TODAY'S TOP STORY: The share prices of various publicly listed live entertainment companies surged yesterday following the announcement that Pfizer and BioNTech are now seeking emergency approval for a COVID-19 vaccine which, researchers say, is 90% effective in preventing people from contracting the coronavirus. The pharmaceutical companies also say that they have tested their vaccine with 43,500 people and no serious safety concerns have been raised... [READ MORE]
TOP STORIES Live entertainment share prices spike following vaccine announcement
LEGAL House label Trax tries to get most of the Mr Fingers lawsuit dismissed
Charter's dodgy takedown claims against the major labels dismissed

DEALS BMG partners with Nils Frahm's new business
Xtra Mile signs Berries

RELEASES Frightened Rabbit to release tenth anniversary edition of The Winter Of Mixed Drinks
ONE LINERS Warner Music, EMI, Kylie Minogue, more
AND FINALLY... Liam Gallagher to livestream from the Thames
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Live entertainment share prices spike following vaccine announcement
The share prices of various publicly listed live entertainment companies surged yesterday following the announcement that Pfizer and BioNTech are now seeking emergency approval for a COVID-19 vaccine which, researchers say, is 90% effective in preventing people from contracting the coronavirus. The pharmaceutical companies also say that they have tested their vaccine with 43,500 people and no serious safety concerns have been raised.

The race has been on all year to develop a safe vaccine for COVID-19, of course, with various groups working on a solution. There remain challenges in getting the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine approved, manufactured, distributed and administered, however many see the news as a "breakthrough moment" in the fight against the coronavirus. Experts also say that the announcement raises the prospect of the other vaccines in development being successful.

Unsurprisingly, the news that the world was one step closer to beating COVID-19 had a positive impact across the stock markets. However, it was companies that have been hardest hit by the pandemic that generally saw the biggest spike in share prices.

That includes the live entertainment business, which in many cases has been in pretty much full-on shutdown since March. Last week, live music giant Live Nation confirmed its quarter three revenues were down 95% year-on-year, quarter two having slumped 98%.

The accompanying note to investors spoke of consumers being eager to return to shows, and hopes that tours and concerts could return at scale in 2021. Still, Live Nation conceded that there remained many uncertainties regarding how long COVID-19 - and the accompanying lockdown, social distancing and travel restriction measures - would continue to negatively impact on its industry.

The fact that a vaccine could be in circulation before the end of year obviously boosts optimism, even if certain COVID measures are still likely to be in place for at least several more months.

Within 30 minutes of the vaccine announcement Live Nation - and rival live music businesses like Madison Square Garden Entertainment and CTS Eventim - had all see their share prices surge by more than 20%. And while those initial spikes weren't maintained - all three subsequently dropping a little - their share prices nevertheless ended the day significantly higher than they were on Friday.

In all three cases, that is still somewhat below their share prices before everyone realised the reality of COVID back in March, but nevertheless, everyone in live music will be hoping that yesterday's announcement means we are talking about a 2021 revival of the sector, not a 2022 revival.


House label Trax tries to get most of the Mr Fingers lawsuit dismissed
Chicago-based Trax Records has formally responded to a lawsuit filed against it by musicians Larry Heard and Robert Owens earlier this year. The label argues that all but one of the duo's claims should be dismissed by summary judgement. That would leave just the breach of contract allegation standing.

Heard – aka Mr Fingers – worked with Trax in the mid-1980s. Along the way, he signed a number of agreements with the label on the back of which Trax exploited various songs and recordings he had made, some of which were collaborations with Owens. The label also registered some of those works with the US Copyright Office.

However, in the lawsuit they filed with the courts in Illinois back in June, the two musicians argued that those agreements didn't cover all the tracks that the label has been exploiting; that they only talked about the song copyrights and not any accompanying recording rights; and – although the documents were titled 'Assignment Of Copyright (Musical Composition)' – at least two of them were, in fact, mechanical licensing agreements rather than contracts that transferred the ownership of any copyright.

Therefore, that lawsuit concluded, the label didn't have any of the recording rights it has been exploiting, didn't have all the song rights either, nor the right to register itself as the owner of many of those works with the Copyright Office. On top of that Heard and Owens claimed they hadn't been paid the royalties they were due from the label.

Among other things, the lawsuit accused Trax of fraudulently registering itself as owners of works with the Copyright Office, violations under the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act, copyright infringement, unjust enrichment, breach of good faith and breach of contract.

In its response, filed with the court this weekend, the label presents an assortment of legal arguments as to why the court should immediately throw out all of those claims except the one for breach of contact.

Trax Records was co-founded in 1984 by Larry Sherman, who died in April this year. It is now seemingly run by Rachael Cain, who originally signed to the label as an artist and subsequently became Sherman's business partner.

Over the years many artists signed to the label complained about the way they were treated and unpaid royalties, and Cain acknowledged those controversies at the time of Sherman's death. Although she insisted that, in more recent years, Sherman had been seeking to sort out the payment of past royalties, partly via litigation with a former distribution partner.

Alongside its legal arguments against all but the breach of contract claims, the label's legal response also criticises Heard and Owens for waiting until after Sherman's death to go legal.

It states: "In 1986 and 1987, Trax Records' founder, Larry Sherman, registered its copyright to compositions and sound recordings in Heard and Owens' music. For over 34 years, Mssrs Heard and Owens did not contest the validity of Trax Records' copyright, sue for allegedly unpaid royalties, or raise any other claims in court. That changed two months after Mr Sherman's death on 4 Apr 2020, immediately prompting plaintiffs' filing of this litigation knowing that Mr Sherman was no longer able to defend himself against plaintiffs' various allegations".

Heard and Owens did actually have an explanation for why they were suing now - so long after signing the deals with Trax - when filing their lawsuit back in June. The two musicians now work with London-based music firm TaP, support from which, they said, had enabled them to begin this legal battle.

We now await to see how the musicians and/or TaP respond to Trax's legal filing.


Charter's dodgy takedown claims against the major labels dismissed
A US court has rejected a counterclaim filed by American internet service provider Charter Communications in its ongoing legal battle with the record industry. Charter accused the labels themselves of violating the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act by knowingly submitting dodgy takedown requests. The judge concluded that the ISP hadn't presented any proof of that.

Charter is one of several American ISPs being sued by the record industry in the wake of the big Cox Communication cases. That was where BMG and then the majors successfully argued that Cox had a deliberately shoddy system for dealing with repeat infringers among its customer base. Therefore, Cox should not qualify for protection under the copyright safe harbour, meaning it can be held liable for the copyright infringement of its users.

Facing the same allegations, Charter - among other things - hit back with its own claims against the labels. Basically, the major labels had previously amended their lawsuit removing 455 songs and recordings from a list of works they claimed Charter customers had specifically infringed. The ISP argued that that was because it turned out the majors didn't actually own those copyrights. And, therefore, they should never have filed takedown notices in relation to those works.

Charter are not the only internet company fighting copyright infringement lawsuits from the music industry that have hit back in this way. Various companies have accused the labels - or their trade body or the anti-piracy agencies they employ - of routinely issuing takedowns over music they don't control. Knowingly doing so would violate the DMCA, which includes obligations for takedown issuers as well as the safe harbour-dwelling companies that receive the takedown requests.

However, dismissing those arguments in the Charter case, a judge recently stated: "Even if I assume, as does Charter, that plaintiffs dropped the 455 works because they did not have a valid infringement claim as to them, Charter has not alleged facts plausibly showing that plaintiffs knowingly or materially misrepresented its infringement claims in the original complaint".

The ruling went on: "The closest the counterclaim comes to alleging a knowing misrepresentation is in paragraph 80 [of the counterclaim], which asserts, 'upon information and belief, at all times, plaintiff had or should have had knowledge of the status of their purported ownership or control of copyrights when they sent infringement notices regarding those copyrights, including those at issue in this case'".

But, the judge said, "That conclusory statement, asserted on 'information and belief', and sounding in language of negligence, falls short of the mark".

The judge also said that, in the context of the 11,482 works allegedly infringed by Charter customers, the removal of 455 of those works was "not material".

And also Charter hadn't been damaged by any allegedly false takedown requests because it never disconnected any customers based on copyright complaints, that being a core part of the labels' litigation, ie that the ISP didn't have a proper system for dealing with repeat infringers.

It remains to be seen how Charter responds, and whether this judgement impacts on other internet companies making similar dodgy takedown allegations when faced with copyright infringement lawsuits from the labels.


BMG partners with Nils Frahm's new business
BMG has announced a new deal with Nils Frahm and the new production company he has set up with his long-time manager Felix Grimm, which goes by the name Leiter.

Frahm and Grimm say that that new venture will bring together their various projects, providing "a space for the development and realisation of their joint ideas in music as well as a platform for new talent and artist collaborations". BMG will support releases from Leiter, of which several are planned for 2021.

Confirming the tie-up, Grimm says: "We are very pleased to be able to face the coming years with a strong and innovative partner like BMG. Their worldwide network and experience are a great addition to our team".

Meanwhile, BMG's Maximilian Kolb adds: "We have closely followed and admired Nils' artistic journey of breaking, crossing, and redefining genre boundaries with his compositions. It's incredible what he has achieved together with Felix and his team and it's an honour to work with them. I am convinced that the upcoming releases will inspire people all over the world".


Xtra Mile signs Berries
Indie label Xtra Mile has announced the signing of rock trio Berries, with new music due imminently.

"Everyone at Xtra Mile is incredibly excited about our new signing Berries", says label boss Charlie Caplowe. "They feel like a perfect fit for the label and we can't wait to get new music out there ahead of a debut album in 2021".

The band add: "We are completely over the moon to be joining the amazing Xtra Mile Recordings roster. We have been following Xtra Mile and their bands since we started Berries and are huge admirers of their ethos and the way they run the label. It means so much to us to have them excited about our band and to have an incredible team to work with".

New single 'Copy' is set for release in the next few weeks. For now, here's the title track of their last EP, 'Lies'.


Approved: Juice Webster
Juice Webster's first single of 2020, 'Let The Dog Out', is - perhaps appropriately for the year we've had - about attempting to fight off being plunged into the depths of heavy existential thought. Coming a little over a year after her beautiful, emotion-twisting debut EP, 'You Who Was Myself', it's a welcome return from an artist with immense talent as both a songwriter and performer.

The song, though performed on acoustic guitar, could happily be played as a much heavier rock track. That Webster plays the song gently when it sounds like it is urging to scream only adds to the weight and power held within the recording.

'''Let The Dog Out' is about waking up in the morning and straight away anticipating the onset of the heavy feelings that stem from the big questions", says Webster. "It's about trying your best to fight them off by going for a walk to be around other people, or by trying to believe in something in order to find meaning, but not quite being able to".

"I didn't grow up in a religious household, nor did I attend a religious school, but I find that when I'm struggling to comprehend certain events or happenings, I have this real desire to believe in some greater power in order to make sense of them", she goes on. "I, like many other people, feel very affected by unjust stories - bad things happening to good people - and in those moments I just really wish that I truly believed there was a reason for it. 'Let The Dog Out' is about this desire".

Watch the video for 'Let The Dog Out' here.

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

Frightened Rabbit to release tenth anniversary edition of The Winter Of Mixed Drinks
Frightened Rabbit have announced that they will re-issue their 2010 album 'The Winter Of Mixed Drinks' next month, marking its tenth anniversary. It also comes two and a half years after the death of frontman Scott Hutchison.

"'The Winter of Mixed Drinks', now ten years old, is a cocktail of emotions for us", say the band on Twitter, announcing the reissue and an accompanying seven inch featuring two live tracks. "Perhaps through it we will all find a little lightness to help us through one of the darkest winters".

"Earlier in the year we decided to acknowledge the life of this album with the release of a few live tracks", they continue. "We pulled open the archives and decided on a seven-inch with a track from each side of the Atlantic from different moments of the band. 'The Wrestle', recorded at the Grog Shop, Cleveland in May 2010, is from a time when we were still finding our feet with the songs and learning how they were going to play out live".

"On the other side is 'Things', recorded at The Roundhouse, London 2016", they go on. "We chose this to reflect the time we are all in now and the importance of people over stuff. Scott's words always burrowed deep within people and this was the song he was probably most proud of writing and loved to play live".

The reissue of 'The Winter Of Mixed Drinks' will be released on 11 Dec.



Stu Bergen has announced that he is stepping down as Warner Music's Head Of International. In an internal memo he says that he plans to start "a new chapter of exciting professional, personal, and philanthropic pursuits". A replacement is yet to be announced.

Universal Music has named Kate Wyn Jones as Business Development Director of EMI Records in the UK. "We are incredibly excited that Kate is to join the EMI family", says EMI President Rebecca Allen. "Having worked with Kate for several years, I have seen first-hand the innovation and energy that she brings to campaigns".

Sony/ATV has promoted Veronica Vaccarezza to SVP Business Development, Latin America & US Latin. "I came into the publishing industry 25 years ago and I am THRILLED to have seen this business transition into the digital era and to have played a part in its development in Latin America", she says.



Kylie Minogue is now a "major shareholder" in apparently still existing streaming service ROXi, alongside Robbie Williams, Sheryl Crow, former U2 manager Paul McGuinness and more. To prove her commitment she will appear in a new TV advertising campaign. "I can't wait to share my playlists and the music I love with you all on ROXi", she says. I think "you all" is a bit of a stretch.



NME Asia has launched a new online shop, selling music, merch and electronics. "Since 1952 NME has been a musical tastemaker", says Meng Ru Kuok, CEO of NME owner BandLab Technologies. "It's now grown into a global media powerhouse committed to creating and curating content, products and experiences essential to fans of music and pop culture today. We're now extending our iconic tastemaking to physical music products, festival merch, and music gear to delight music lovers in Asia".



Altern 8 have released their first new track for 27 years, 'Hard Crew'. Proceeds from the release will be donated to the #WeAreViable campaign to support the live entertainment industry in lockdown.

Benee's new single, 'Happen To Me', is out now. Her debut album, 'Hey U X', is out on Friday.

Vessel has released new single 'Movement III (If The Telephone Rings I'll Be Saved)'. The track is taken from new EP 'Passion', which is out on 18 Nov.

The Keep has released new EP 'Apocypha'. Here's the title track.

FEMM have released new single 'Level Up', featuring Duke Of Harajuku. The duo's new EP, '404 Not Found', is set for release on 20 Nov.

Yung have released new single 'Above Water'. Their new album, 'Ongoing Dispute', is set for release on 22 Jan.

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


Liam Gallagher to livestream from the Thames
Liam Gallagher has announced a livestreamed performance taking place next month, titled 'Down By The River Thames'. It was recorded last week though, so won't actually be live. It was also filmed on a boat on the Thames, rather than on a stage by it. But if you can stop being so pedantic and see past all that, I'm sure you'll have a real swell time.

Being aired by MelodyVR, the show will be a standard 2D broadcast, rather than the VR concerts the company usually puts on. I suppose they didn't want anyone to fall in the water.

"To all my brothers and sisters around the world", says Gallagher. "I'm performing a one-off celestial live performance for you to stream, 'Down By The River Thames', on 5 Dec 2020. I'll be performing tracks from my two number one solo albums as well as some stone cold Oasis classics, some of which you haven't heard me sing for a long, long time. C'mon you know".

To be clear, it will be on a boat, on a river, not in the sky. I'm sure all the stuff about what songs he's going to perform is correct though. He was spotted last week while filming the show during a performance of his song 'Greedy Soul'.

Anyway, tickets for this thing, if you're interested, are here.


ANDY MALT | Editor
Andy heads up the team, overseeing the CMU Daily, website and Setlist podcast, managing social channels, reporting on artist and business stories, and writing the CMU Approved column.
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