|WEDNESDAY 1 MARCH 2023||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The European Union has sent a new statement of objections to Apple as part of its investigation into complaints made about the tech giant's App Store rules, most notably by Spotify... [READ MORE]|
European Commission sends Apple a new statement of objections over its App Store rules
Spotify - and many other app makers - object to Apple's rules regarding in-app payments on iOS devices. Those rules say that Apple's own commission charging transactions platform must be used and that alternative payment options - for example on an app maker's website - cannot be linked to or even signposted from within the app.
The allegation is that these rules are anti-competitive, especially when applied against a company like Spotify that is a direct rival of one of Apple's own services.
Spotify and others - especially Fortnite maker Epic Games - have called on regulators and courts around the world to intervene, so to force Apple to relax or remove the rules regarding in-app payments. The tech giant has made some concessions around sign-posting alternative payment options, though Spotify et al continue to call for bigger reforms.
For its part, Spotify took its grievances to the EU's competition regulator in 2019. In 2021, the European Commission sent a statement of objections to Apple, basically siding with Spotify and expressing concerns that the App Store rules around in-app payments and signposting alternative payment options were anti-competitive.
Spotify obviously welcomed that development, but has since become annoyed that the EC's investigation hasn't progressed much beyond the 2021 statement and some behind-the-scenes conversations between officials and Apple reps. So much so, Spotify last month joined with a bunch of other app makers, including Deezer, to formally call on the EC to get a move on.
Doing some moving on, the EC yesterday sent Apple a new statement of objections. In it, it says that it is now focusing specifically on the rules stopping the sign-posting of alternative payment options, what are sometimes called anti-steering obligations. Those rules, it confirms, continue to cause completion law concerns despite Apple's responses to the original statement of objections from 2021.
The EC says that in its new statement of objections it no longer takes "a position as to the legality" of the rules forcing app makers to use Apple's own systems for in-app payments, and instead "focuses on the contractual restrictions that Apple imposed on app developers which prevent them from informing iPhone and iPad users of alternative music subscription options at lower prices outside of the app and to effectively choose those".
"The Commission takes the preliminary view that Apple's anti-steering obligations are unfair trading conditions in breach of Article 102 of the Treaty On The Functioning of the European Union", it goes on.
"In particular", it adds, "the Commission is concerned that the anti-steering obligations imposed by Apple on music streaming app developers prevent those developers from informing consumers about where and how to subscribe to streaming services at lower prices".
"These anti-steering obligations are neither necessary nor proportionate for the provision of the App Store on iPhones and iPads; are detrimental to users of music streaming services on Apple's mobile devices who may end up paying more; and negatively affect the interests of music streaming app developers by limiting effective consumer choice".
Apple will now have to respond to the new statement of objections, after which the EC will decide what action to take. Though, it was keen to remind everyone yesterday, there is no deadline on an investigation of this kind, so who knows when that will happen.
Given that the new Digital Services Act in the EU also impacts on these Apple rules, the enforcement of those new regulations might bring about some changes anyway before the EC has reached a conclusion on this investigation. Though, even if that happens, the EC could still fine Apple for past violations of European law, anywhere up to 10% of the company's annual worldwide turnover, which would be quite a lot.
Commenting on all this yesterday, Spotify said: "The European Commission has once again made it abundantly clear that consumers are the ultimate victims of Apple's abusive and anticompetitive behaviour - and putting a stop to it is a top priority".
"Apple's anti-steering rules, which prohibit Spotify and other developers from telling consumers about deals or promotions through their own apps, mean that users are deprived of opportunities to save money and enjoy a higher quality service. That directly harms consumers".
"With each passing day, Apple continues to choke competition and smother innovation. The European Commission today is sending a clear message that Apple must play fair and let competition work. Momentum is on the side of consumers but they deserve final resolution - and soon".
Evan Rachel Wood hits back at claim she "manipulated" Marilyn Manson accuser
This is the latest development in Manson's defamation lawsuit against his former partner Wood. He sued her and her girlfriend Illma Gore a year ago, ahead of the premiere of a documentary in which Wood made her own claims of abuse against Manson.
Smithline recanted claims she had previously made against Manson in a sworn statement presented by his lawyers to the New York court over seeing the defamation case last week. She said that her 2021 lawsuit - which was dismissed earlier this year after Smithline missed a deadline to appoint new legal representation - was filed as a result of Wood and others pressuring her to do so.
However, in her new filing, reports Rolling Stone, Wood says that Smithline contacted her about her experiences with Manson in 2019, presenting screengrabs of Instagram DMs and text messages to support this.
Wood also provides voicemails from June last year left for a friend by Smithline, in which she says that she believes that Manson's lawyer Howard King will attempt to get her to withdraw her claims.
"Don't repeat this to anyone", she says in the message. "I swear to God, don't say this to anyone … but I did get a private message on my cellular telephone from Marilyn Manson's lawyer saying, 'I was wondering if we could just talk'. The only reason he'd be calling me is that he thinks I'm the weak link and he might want to settle with me to turn on the other girls and say that it was all a ruse".
In her filing, Wood says: "The real pressure Smithline faced was not to make allegations against plaintiff - it was to retract them. Smithline's [new] declaration is therefore wholly unreliable".
She adds that it's suspicious that Smithline was never deposed before making her sworn statement, saying that "the reason is obvious" - that being that if her lawyers "had the opportunity to question Smithline, the actual truth would come out".
Giving a statement to Rolling Stone, Smithline says of the new filing: "Evan's full of shit. That's my comment. She's saying anything she can to discredit me".
Smithline's was one of four sexual assault lawsuits launched against Manson after Wood went public with her own allegations about their time together. Another, filed by actor Esmé Bianco, was settled in January. There are still two more working their way through the system, one from an unnamed woman, and another filed by Manson's former assistant Ashley Walters.
Manson is also subject to a criminal investigation, with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department submitting a "partial" report on that investigation to the LA District Attorney's Office last year. However, prosecutors said at the time that they would need more before they could consider possible criminal charges.
Lyric Capital and Spirit Music Group raise over $800 million to buy music rights
"I couldn't be more excited about completing our latest fundraise with the participation of existing and new investors which validates our unique and collaborative approach to acquiring high-quality assets from recording artists and songwriters", says Lyric co-founder Jon Singer. "Thanks to our relationships and proven reputation as good stewards of legendary song catalogues and recordings, we have a robust pipeline of proprietary opportunities and the capital to pursue them".
Fellow co-founder Ross Cameron adds: "Since inception, Lyric Capital has transacted on over $800 million to develop outstanding catalogues of music, in partnership with artists and songwriters. Our disciplined investment approach is informed by our ownership of Spirit Music Group and supported by 25 years of proprietary music royalty data providing us with an unmatched insight when acquiring and managing copyrights. We are very pleased to close our second fund and thank our investors for their continued support of our unique platform".
Lyric Capital was founded in 2019 to orchestrate a management buyout of the Spirit Music Group. Through Spirit it now owns more than 100,000 song and recording copyrights, including songs recorded by the likes of Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, Jay-Z, Madonna, Elvis Presley, Eminem, Tom Petty, Frank Sinatra and more.
StubHub criticises Live Nation's proposed Fair Ticketing Act
"In the wake of bipartisan calls to investigate anticompetitive and anti-consumer practices [Live Nation's] solution is to point fingers and call for policies that strengthen their own control over the industry and consumers", says StubHub in a statement. "StubHub continues to join consumer advocates in calling for comprehensive policy solutions, like the BOSS ACT, that empower fans, increase transparency across the entire marketplace, and ensure competition".
Four of Live Nation's proposals are tout-focussed. They include expanding existing rules banning touts from using bots to buy up tickets from primary sites; a ban on speculative selling, where touts advertise tickets they don't have yet; and a crackdown on resale sites that don't enforce those rules or respect an artist's preferences regarding how they sell their tickets.
That latter point relates to another of Live Nation's proposals: that artists should be allowed to decide resale rules for their shows. So lawmakers should "protect artists' ability to use face-value exchanges and limited transfer to keep pricing lower for fans, and prevent scalpers from exploiting fans".
The fifth proposal would affect primary and secondary ticketing companies and relates to "all-in pricing", whereby platforms declare up front the total price of a ticket including all and any fees.
Live Nation has, of course, faced much criticism from consumers and politicians in recent months including at a hearing on the ticketing market in US Congress in January.
The US Senate Judiciary Committee decided to stage the session looking at ticketing following the problems that occurred last year when tickets for Taylor Swift's upcoming tour went on sale via Ticketmaster's Verified Fan system. The Live Nation-owned ticketing company's platform struggled to cope with the unprecedented demand - from both fans and touts - causing all sorts of issues for those trying to buy tickets, resulting in lots of angry Swift fans.
Last week's Fair Ticketing Act was part of Live Nation's response to all that recent scrutiny.
In its new statement, StubHub says: "LNE and TM's 'Fair Ticketing Act' specifically focuses on regulating the secondary ticketing market and does not include any significant reforms to their own practices. Anything but fair, the proposal is meant to strengthen the control LNE, TM, and their venues and artists have over this industry and consumers at large".
Getting into specifics, it goes on: "Ticket transferability laws that empower consumers in the ticket buying transaction have long had the support and advocacy of consumer groups. LNE and TM's regular opposition to these laws and their frequent use of derogatory terms like 'scalper' are a veiled attempt to maintain the control they've had over consumers and cover up their own wilful failures in helping to enforce existing statutes like the BOTS Act that go after bad actors".
"This proposal is particularly concerning in a marketplace where LNE and TM regularly manipulate the release of ticket supply and availability to take advantage of high demand through dynamic ticket pricing", it goes on. "LNE and TM's own resale marketplaces cater to the same consumers and professional ticket resellers (or in their words, 'scalpers') as their secondary marketplace competitors, and they provide services, such as their TradeDesk inventory management system, to encourage professional resellers to utilise their own resale sites".
In response, Live Nation told Variety in a statement: "The artist will always make the best decision for fans. Fair ticketing is not about locking down resale to our site, all resellers can take part as long as they are abiding by the terms the artist sets on their content. This isn't theoretical, that is exactly how the NFL Ticket Exchange works. StubHub is pushing to make it illegal for artists to have choice - even choices that are good for consumers".
There have been various efforts to regulate the ticketing market in the US in recent years, including StubHub's favoured legislation, the BOSS Act, so named because the original version came in the wake of the scandal that erupted over the sale of tickets to some Bruce Springsteen shows in 2009. On that occasion Ticketmaster was accused of directing consumers to touted tickets on its own resale site Tickets Now even though its primary site hadn't yet sold out.
It includes some measures that are mainly relevant to the primary ticketing market and others to regulate ticket touting. Among its proposals, it also includes a new rule to force up-front declarations of all and any booking fees across the board.
Also mentioned by StubHub in its statement, the BOTS Act was passed right at the end of Barack Obama's presidency in December 2016. Whereas the regulation of ticket sales, and any restrictions on touting, usually happen at a state level in the US, this was federal law that applied to the whole country.
Tidal ends direct artist payouts scheme, commits more money to emerging artists programme
Those innovations were first introduced as part of a rejig of Tidal's subscription packages. Having been a pioneer of the model where higher quality audio was available for a higher price, it ultimately followed the lead of Apple and Amazon in making that level of audio quality available to all on its standard 9.99 subscription tier.
The higher price tier, which was rebranded as Tidal Hifi Plus, became the subscription package for people who wanted super super quality audio, employing all that Dolby Atmos nonsense. Although the other thing that set the revamped Hifi Plus apart was the innovations around how artists would get paid.
First, Tidal said it planned to adopt a user-centric approach when sharing out subscription income from that tier.
And secondly, there was the direct artists payouts scheme. Under that scheme, Tidal committed to pay a bonus - on top of any royalties due - to each subscriber's favourite artists. That bonus would come out of Tidal's share of the income and would be paid directly to the artists oblivious of any label or distribution deal they had in place.
Tidal shifting to a user-centric approach for royalty distribution, even only on its Hifi Plus tier, would require the approval of the record labels, which meant that plan could not be introduced overnight.
There has, of course, been much debate in recent years over whether or not all streaming services should employ a user-centric approach. Currently services pool all subscription monies in any one market each month and then allocate a cut of that money to each track based on its consumption share across the service. With user-centric, each subscriber's payment would be allocated to the specific tracks they listened to that month.
The labels are officially agnostic on whether the current system or a user-centric system is better. That said, in reality the majority of labels aren't really that keen on user-centric, because if they were, it would have been implemented by now.
Which means that, when last month Tidal announced a partnership with Universal Music to investigate new models for distribution streaming royalties, it wasn't surprising when the streaming firm confirmed that user-centric would not be part of that investigation, and was no longer part of the plan for the evolution of Hifi Plus.
However, direct artist payouts could be introduced without the labels approval, as the bonus payments were coming out of Tidal's cut of the money. The streaming service just needed the artists who were likely to benefit - ie who were the favourite artists of Hifi Plus subscribers - to sign up to receive the extra cash. And so that part of Tidal's plan for Hifi Plus went into operation.
"We enrolled 70,000 artists and distributed $500,000", Tidal boss Jesse Dorogusker revealed in a tweet yesterday. However, that was "far short of our goal". And so, "we've decided to end direct artist payouts and do something with higher impact".
"The direct artist payouts programme focused only on a listener's number one artist", he went on, "which left much, much less room for emerging artists to get paid. Starting April, we'll no longer commit a percentage of HiFi Plus membership to top-listened artists. Instead, we'll sharpen our focus on Tidal Rising". That is the streaming firm's programme for supporting new talent.
"Changing course means we will put more funds (ten times what we distributed via direct artist payouts) into the Tidal Rising programme", he added, "backing and celebrating emerging artists through education, custom promotion, and future direct-funding, so they can build and grow their careers in music".
Dorogusker also pointed out that, because the core streaming model is a revenue share model, artists and their business partners earn more when Hifi Plus subscribers play their music - even without user-centric and direct artist payouts - because there is more money in the pool to start with.
And while the user-centric and direct artist payouts experiments unveiled in 2021 may now both be over, don't be thinking there won't be more experiments to come. Even if those future experiments presumably will need the support of its new experimental partner Universal Music.
"To artists", Dorogusker concluded, "the Tidal team continues to experiment with ways to unlock better economic value from streaming for you. To our loyal Tidal members: thank you for being fierce music fans and artist advocates while we continue to build the best home for music and culture".
Ed Sheeran announces final mathematical album
Pronounced 'Subtract', the album will featured stripped back, acoustic songs, and was co-written and produced last year by The National's Aaron Dessner - whom Sheeran met through his good mate Taylor Swift. Dessner, of course, having worked with Swift on her 'Folklore' and 'Evermore' albums.
In a post on social media announcing the album, Sheeran revealed that the album has been in the making for many years, but that he scrapped all of his previous work and started afresh last year.
"I had been working on 'Subtract' for a decade, trying to sculpt the perfect acoustic album, writing and recording hundreds of songs with a clear vision of what I thought it should be", he writes. "Then at the start of 2022, a series of events changed my life, my mental health, and ultimately the way I viewed music and art".
"Writing songs is my therapy", he continues. "It helps me make sense of my feelings. I wrote without thought of what the songs would be, I just wrote whatever tumbled out. And in just over a week, I replaced a decade's worth of work with my deepest darkest thoughts. Within the space of a month, my pregnant wife got told she had a tumour, with no route to treatment until after the birth. My best friend Jamal, a brother to me, died suddenly and I found myself standing in court defending my integrity and career as a songwriter. I was spiralling through fear, depression and anxiety".
Jamal, of course, is SBTV founder Jamal Edwards, who died in February 2022 aged 31, as a result of cardiac arrhythmia related to cocaine use.
Sheeran concludes: "I felt like I was drowning, head below the surface, looking up but not being able to break through for air. As an artist I didn't feel like I could credibly put a body of work into the world that didn't accurately represent where I am and how I need to express myself at this point in my life. This album is purely that. It's opening the trapdoor into my soul. For the first time I'm not trying to craft an album people will like, I'm merely putting something out that's honest and true to where I am in my adult life. This is last February's diary entry and my way of making sense of it. This is 'Subtract'".
The album is set for release on 5 May. No news yet on when the first single from it will arrive, but here's a short music-free trailer.
Skinny Pelembe announces new album
"New life and the end of it", he says of the inspiration for the new track. "You could find a place to hide behind your palms, eyes shut, digging out the past, like some lost scavenger. Or, you might find yourself in a better place if you 'straighten out your spine, shoot for something good, promise you won't cry, and be the ties that bind'".
On writing of the song, he adds: "I'd actually just finished the album the night before, me and my manager zoomed around London blasting it out and he suggested I try and write a track for another bigger artist. Why not?"
"Anyway, got dropped off at home, got the Gretsch out, put pen to paper", he goes on. "20 minutes later it was fucking written! Verses, chorus, bridge, all of it. Fell right out the sky. Easy. Way too easy. And too good to share. Like a Terry's Chocolate Orange. One of the best songs I've written so far. Fuck giving this one to anyone else!"
Speaking about how sound has changed on the new album, he concludes: "I never considered myself a singer before now. This album is what I would have created first time round had I rated my own voice".
'Hardly The Same Snake' is out on 28 Apr. Listen to 'Don't Be Another' here.
Music publisher Minds On Fire has appointed Tom Currie to the position of A&R Manager. Currie has a background in live events and promotions, and was most recently Head Of DJ Promotions at PR company Your Army. "Having promoted many successful acts during my career to date I now want to work with [Minds On Fire] to help discover amazing new talent and to assist with the development of our existing writers".
Yves Tumor has released new single 'Heaven Surrounds Us Like A Hood'. Their new album 'Praise A Lord Who Chews But Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds)' is out on 17 Mar.
Warmduscher have released new single 'Love Strong'. It is, they say, "the late-night adventure bridging the gap between [2202 album] 'At The Hotspot' and our next album due to hit the streets late 2023 on Bella Union. A love story of keeping it up in a world that wants to bring you down. Alive in the adventure, alone in the dream. Love strong and you'll do just fine".
Hayden has announced that his first new album for eight years, 'Are We Good', will be out on 28 Apr. The first single is 'On A Beach', featuring Feist. The video for the track also features acting from Steve Buscemi and The National's Matt Berninger, as well as Hayden and Feist themselves.
Dutch Uncles have released new single 'In Salvia', featuring Metronomy's Anna Prior, ahead of the release of their new album 'True Entertainment' next week.
Alberta Cross has shared a new cover of Sharon Van Etten's 'Every Time The Sun Comes Up', taken from his upcoming album 'Sinking Ships', which is out on 31 Mar. "Sharon is such a talented songwriter and performer - and I've been a fan for as long as I can remember", he says. "We certainly didn't take recording her song lightly - but we are really proud of how it came out".
Louis VI has released new single 'It's OK', featuring Lex Amor. "Me and Lex Amor have had the blessing to chill a lot recently and I knew she would be perfect on this with her silky storytelling delivery; helping sew the double meaning behind this track", he says. His second album 'Earthling' is out on 31 Mar.
Lael Neale has released new single 'In Verona'. Her new album 'Star Eaters Delight' is out on 21 Apr. She'll also be in the UK for tour dates the following month, concluding with a show at The Lexington in London on 16 May.
Jess Young has released new single 'Butterflies'.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
The Weeknd to star in movie that he has co-written
Co-written by Reza Fahim, Trey Edward Shults, Kevin Turen and Harrison Kreiss, details of the film are currently being kept under wraps. We know that Fahim is co-producing alongside The Weeknd, Shults will direct, and the movie is set to shoot in LA.
Real name Abel Tesfaye, The Weeknd revealed to Rolling Stone in 2020 that he was working on a screenplay, saying: "I can't talk about it too much yet. I really want it to be official".
He added that expanding out the themes of his music into film was something he was very keen to do, explaining: "I'm trying to find a perfect balance with the film and the music, and so far it's going really well. I think I might have cracked the code".
Tesfaye has acting experience, of course, having appeared in 2019 Adam Sandler film 'Uncut Gems'. He is also set to star in upcoming HBO series 'The Idol'.