanding young musicians hone their craft and chase their dreams is the most rewarding feeling and I cannot wait to watch it all from stage right in between links".

The final will take place at Cadogan Hall in London on 14 Nov, with each finalist accompanied by Nikki Yeoh's Infinitum. The show will then be broadcast on BBC Four on 22 Nov.


Setlist: Spotify opens up its algorithm… for a fee
CMU's Andy Malt and Chris Cooke review key events in music and the music business from the last week, including Spotify's new pilot scheme allowing artists and labels to influence its music-selecting algorithm in return for a lower royalty rate, plus Live Nation's beaming positivity in the face of another round of definitely not positive financial results.

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Finneas bids farewell to Donald Trump with new song, Where The Poison Is
Finneas marked Joe Biden's win in the US presidential election over the weekend by releasing a new song. Or, really, technically speaking, he marked Donald Trump's loss. 'Where The Poison Is' has some pointed words for the outgoing leader of the free world.

Announcing the song in a tweet co-opting Trump's famous catchphrase, 'you're fired', he unveiled a track which, among other things, takes aim at the out-going President's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, singing: "When all my friends get sick it's on the President / When all my friends get sick it's on his government".

He then adds that "there's a snake that thinks it's the President".

Although the song is very clearly anti-Trump, it doesn't give Biden a free ride either, noting the challenges that face the new President. "Once we put this all behind us", he sings, "we get to go right back to school shootings and a climate crisis".

So what I'm saying is, it's not a euphoric celebration. Listen to the song here.


Foo Fighters announce album, Medicine At Midnight
Foo Fighters have announced that they will release their tenth album, 'Medicine At Midnight', next year.

One of the band's punchier efforts, featuring nine tracks over 37 minutes, the album was completed in February this year and was intended to be released in the spring. That was all scuppered, however, by the alien invasion that happened in March. No, not really, it was the pandemic, obviously. I'm just bored of talking about things being scuppered by the pandemic.

"We started recording this record a year ago", Dave Grohl tells Australian radio station Double J. "We finished mixing and mastering in February. We had made the video for the first single, we had the t-shirts ready to go, we had the tour booked, we had the tapes on the way to the plant to be pressed into vinyl. We were good to go. We had finished everything. And then the world shut down. We all went our separate ways. And we just kind of waited".

So now the album will be out on 5 Feb 2021. First single, 'Shame Shame', is out now. Have a little listen to that here.


Village People record label says it will sue over Trump YMCA video
The record label behind the Village People has said that it plans to sue Donald Trump over his use of 'YMCA' in a video he shared on Twitter as the polls opened in the US last week.

Speaking to Agence France-Presse, President of French label Scorpio Music, Jonathan Belolo said: "The beneficiaries of [band co-founders] Messrs Jacques Morali and Henri Belolo, like the company Scorpio Music, owner of the work, discovered with amazement this illicit appropriation, which is ... for [the] partisan and electoral purposes of Donald Trump, which they would never have accepted".

He added that a legal complaint would be submitted in France and the US "in the next few days".

Trump's use of 'YMCA' to close his political rallies during his failed campaign to win a second term as US President has been a topic of much discussion. The band's Victor Willis spoke out publicly to ask the President not to use the song. However, he has also said that copyright law was likely on the President's side because of the blanket licensing system.

That is often true when Trump uses music at public events, though not if he formally uses a track in a video posted online. Such usage almost certainly requires bespoke licences for both the recording and the song. And the video Trump shared last Tuesday, which used footage of the President dancing to 'YMCA' to make a new music video, had no such licences.

However, the case for copyright infringement against the outgoing President is not quite as clear cut as it may initially seem. Although Trump shared the video on social media, it was not created by his campaign team, rather a third party. Therefore it might be the third party that Scorpio should be suing. So it remains to be seen if the label does go through with legal action and, if so, exactly who it chooses to target.

Willis, meanwhile, is taking a very different route. He is calling for changes to be made to US copyright law in order to make it more difficult for politicians to use music against the wishes of the artists who made that music. This, of course, is a long-running discussion in the artist community, which pre-dated Trump, though became much more discussed after he entered politics.

This mainly relates to politicians playing music at events. When songs are played in public spaces, their use is usually licensed via the collective licensing system, so in the US via BMI, ASCAP and the smaller performing rights organisations.

Collecting societies usually provide blanket licences meaning that, once a licensee signs up, they can make use of any of the songs included in that society's repertoire.

Now, while most venues used for political events will already have licences, BMI and ASCAP also have specific licences for political campaigns, and the Trump campaign had itself one of those licences. And with that licence, members of the societies are able to opt out on a case-by-case basis. A number of artists, including Rihanna and The Rolling Stones, have done just that.

However, there are still some questions regarding quite how those opt-outs work, given past rulings in the rate courts that regulate the big US societies that said that songwriters and publishers need to be "all in" or "all out" when it comes to collective licensing. So you can't, for example, stop bars from using your music because you don't like alcohol, but continue to have your music played in cafes because you really love coffee.

Therefore, some specific reforms to copyright law in this domain would be helpful.

In a statement to Rolling Stone, Willis says: "I've consistently stated that neither me, nor Village People, endorsed [Trump's] use of our music and we did demand he cease and desist back in June. However, copyright law made it possible for him to ignore us. As a result, we were never in a position to bring a viable suit in an attempt to stop his use. That is why I'm asking artists and copyright owners to join me in an effort to lobby [for] changes to blanket licensing".

"Admittedly though", he adds, "[Trump's] use resulted in 'YMCA' returning to the charts after over 40 years. So, I have to at least credit his campaign for this resurgence".

Willis would likely find plenty of support in the artist community for the reforms he's proposing. Although, with Trump gone, the issue may now fade a little. Although politicians using music without permission has long been an issue, as noted, it has more frequently hit the headlines during Trump's brief dalliance with politics. Partly because most politicians are not so willing to ignore the wishes of artists who oppose them, nor do most politicians inspire the level of opposition that Trump has.

Though, while it might all become less of an issue for the music community in the post-Trump age, it may still be worth pursuing reforms now. There's still the chance that Trump may stand again in 2024, or - more likely - one of his children will go for the presidency at some point, with a similarly dismissive approach to the wishes of artists.


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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