|THURSDAY 9 FEBRUARY 2023||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The UK's Music Managers Forum and Featured Artists Coalition have reignited their #LetTheMusicMove campaign - originally focused on tackling the challenges Brexit created for artists touring Europe - to raise awareness of proposals in the US to significantly increase the costs for performers seeking visas to perform in the country... [READ MORE]|
#LetTheMusicMove campaign relaunches to put spotlight on proposed increases in US visa costs for artists
The two trade groups say: "#LetTheMusicMove was originally established in June 2021 to campaign for reductions in post-Brexit costs and red tape for UK artists and musicians when touring in Europe".
"However, a recent announcement by the US Department Of Homeland Security has led us to extend this focus in order to raise concerns around proposed stratospheric increases to filing fees attached to specific visa applications - including O and P artists visas".
They explain further: "The US visa office has proposed a huge increase to P&O visa fees - the short and long term work visas for creative professionals. The proposed increase to the current ... fee is from $460 to $1,655 (260%) for a regularly processed 'O' visa and $460 to $1615 (251%) for a regularly processed 'P' visa. The increase in fees will apply to all foreign performers/creative workers seeking to enter the US, not just British".
"Under these proposals, the cost of artists visas would increase by more than 250%", they add. "In the midst of the ongoing cost of living crisis and with the live sector still recovering from the impacts of COVID-19, it would make performing in the world's biggest music market unaffordable for many emerging and mid-level artists".
The DHS and US Citizenship And Immigration Services are currently inviting American citizens to feedback on the proposed changes to visa fees, while the UK embassy in Washington is asking for data on the potential impacts of such an increase for British performers.
With that in mind, MMF and FAC are calling on artists, musicians, performers and their business representatives to do three things. First, sign up to the #LetTheMusicMove campaign. And then complete a short questionnaire on the proposed changes and their potential impacts, the results of which will be presented to the UK government, which will be urged to lobby the DHS on this issue.
In addition to that, MMF and FAC urge artists to "complete the US consultation and contact your US booking agent or live representative and also encourage them to submit feedback to the official process".
Commenting on the new phase of the #LetTheMusicMove campaign, MMF CEO Annabella Coldrick says: "These proposed increases to visa costs would be catastrophic for British artists and make it unaffordable for many to tour the US. By reactivating and expanding our #LetTheMusicMove campaign we hope to convince the Department Of Homeland Security to rethink their culturally destructive proposals".
Meanwhile, FAC CEO David Martin adds: "#LetTheMusicMove provided artists with a unified campaign in which they could voice their concerns about the challenges of touring after Brexit. However, these new proposals around US touring visas are equally concerning and, should they be agreed, will only exacerbate the seismic challenges facing the UK's artists today".
"For that reason", he goes on, "we are asking British artists to commit to three simple actions: to sign up to the campaign, to send us their views, and to submit feedback to the official consultation process. By working strategically, there is still a chance of stopping these damaging changes".
MMF and FAC have also published comments from a number of British artists about the potential impact of the DHS's proposals, which are as follows...
Simone Butler, Primal Scream: "It's completely unprecedented and unjustified to suddenly increase the cost of a US working visa by 250%. This will make touring in the USA prohibitively expensive and in many cases impossible for many bands, artists and DJs to play out there. On the back of the costs and restrictions of Brexit, this would be another massive setback for the live music industry, affecting peoples' careers and income".
Howard Jones: "A 250% increase in US visa fees will have a devastating effect on emerging artists wishing to tour the US, the world's biggest entertainment market. This, added to increased costs of transport and wages, while ticket prices remain static, will mean artists who are struggling just to break even will be forced to abandon their biggest chance of building a fanbase".
John Robb, The Membranes: "The draconian rise in costs of getting visas to the USA is not only a restraint of trade but also another damning blow to British music and culture. For decades the alliance between the USA and the UK has been pivotal in music culture and the opportunity for musicians from both sides of the Atlantic to tour each other's territories has been key to the core of modern music culture".
"Whilst the UK still allows cheaper visas for American acts, the American market has been effectively slammed shut for British acts. This is both unfair and bullying tactics from our so-called partners in the 'special relationship'. The impact on emerging UK artists will be huge - locked out of the world's biggest market and also locked out of a key cultural exchange".
"In the meantime, musicians will also struggle in a home market that is full of American acts who can tour here cheaply. This price hike will be another nail in the coffin for the UK's position as one of the world leaders in music and culture. Along with the lack of rehearsal space in cities, the struggling venue circuit, and Brexit and the challenges of touring Europe, it will all add up to leave the UK isolated culturally, socially, musically and financially".
"The USA remains the world's biggest market for pop culture, and every band needs to have the opportunity to tour there. The new visa costs effectively rule this out, which is a disaster for the new generation of British musicians and any working musician. The free flow of music and ideas has bonded the fabric of our nations for decades and it will be a tragedy to see this effectively ended".
High quality recordings specialist seeks stay of misleading marketing lawsuit as similar litigation reaches settlement
However, it only wants that litigation stayed because it's close to reaching a deal on an almost identical lawsuit filed in Washington state.
The mastering processes employed by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab - aka MoFi - became a talking point online last summer. It's a company that specialises in pressing up high quality reissues of records for the community of music fans that like such things.
It transpired that the company had started using direct stream digital - or DSD - technology when mastering many of its releases in 2011. However, this had not been reflected in the firm's marketing copy.
As chatter about his company's mastering processes and misleading copy began to build within the audiophile community, MoFi President Jim Davis posted a statement declaring: "We apologise for using vague language, allowing false narratives to propagate, and for taking for granted the goodwill and trust our customers place in the Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab brand".
Legal action followed, with the lawsuit filed with the Illinois courts explaining why, to the plaintiff at least, any of this mattered.
"Analogue records are coveted not only for their superior sound quality", the lawsuit said, "but also for their collectability. Original recording tapes age, so only a limited number of analogue recordings can be produced. Further, because analogue tapes are those used to record songs in the studio, a record cut from original analogue tapes is as close to the studio recording as one can get".
"Digital recordings, by contrast", it goes on, "do not carry as much value because they can be reproduced infinitely; once a digital recording is made, it can be copied as many times as a person desires. Thus, when defendant began using a digital mastering process in its records as opposed to purely analogue, it inherently produced less valuable records".
That lawsuit, filed by Adam Stiles, who has bought various MoFi releases over the years, sought class action status, meaning any success in court could benefit anyone else who had bought records from the company assuming they were purely analogue recordings when, in fact, they were not.
However, so did a very similar lawsuit filed by two other aggrieved customers over MoFi's misleading marketing copy. That lawsuit was filed with the courts in Washington state two weeks before Stiles' initial legal filing
MoFi has been seeking to reach agreement on a settlement in the Washington case. And if that settlement gets court approval, it argues, then the lawsuit filed by Stiles in Illinois - and three other lawsuits also filed on this issue - basically become unnecessary. Because the plaintiffs in those cases will benefit from the agreement in the Washington case.
According to a new legal filing with the Illinois courts, terms of a settlement in the Washington case were agreed in January, although the judge overseeing that case declined to approve what had been agreed, mainly because of some technicalities.
An amended version of the settlement was then submitted with the court last week dealing with the technicalities.
With that case seemingly close to completion - and with the principle under US law that where multiple cases are filed on the same dispute, the first lawsuit filed should be prioritised - MoFi would like the Illinois case formally paused.
According to Law360, the settlement in the Washington case would allow anyone who bought a MoFi release that was marketed in a way that suggested it was a purely analogue recording - even though DSD technology had been employed - to return the record for a full refund, or to keep the record and get a partial refund, or a voucher to use on future purchases.
Hybe America buys Quality Control label
The deal - reportedly worth at least $300 million - pushes Hybe properly into hip hop within the US. Its American division - created by Hybe's big deal with artist manager Scooter Braun - currently consists of the Big Machine record company and Braun's own management firm SB Projects. The latter manages Quavo from Migos, meaning there is a pre-existing business relationship between Braun and the Quality Control business.
In statements confirming the deal, Quality Control co-founders Pierre 'P' Thomas and Kevin 'Coach K' Lee talk a lot about the alliance with Hybe in the US and beyond helping them to achieve their global ambitions.
"Hybe are perfect partners for Quality Control as we come together to take our story and work global", says Thomas. "All of Hybe's leaders are entrepreneurs with phenomenal, combined history finding talent and taking it to the highest levels. Taking QC worldwide requires key partners like this who understand building something from the bottom and aiming sky high".
Meanwhile, Lee adds: "P and I are ecstatic about this partnership with Scooter and Hybe and are confident they can get us to our global ambitions we've had in our scope since the beginning of our company as nothing means more than our artists impacting worldwide. Over many years Scooter and I have cultivated real trust and a common way of looking at the world and culture".
Lee also notes that Hybe has an existing alliance with Universal Music, which is Quality Control's distribution partner. "An added bonus of this partnership is the fact that both QC and Hybe have existing relationships with the UMG family and that will create an easy flow that will benefit the artists", he goes on. "The artists of QC are our focus and their best interests will be incredibly supported with this partnership".
But what does Braun have to say about all this? "QC is one of the most significant independent labels in the world, working with incredible artists who are, and remain to be, the voices of culture", says he.
"I'll never forget riding around Atlanta over 20 years ago with Coach", he then reminisces, "discussing our dreams and ambitions and how we said: 'If they let us in the game, we are never going to give it back'".
"Now, all these years later, we are joining forces to make these dreams a reality. It's important to my team and me that P and Coach continue to have the freedom, and now our global resources, to continue to do what they do best; facilitate and nurture great art and culture".
Briefly name-checking overall Hype boss man Bang Si-hyuk, Braun also adds: "I am so proud and honoured to have Coach and P join Bang and myself as our partners".
Songtradr agrees deal to buy 7digital
7digital provides services to companies running digital platforms that use music, originally powering download stores, and then moving into streaming and working with other kinds of digital services that need access to music or music data.
For a time the company was half-owned by HMV, in the years before the music retailer's 2013 collapse. It then merged with radio company UBC, adding content and radio production to its menu of services.
In 2019, with financial challenges threatening the company's survival, 7digital formed an alliance with eMusic and its owner TriPlay. The latter's CEO became 7digital's Chair, a role he performed until last year.
Among other things, that alliance saw eMusic and 7digital collaborate on a livestreaming platform when livestreamed shows were in the spotlight due to the COVID shutdowns.
What the Songtradr acquisition tells us about the next phase in 7digital's story isn't entirely clear. Although the two companies are arguably a good match, both offering business to business music services for brands and digital companies that want to do music stuff, but in the main complementary services.
The main Songtradr platform describes itself as "a B2B music licensing marketplace and its technology is designed to connect music rights holders such as artists, labels and publishers with brands, advertisers, video games, digital platforms and content creators".
Meanwhile, the wider Songtradr business has acquired a number of other companies that offer similar but usually complementary music licensing, supervision and data services, including Big Sync Music, Song Zu and Musicube.
Songtradr CEO Paul Wiltshire says of his company's latest acquisition: "Having closely followed 7digital's evolution for a long time, we are delighted to have reached agreement to combine our businesses, expanding our position in the B2B music licensing and technology ecosystem".
"We are very excited with respect to what our collective team will be able to achieve in delivering an enhanced offering for our clients and to help shape the future of music licensing", he goes on.
7digital CEO Paul Langworthy adds: "We are pleased to recommend this offer to be made by Songtradr as it is beneficial to both the operations of the company and our shareholders. Songtradr's ambition for the business matches our own and there is strong strategic alignment on how best to drive growth for the combined group, as well as how best to serve the needs of a growing B2B market".
"The offer recognises the underlying value of the company, providing all 7digital shareholders with the opportunity of a certain cash exit at an attractive premium to the prevailing market share price", he continues. "We firmly believe that as part of the combined group, 7digital will have access to the capital, support and scale it needs to achieve its full potential".
UK has yet another top minister for culture
It's fun, isn't it, that so many politicians want to run the government's Department For Digital, Culture, Media And Sport? They really do love all things digital, culture, media and sport these politicians. Providing they don't have to love it for too long.
Actually, Frazer is not running the Department For Digital, Culture, Media And Sport. Because that department has just been renamed the Department For Culture, Media & Sport. What's happened to the digital bit?
Well, "a re-focused Department For Culture, Media And Sport will recognise the importance of these industries to our economy and build on the UK's position as a global leader in the creative arts", says a government statement. So, that explains everything, clearly.
"Absolutely delighted to be appointed Secretary Of State at the Department Of Culture, Media And Sport", Frazer declared via digital channels earlier this week, without referencing the removal of the digital responsibilities of said department.
"Such a critical dept in Whitehall", she went on, "and the home of some of the most exciting and fastest growing parts of the UK economy - so can't wait to get stuck in".
The government department Frazer is now running was the Department For Culture, Media And Sport until 2017, when its remit was extended to cover digital matters, adding a 'D' to its abbreviated name - ie DCMS.
Although big digital companies and the music, media and other cultural businesses are sometimes at odds - especially on things like copyright - there was a definite logic to having ministers dealing with digital matters in the same building as those focused on culture, media and sport.
Quite how the department's digital responsibilities will be distributed across government moving forward isn't entirely clear, given a number of other departments have also been rejigged this week. We shall see, I guess.
The music industry has recently expressed frustration that its dealings with government are routinely split across multiple departments and ministers, depending on whether they are talking about copyright, digital platforms, funding, venue and event licensing, touring and visas, music education, or whatever.
The culture select committee in Parliament recently called for more joined up thinking within government when dealing with music matters - and the wider creative industries - proposing that what is now the Department Of Culture, Media And Sport should lead on all that. It remains to be seen if Frazer runs with that proposal.
It has to be said that her choice of emojis in that social media post earlier this week doesn't suggest music is a top priority. Though, I guess, we shouldn't infer government priorities based on emojis alone. Even if their emojis are usually easier to understand than the waffly bullshit they put in their written statements.
But hey, new department, new minister, new era, it's all going to be great I'm sure! And if it isn't, there'll presumably be another culture minister in place within the year anyway. And maybe they'll employ a musical emoji when they accept the job.
Django Django announce new album Off Planet
"The instrumental for 'Complete Me' was made sometime in 2020 or 21 when the world was in lockdown and I was making music in my garden shed studio", says the band's Dave Maclean. "It was a dance track that I didn't really know what to do with".
He then sent it to Self Esteem "and she loved the vibe of it and really quickly came up with some vocal ideas that kind of stuck straight away and locked well with the track", he goes on. "The production was inspired by a lot of 90s breakbeat house and hip-house records that I've always been really into and loved DJing with over the years".
Maclean originally started working on the tracks that became 'Off Planet' "very specifically to be not Django Django", but as they were passed around his bandmates they began to make sense in the context of the band's back catalogue.
They then hit upon the idea of getting friends to contribute to some of the tracks - as well as Self Esteem, calling in Jack Penate, Stealing Sheep, Toya Delazy, Bernardo and more.
The finished album, says Maclean, is "just about everything we love, whether that's old psychedelia or Detroit techno, [anything that] has that futuristic or outer space feel, and I think we can't help putting that into what we do".
Once released in its four quarters, the complete 'Off Planet' will be made available on 16 Jun. Listen to 'Complete Me' here.
Universal Music's Decca Classics has signed composer Tan Dun to a new record deal, following the recent premiere of his latest work 'The Buddha Passion' at Royal Festival Hall in London. "Decca has always been a dream for me", he says. "As a young artist, I could never have imagined that one day we would embrace each other. I've worked with many recording labels over the years, but now, connecting with Decca, I understand. It is so pure and classical, and yet cool and fresh and open to all sorts of music and cultures, it is a very special place. I feel deeply honoured to be part of it".
Universal Music's Polydor has promoted Karen Dagg and Jade Bradshaw to Marketing Directors. "Karen is an exceptional and highly experienced marketeer who approaches every campaign with passion, care and an unrivalled critical eye", says the label's co-MD Stephen Hallowes. "Jade has been a rising star in Polydor since she joined the label in 2018. I look forward to working with both of them even more closely moving forward and congratulate them on their well-deserved new roles".
Jessie Ware has announced that she will release her fifth album 'That! Feels Good!' on 28 Apr. Out now is new single 'Pearls'. Of the Stuart Price produced album she says: "'That! Feels Good!' is a record to be enjoyed, to sing and shout the words back at me and to each other. It's a culmination of hard work and total pleasure appreciating the job I have and the worlds I get to dive into. I have never felt so ready for people to hear something I've made".
Sophie Ellis-Bextor has released new single 'Breaking The Circle' and announced that she will release new album 'Hana' on 2 Jun. "'Breaking The Circle' is inspired by those late-night moments you have, where you question everything and feel a buzz of adrenaline about what tomorrow might bring", she says. "It's urgent and dramatic and optimistic… the perfect introduction to the new album".
Slowthai has released new single 'Feel Good'. The track is taken from his upcoming album 'UGLY', which is out on 3 Mar.
Sleaford Mods have released new single 'Force Ten From Navarone', featuring Dry Cleaning's Florence Shaw. "We're big fans of Dry Cleaning and knew Flo would be perfect for the track", says the duo's Jason Williamson. "She's the real deal and conjures the inspiration I get from the likes of Wu-Tang in the way she uses one word to convey a whole story".
Enter Shikari have released new single 'It Hurts'. "Lyrically, 'It Hurts' is about perseverance, and the importance of reframing failure as a fruitful and, in fact, pivotal route to progress", says frontman Rou Reynolds. "Society teaches us we should avoid and criticise failure, when defeat and honest mistakes can actually present us with insights that light our way forward. In reality, we should be taught that simply to try makes us more than enough". The band's new album 'A Kiss For The Whole World' is out on 21 Apr.
Radiohead's Philip Selway has released the title track from his upcoming solo album 'Strange Dance'. The album is out on 24 Feb.
Daughter have released new single 'Party'. The band's new album 'Stereo Mind Game' is out on 7 Apr.
Squid have announced that they will release their second album 'O Monolith' on 9 Jun. First single 'Swing (In A Dream)' is out now. "This [song] was inspired by a dream I had about a painting called The Swing by Jean-Honoré Fragonard", says frontman Ollie Judge. "In my dream I was in the painting but it was flooded and everything was floating away".
Static X have announced that they will release a new album featuring the newly discovered final recordings of vocalist Wayne Static, who died in 2014. 'Project Regeneration: Vol 2', featuring newly recorded instrumentals, will be released on 2 Nov. The first track from it, a cover of Nine Inch Nails' 'Terrible Lie', is out now.
The Ligeti Quartet has announced a new album 'Nuc', featuring new performances of work by Anna Meredith, which is set for release on 14 Apr. Out now is their version of 'Tuggemo', which was originally commissioned by the Kronos Quartet in 2016.
Indigo De Souza has announced that she will release new album 'All Of This Will End' on 27 Apr. New single 'Younger & Dumber' is out now. "This song is a love letter to everyone's inner child", she says. "No one can prepare us for how insane it is to be alive. How many times we will have to rise from the ashes and what courage it will take".
Miss Grit has released new single 'Nothing's Wrong', taken from her new album 'Follow The Cyborg', which is out on 24 Feb.
GIGS & TOURS
Machine Gun Kelly has announced that he will play the Royal Albert Hall in London on 31 May. Tickets go on general sale tomorrow.
Fall Out Boy have announced UK tour dates this autumn, finishing off with a performance at the O2 Arena in London on 2 Nov. Tickets go on general sale on 17 Feb.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Morrissey says he believes Capitol may have intentionally sabotaged album release
A new post on his official website states: "Capitol Records (Los Angeles) will not, after all, release Morrissey's 2021 album 'Bonfire Of Teenagers'. At the same time, Capitol Records (Los Angeles) are holding on to the album".
"Although Morrissey officially signed to Capitol Records, there has been no mention of Morrissey on Capitol's website or on their artists roster", it goes on. "Morrissey has said that although he does not believe that Capitol Records in Los Angeles signed 'Bonfire of Teenagers' in order to sabotage it, he is quickly coming around to that belief".
The real issue, he claims, is that he is simply "too diverse" for the label. On that theme, yesterday's post shares an article on Medium by writer Fiona Dodwell making that argument. The thinking is that everyone's always talking about wanting a diversity of voices in music, but no one is interested in what Moz has to say.
It was announced in October that Morrissey had signed a new deal with Capitol in the US to release 'Bonfire Of The Teenagers' this month - although it was stressed that that deal would not cover the UK.
In November an update on Morrissey's website said that the album release had been placed on hold and what would happen next was "exclusively in the hands of Capitol Records (Los Angeles)".
Then, just before Christmas, Morrissey's website announced that he had "voluntarily withdrawn from any association with Capitol Records (Los Angeles)". It was also revealed that he had parted ways with his management, and that Miley Cyrus had asked for her vocals to be removed from a track on the still unreleased album.
Morrissey, of course, has a bit of a history of falling out with record labels. This isn't even the first Universal imprint with which he's ended things on bad terms. He worked with Universal's Harvest on his 2014 album 'World Peace Is None Of Your Business', but they fell out shortly after that record was released and it was withdrawn.
He then managed to release three albums through BMG, but it decided not to renew its partnership with the musician after the release of 2020's 'I Am Not A Dog On A Chain'. At the time his website declared: "BMG have appointed a new executive who does not want another Morrissey album".
The Capitol run in is a new one, however, given that the falling out has happened before the album has even been released. And if Morrissey's post is to be believed, 'Bonfire Of The Teenagers' may never see the light of day.
Capitol is yet to comment. Last week, the label announced its slate of upcoming spring releases, upon which Morrissey's name did not feature.
In the meantime, Morrissey has already begun work on a new album, titled 'Without Music The World Dies'. No label partner for that release has been announced.