TODAY'S TOP STORY: BMG revealed on Friday that four of the 33 label catalogues it has acquired over the years show statistically significant differences between the royalties paid to black and non-black artists. It now plans to dig deeper into the contracts relating to those catalogues to identify the reasons for the differences, while also committing to "bring forward measures which will benefit the lowest paid recording artists across all of its catalogues"... [READ MORE]
TOP STORIES BMG calls on industry to follow its lead to tackle discrimination in old record contracts
LEGAL NTIA hits out at government as COVID rules change yet again
Dutch anti-piracy group takes Pirate Bay proxy guide offline
LABELS & PUBLISHERS MLC calls on digital services to sign up to its new blanket licence
Concord renews distribution agreement with Universal

MEDIA Melody Maker revived for Netflix partnership
AWARDS Fiona Apple criticises Grammys over Dr Luke nomination
AND FINALLY... LadBaby takes early Christmas number one lead - can Jess Glynne, Mariah Carey or even The Kunts catch up?
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A ten step guide to the challenges facing the streaming business in 2020
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BMG calls on industry to follow its lead to tackle discrimination in old record contracts BMG revealed on Friday that four of the 33 label catalogues it has acquired over the years show statistically significant differences between the royalties paid to black and non-black artists. It now plans to dig deeper into the contracts relating to those catalogues to identify the reasons for the differences, while also committing to "bring forward measures which will benefit the lowest paid recording artists across all of its catalogues".

Following the Black Out Tuesday initiative earlier this year, BMG announced it would review all of the contracts relating to its recording catalogues in a bid to identify whether black artists had been historically discriminated against when it came to remuneration. Most of those contracts relate to catalogues the current incarnation of BMG acquired from other music companies in the decade after its launch in 2008.

Publishing a number stats relating to that review - which was independently audited - BMG said on Friday that the 33 label catalogues it acquired feature music from 3163 artists of whom 1010 - so 32% - are black.

Fifteen of the catalogues feature both black and non-black artists. With eleven of those catalogues there was no evidence of racial disadvantage, so black and non-black artists were getting more or less the same terms in their contracts. However, "in the case of four labels there was a statistically significant negative correlation between being black and receiving lower recorded royalty rates, a difference ranging from 1.1 to 3.4 percentage points".

BMG also reviewed the 800+ new recording agreements it has directly entered into with artists since 2008. It says "the inquiry established there was no negative correlation between lower recorded royalty rates and black artists across those deals".

While BMG will now further investigate the catalogues where black artists were less well remunerated and seek to address those seemingly discriminatory contract terms, the company is also calling on the wider music industry to follow its lead, noting that its acquired catalogues account for a relatively small share of black music history.

The sample is sufficiently small that BMG's findings can't really be seen as representative of the industry at large. However, it believes its approach to reviewing legacy contracts in this way could be employed by other music companies.

BMG CEO Hartwig Masuch said: "Since before the dawn of rock n roll, virtually all pop and rock music has its roots in black music. Yet music's history books are littered with tales of discriminatory treatment of black musicians. It is time for the music industry to address its past".

"Making good on our commitment to search for racial disadvantage in our historic acquired recorded catalogues has been an enormous and highly complex task", he added. "We have learned a lot and there is still more to discover. We will act on this knowledge. We invite other labels to join us in this mission – to turn the promises and hopes of Black Out Tuesday into action".

Before publishing its findings, BMG presented the results of its contracts review to the US-based Black Music Action Coalition. Its Chairs Binta Niambi Brown and Willie 'Prophet' Stiggers have likewise called on other music companies to follow BMG's lead.

"Gathering, understanding and sharing data describing historic inequities in the music business is a core activity of the Black Music Action Coalition, which was formed to advocate for an end to structural and systemic inequality in the music business and broader society", they said.

"We welcome this initiative by BMG and believe if all other labels were to follow suit, this could be a game-changer for black artists throughout the industry", they added. "We cannot fix what is wrong if we do not investigate and hold ourselves accountable for whatever the results may be".

Legacy record contracts are back in the spotlight for reasons other than racial discrimination, of course, thanks to the ongoing and evolving debate around the streaming market and how digital royalties are shared out across the music community.

Some legacy artists whose catalogue has been revitalised by the shift to streams are not really seeing the benefit because of old contract terms that provide low royalty rates and sometimes allow labels to make further deductions before even calculating that royalty. Many artists, managers and lawyers argue these old-fashioned terms should not apply to new income streams.

BMG has also committed to end one of the more controversial of those terms, the so called 'controlled composition clause' that was common in US record contracts, which reduces the payments a label must make to songwriters and music publishers with physical releases.

Under that term, where an artist is also the writer, they are forced to provide the label with a discount on the standard rate set under US copyright law. BMG announced in October that it would remove that clause from its new and legacy record contracts.


NTIA hits out at government as COVID rules change yet again
The Night Time Industries Association has again hit out at the UK government after ministers revised COVID restrictions this weekend, with a last minute change to the measures due to be in place over Christmas.

Plans to relax COVID restrictions in much of the country for five days around Christmas have been axed, so that the looser rules will only apply on Christmas Day itself. Meanwhile, a significant part of England has been put into a new tier four level, where there will be no exceptions even on Friday. Ministers said the changes were required because a new variant of the coronavirus was spreading more rapidly.

With night-time businesses fully closed again in much of the country because of COVID restrictions - and social distancing rules still in place everywhere else - clubs, venues, bars and other night-time enterprises continue to face considerable hardship as 2021 approaches.

NTIA says that the government constantly changing the rules at the last minute increases the hardship, while financial support schemes are still not sufficient to protect the entire night-time sector in both the short and long term.

NTIA CEO Michael Kill said this weekend: "The night-time economy and hospitality sector has lost all confidence in the government strategy against COVID. The unrelenting closing and reopening of businesses is costing owners hundreds of thousands of pounds, and coupled with the erratic decision-making around restrictions, is rapidly destroying the ability of the sector to bounce back".

"Thousands of businesses and employees have supported the government's public health campaign against COVID, creating safe, regulated environments for people to socialise", he went on. "This financial burden and commitment has been recognised only in lip service, with insubstantial support measures to repay confidence in the sector. There is disbelief and anger amongst the sector that the government did not foresee the impact of transmissions by keeping retail, education and other sectors open during such a delicate period within the crisis".

He concluded: "If the Prime Minister wants the hardest-hit sectors to continue to support the government in its public health strategy against COVID, then he must compensate the businesses fully for their losses, and deliver a robust exit strategy to regain industry confidence".


Dutch anti-piracy group takes Pirate Bay proxy guide offline
A popular website for circumventing the web-blocks against The Pirate Bay has gone offline as a result of action by Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN.

While web-blocking - securing injunctions that order internet service providers to block copyright-infringing websites - has become a preferred anti-piracy tactic of the music and movie industries in recent years, it is relatively easy for people to circumvent the blockades.

One approach is to use a VPN so that your computer accesses the internet via another country where a piracy site like The Pirate Bay is not blocked. But also popular are proxies, URLs that can be used to easily get around a web-block and access a blocked site.

That said, the music and movie industries have regularly sought web-blocks against the proxies too, so that those URLs often stop working at some point. Which is why a website like was useful, it aggregating and ranking various different ways to access TPB. That site was sufficiently popular - including with TPB fans in the UK - that the people who ran it could monetise the operation via advertising and affiliate schemes.

BREIN spent years securing web-blocks against The Pirate Bay in the Netherlands after ISPs Ziggo and XS4ALL opted to fight the web-blocking injunctions through the courts. In June this year it was finally confirmed in the Court Of Amsterdam that a temporary web-block against TPB should stay in force permanently. Another ruling in October confirmed that TPB proxies should also be blocked.

Having invested so much time in achieving all that, BREIN also decided to target Having secured a court order against the site, last week BREIN announced that it had reached a settlement with the people who ran it. That settlement gives the anti-piracy group control of the domain. It will also receive 280,000 euros in damages and legal costs.

As a result, people who go to now get a message that reads: "The content of this site was blocked by court order, at the request of Stichting BREIN. This site provided access to the website The Pirate Bay, which illegally offers protected works of right holders represented by Stichting BREIN. This is unlawful and causes extensive damage to right holders to (in particular) films, TV series, music, games and books".

It then adds a warning: "Every site which directly or indirectly offers access to The Pirate Bay runs the significant risk of being blocked. The owners of such sites risk criminal and/or civil sanctions, including large fines and damages".


MLC calls on digital services to sign up to its new blanket licence
The all-new US collecting society the MLC has confirmed that the new blanket licence for digital services covering mechanical rights in songs, which it has been set up to administrate, will become available at the start of next month. Existing digital platforms wishing to utilise the new licence should submit a 'notice of licence' no later than 15 Feb.

The MLC was set up as a result of the US Music Modernization Act, which made changes to the way mechanical rights are licensed to digital services Stateside.

It basically brings the US in line with much of the rest of the world, where there is a collecting society that can provide a blanket and/or mop-up licence for streaming services to allow them to legally exploit the mechanical rights in songs on their platforms that are not otherwise covered by a licence from another collecting society or music publisher.

Although there is a compulsory licence covering mechanical rights in the US, there wasn't previously a collecting society empowered to issue a blanket licence which would then take responsibility for getting everyone paid. Instead, each licensee had to send a notice of intent to each individual rights owner to activate the compulsory licence.

This was a challenge for streaming services that had tens of millions of recordings on their systems from launch. Not least because the services didn't even know what specific songs were contained in those tens of millions of tracks, because the labels and distributors that provide the recordings didn't tell them.

That system led to many songs not being properly licensed, which led to many streaming services being sued for copyright infringement. The new system should overcome those problems. Though it doesn't necessarily mean everyone gets paid. The new system is better than the old system, but still relies on the new MLC working out who it needs to pass royalties on to. Its counterparts in other countries have had mixed results in tackling that challenge.

For now, though, the MLC's top priority is making sure all the digital service providers - or DSPs - are aware of its new licence and how to access it. And also that there are other obligations for digital services under the MMA which apply even if they chose not to sign up for the MLC licence.

"The MLC has engaged with more than 50 DSPs so far", the society's boss Kris Ahrend said on Friday. "Both to make sure they [are] aware of their new legal responsibilities and to preview the resources we've created for them, including reporting specifications and the templates for notices to the MLC. These resources are all on the MLC's website, and our DSP Relations Team is available to answer any questions about them that DSPs might have. All of this should ensure that currently-operating DSPs are in a position to begin operating under the new blanket license starting on 1 Jan 2021".

As for the obligations that even apply to those DSPs who don't utilise the new MLC licence, the society explains: "By US law, DSPs that provide more than 5000 unique works to US consumers via interactive streaming or downloads on any given day in a given month - or earn more than $50,000 a month, or $500,000 over twelve months, from such activities - must report their usage data to the MLC, whether or not they choose to obtain the new blanket licence".


Concord renews distribution agreement with Universal
Concord has renewed its global distribution agreement with Universal Music. It's a Christmas miracle! Oh no, sorry, I misread that bit. The renewal is down to the "wonderful relationship" the two companies have built over the last fifteen years of working together. Under the deal, Universal will continue to provide physical and digital distribution for Concord's frontline labels.

"UMG and Concord have built a wonderful relationship over the past fifteen years", says Concord CEO Scott Pascucci. "As we have grown, they have provided the support that we needed to expand the worldwide success of our frontline labels, the Kidz Bop franchise, Craft Recordings, and the rest of our catalogue. We are very pleased to be renewing this partnership with Universal".

Universal CEO Lucian Grainge adds: "Our partnership with Concord is built on a foundation of shared values. We both put artists and creativity at the centre of everything we do. I couldn't be happier to extend our partnership and l look forward to even more success working with Scott, Tom [Whalley, Chief Label Executive], Sig [Sigworth, Chief Catalog Executive] and the entire Concord team".


Melody Maker revived for Netflix partnership
Melody Maker is being revived in order to promote new Netflix movie 'Ma Rainey's Black Bottom' with a special edition celebrating the titular 1920s singer.

The Netflix partnership is actually with the NME and its current owner BandLab Technologies. But, they note, the NME didn't exist in the 1920s, so it makes more sense to use the Melody Maker brand, that having been established in 1926.

Although the whole thing is online-only, so I'm not sure it's really worth nit-picking over which music magazine actually existed in the 1920s too much. They get around this technicality by claiming that this special edition of the old music mag exists in "a sepia tainted, steam-punk powered proto internet of 1927". Sure.

"Reviving one of the UK's most recognisable and influential music titles to provide a platform for an iconic artist like Ma Rainey has been an absolute honour", says Holly Bishop, UK Country Director and Head Of Partnerships at BandLab Technologies. "The hope is that this partnership will give some of today's newest voices a platform to share their views, and at the same time, resonate with, and educate our shared audiences".

Already in common ownership with NME, Melody Maker came to an end when it was technically merged with its main rival in 2000. BandLab then acquired NME and its related brands in 2019.

You can check out the Melody Maker revival (although I'd recommend lowering your expectations first) right here.


CMU Insights: We can run training for your music company or organisation
As well as CMU's weekly webinars, we also run training courses in-house for music companies and organisations, with a whole host of sessions to choose from.

This provides a really simple way for music businesses to run team training sessions internally. These ensure that employees are fully up to speed on all the latest trends and developments, while also presenting an effective way for team members to come together and share their knowledge and experience, especially if they are primarily working remotely.

To make things simple, we have a large menu of off-the-shelf webinars and seminars for music industry employers to choose from. Clients can pick the topics that are most relevant to them and their team. We can also create new sessions if there are topics not currently covered by the menu.

We have delivered bespoke training sessions for numerous music companies and organisations in recent years, including Sony Music, Warner Music, SoundCloud, Emubands, ie:music, ATC Management, BPI, MMF, IMRO, the Musicians' Union, the British Council, Promus, Music Norway, Music Estonia and the Association Of Caribbean Copyright Societies.

Click here to find out more about CMU's Team Training.

Fiona Apple criticises Grammys over Dr Luke nomination
Fiona Apple says she has mixed feelings about being nominated in this year's Grammys for her song 'Shameika' because of ongoing controversies around the awards event.

The song - from her 'Fetch The Bolt Cutters' album - is up for Best Rock Performance. In an interview with The Guardian, she says that she initially wanted to celebrate the fact that all six nominees in that category this year are female-fronted acts - Haim, Phoebe Bridgers, Brittany Howard, The Big Thief and Grace Potter, alongside Apple. However, with all the criticism made against the awards in terms of representation of women, she felt that marking this would be "exactly what they want me to do".

"I immediately had this feeling: I wish I was in a room with these ladies and we could celebrate", she adds. "I felt really nice for a second. Every week I send a selfie to Simon, who runs the Tumblr site on me. I thought, for that week's selfie, I'm gonna make a t-shirt with everybody's names in little hearts: Phoebe; Brittany; Danielle, Este, Alana [Haim]; Adrienne [Lenker, The Big Thief]; Grace. But then I threw it away. I felt like this is exactly what they want me to do: It's better now! I got nominated! And it's all women this year and the Grammys are great!"

The Grammys, of course, have been subject to increasing controversy in recent years - not least for its lack of gender diversity, a controversy exacerbated by former boss Neil Portnoy's infamous "women need to step up" comment in 2018.

Then earlier this year numerous claims of discrimination and corruption were made against the awards event and its producer the US Recording Academy by the organisation's short-lived President Deborah Dugan, after she was fired shortly before this year's Grammys show.

Despite being nominating entirely alongside other female musicians in the rock performance category this year, Apple reckons the Grammys and the Academy have plenty of work still to do to tackle the various criticisms and allegations. She also expresses concern that Dr Luke - under the pseudonym Tyson Trax - has a Record Of The Year nomination for his work on Doja Cat's 'Say So' - one of two tracks he produced on her 'Hot Pink' album, which was also released by his Kemosabe label.

Dr Luke is still involved in a legal battle with Kesha, of course, over abuse allegations she made against the producer. Luke has always denied the allegations and pretty much all but his defamation lawsuit against her have now been dismissed. Nevertheless, that particular controversy continues, hence Apple's unease at the producer getting a Grammy nomination.

She notes that two years ago, awards organisers seemed to throw their support behind Kesha when she performed her song 'Praying' at the event. That song is generally thought to be directed at Dr Luke - with Kesha saying in 2017 that it's "about hoping everyone, even someone who hurt you, can heal".

"I keep going back to them putting Kesha on stage like, 'we believe you' – and I believe her – then two years later, fucking Tyson Trax", says Apple. "It's bullshit. The feeling of wanting to celebrate with these women was genuine. But I should have that feeling anyway".

"I don't know if anybody who's nominated can help having the thought: what would I do If I won? My vision was that I would just get up there with a sledgehammer and I wouldn't say anything, I would take the Grammy and smash it into enough pieces to share and I would invite all the ladies up. My second thought was I wonder if I can get all these ladies to boycott this shit because of Dr Luke".

Despite various efforts by the Recording Academy to respond to the criticisms - from Duggan and the wider music community - plenty of controversies remain. After the nominations for the 2021 event were announced last month, The Weeknd and Halsey both accused the event of corruption, after they received no nominations.


LadBaby takes early Christmas number one lead - can Jess Glynne, Mariah Carey or even The Kunts catch up?
This is it, people. We're into the final countdown. It's Christmas week. Your out of office is probably already on. You probably had mince pies for breakfast. Holy shit, so festive. And the big news is that the race for Christmas number one is hotting right up, with the potential of two sausage roll themed songs vying to be played last as Radio 1 announces the victor on Friday.

Taking the early lead in the race is LadBaby, who is out for his third Christmas number one in a row. It will be impressive if he does it, and already 8000 sales (or equivalent) ahead of his nearest competitor as of yesterday, it looks like he just might.

Mark Hoyle and his wife Roxanne's latest ode to sausage rolls, 'Don't Stop Me Eatin', shifted 80,000 units in the first 48 hours, and looks to have one of the biggest opening weeks of the year. Which is good news for them, because this week is the one that counts.

Much talked about last week as the big competitor to LadBaby was Justin Bieber's collaboration with the Lewis And Greenwich NHS Choir. However, after 48 hours, their version of Bieber's 'Holy' was sitting at number 33. Things will have to pick up sharply if there's any hope of it being in line for number one. Slightly embarrassingly, Bieber's non-charitable cover of 'Rockin Around The Christmas Tree' already looks set for the top ten.

Actually in second place is Jess Glynne with 'This Christmas', which jumped from number nine to number two over the weekend. That's currently pushing Mariah Carey's 'All I Want For Christmas Is You' down to number three. It seems unlikely Carey's track will make it to number one now, but it's not impossible - the song, of course, recently went to number one for the very first time, 26 years after its original release.

A late addition to the race - currently at number nineteen but rising rapidly - is the bluntly-titled 'Boris Johnson Is A Fucking Cunt' by The Kunts, capturing the nation's mood towards the indecisive Prime Minister.

Over the weekend Johnson forced millions of people to cancel their Christmas plans at the very last minute, when he really could have done it with a bit more notice, by putting large parts of the UK back into lockdown.

And for those who haven't found themselves in the all-new 'tier four' for COVID restrictions, Johnson's other indecisiveness over whether or not he wants to plunge the country into yet more chaos and misery by failing to sign the Brexit deal with the EU that he claimed was "oven ready" less than twelve months ago should help to get them on board with The Kunts' song.

Anyway, I mentioned a second sausage roll themed song, didn't I? Yes, well, assuming that 'Boris Johnson Is A Fucking Cunt' makes it into the final top 40 rundown, it seems unlikely that BBC Radio 1 will be keen on playing the unedited version as the soundtrack to your Christmas lunch. Luckily, there is a clean version (play it for your kids now!), which replaces "fucking cunt" with "sausage roll". That's something everyone can enjoy, isn't it? Even 'Boris' Johnson.

The cut-off for streaming and buying tracks if you want them to count towards the Christmas chart - which this year, of course, will be unveiled on Christmas Day itself - is 11.59pm on Thursday. Remember, you'll have to stream a song 150 times for it to count as one sale. Or you can just buy the track to save time. Radio 1 will unveil the chart from 2-4pm on Christmas Day.


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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