|THURSDAY 30 MARCH 2023||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The new boss of Warner Music has told his staff that the major plans to downsize its global team, with around 270 roles - about 4% of the current workforce - set to be cut. It's part of a mission to position the Warner Music Group at the "intersection of creativity and technology"... [READ MORE]|
Warner Music announces downsizing as new boss Robert Kyncl puts focus on new tech
It's no secret that new CEO Robert Kyncl, with his background at YouTube, is particularly interested in pushing ahead with a number of new tech initiatives at Warner to capitalise on new opportunities he sees ahead as the digital market continues to evolve. The revamp and cutbacks outlined in a memo to Warner staff yesterday seem to be part of that plan.
"The music business is filled with new possibilities", he wrote, "more fans are engaging with artists and songs than ever, our reach is enormous, and new business models are constantly emerging. WMG is positioning itself for this new phase of growth at the intersection of creativity and technology".
"In my discussions with our leaders across the company, many of them came to the same conclusion - that to take advantage of the opportunities ahead of us, we need to make some hard choices in order to evolve", he then added.
"Consistent with this direction, we've made the tough decision to reduce our global team by approximately 270 people, or about 4%. At the same time, we're reallocating resources towards new skills for artist and songwriter development and new tech initiatives. We're also reducing discretionary spending and open positions to provide us with additional flexibility for our future".
"I want to be clear", he insisted, "that this is not a blanket cost-cutting exercise. Every decision has been made thoughtfully by our operators around the world, who considered the specific needs, skills, and priorities of each label, division, and territory, in order to set us up for long-term success. The leader of your division will either be holding a town hall or sending an email to explain more about this path forward".
Most of those affected by the downsizing should know about it later today. "I'm acutely aware of how unsettling this can be", Kyncl noted in his memo. "I know this transition will be tough, but we're committed to supporting you during this process".
Concluding, he stated: "I learned when I joined WMG that this is a gritty, incredibly resourceful, and highly impactful team that I want by my side every day of the week. We deliver for our artists, songwriters, and labels with laser focus, inventiveness, and care. And now, more than ever, we need to double down on that. Let's support each other with empathy and integrity as we work through this process".
As Kyncl told staff about his plans for global evolution at the major, Warner Music UK announced a revamp of its own which will see the company's frontline labels - Parlophone, Warner Records UK, Roadrunner, FFRR and Elektra Entertainment - more closely aligned, sharing more support services than before, especially beyond A&R and marketing.
In terms of people, Isabel Garvey returns to Warner UK as Chief Operating Officer, and Jennifer Ivory moves over from the Warner Records label to become MD of Parlophone. Meanwhile, Parlophone Co-Presidents Nick Burgess and Mark 'Mitch' Mitchell, and General Manager Jack Melhuish, are all leaving the business.
"In the modern, rapidly evolving digital business, we're always pushing for the most agile and forward-thinking ways to super-serve our talent", says Warner Music UK boss Tony Harlow. "The market is increasingly fragmented, and it takes more expertise to service all channels and to serve them properly. Our artists need more specialists to explore every available opportunity".
"With Parlophone and Warner Records UK coming together and drawing on the expertise of our new centralised coalition", he reckons, "we will harness our collective firepower and lean on a wide range of proficient minds to take the company forward".
"Isabel's appointment signals our constant evolution, bringing her widely admired creativity, innovation and technological entrepreneurship to the service of our artists and their visions", Harlow adds.
"Jen has been with us for over fourteen years and has grown into one of the most exceptional and influential voices at WMUK and one of our best marketeers. She supervised four number one albums last year alone. Under her leadership, Parlophone's employees will be dedicated to signing and developing the next generation of outstanding talent".
And on the exits, he says, "I'd like to thank Nick and Mitch for an outstanding job at Parlophone. They've been strong and thoughtful leaders in difficult times and, in partnership with Jack, have had a real impact that has been vital for Parlophone's growth. We wish them well in their future adventures".
PRS reduces joining fee for younger music-makers
PRS, of course, represents the performing rights of its songwriter and music publisher members, issuing licences and collecting royalties in most scenarios where songs are performed, broadcast, communicated to the public or made available online.
All songwriters - and especially unpublished songwriters - need to join in order to access the royalties owed to them in those scenarios.
However, the £100 joining fee has often deterred many early-career music-makers from becoming PRS members, even though they could potentially earn back the fee pretty quickly if they are regularly performing live or receiving airplay on major radio stations.
PRS Members' Council President Michelle Escoffery announced the lower rate for younger songwriters yesterday, explaining: "I have consistently heard for some young writers that the cost of PRS membership has been a disincentive to join, and as such they haven't had access to the support and systems essential to their career progression".
"I am, therefore, delighted", she went on, "that we have been able to introduce this new discounted joining rate to provide easier access for all music creators, irrespective of their circumstances or background".
Although it's obviously in the interest of any music-maker to join PRS, it's also in PRS's interest to have them as members.
Collecting societies offer blanket licences to most licensees in their home market, which are intended to cover the vast majority of the music any one licensee might use. Those licences include the songs of the society's direct members and the members of other societies around the world with which it has a reciprocal agreement.
In the digital space, which is slightly more complex - not least because some music publishers negotiate their own deals with the streaming services - the societies still offer what are commonly referred to as 'mop-up' licences.
This means that if there are songs streamed in the society's home market that don't seem to be covered by any of the other deals a streaming service has entered into, the society will take responsibility for distributing the royalties due on those works.
Additionally, the music industry relies on collecting societies to manage the primary music rights databases in each country. So, for PRS, that's the UK's primary database of songs, complete with information on who wrote and who publishes each song, and where song copyrights are co-owned - which they often are - how the copyright has been split between each co-owner.
For the blanket licenses, the mop-up licenses and the primary music rights databases, it is important for each collecting society to ensure that all the songs being played, even at a relatively small level, and the people who made and own the music, are in the system.
It will be interesting to see how many more music-makers now join PRS for the first time with the reduced joining fee of £30.
Though, actually, while having those music-makers join PRS will successfully get them "in the system", if they are unpublished it won't get them access to all the money generated by their songs. Because in the UK the mechanical rights in songs are licensed by a different society - MCPS - even though PRS does all the admin on those licences too.
Published songwriters are part of the MCPS licences via their publishers, but unpublished writers need to join directly if they want to access those mechanical royalties that go through the collective licensing system.
That includes when songs are pressed to CD and vinyl, and when music is used by UK TV channels which rely on the blanket licence, plus half of any monies generated by streaming.
Joining MCPS as an unpublished writer incurs another joining fee which is still £100. Although if writers ally with services like Sentric Music or Songtrust they can be part of that system without having to become an MCPS member.
Tech leaders and academics call for six month pause on development of advanced AI technologies
There has, of course, been a renewed interest of late in AI technologies - and especially generative AI technologies, which automatically create content and media - partly because of the hype around specific platforms like ChatGPT and partly because these systems are now rapidly becoming more sophisticated.
Within the creative and copyright industries this has made debates over the licensing of data mining, the copyright status of AI-created works and how the law protects people's identities - all debates which have been ongoing for years - feel a lot more pressing. In the US, the music industry has launched the Human Artistry Campaign to bring everyone together around those issues.
Though for law-makers, there are even bigger concerns about the impact ever more sophisticated AI technologies might have when it comes to things like privacy, security and fraud, not to mention politics, the economy and society at large.
The new letter, organised by a group called the Future Of Life Institute, notes existing research which demonstrates how "AI systems with human-competitive intelligence can pose profound risks to society and humanity" and that "advanced AI could represent a profound change in the history of life on Earth".
With that in mind, it goes on, these technological advancements "should be planned for and managed with commensurate care and resources. Unfortunately, this level of planning and management is not happening, even though recent months have seen AI labs locked in an out-of-control race to develop and deploy ever more powerful digital minds that no one - not even their creators - can understand, predict, or reliably control".
The letter continues: "Contemporary AI systems are now becoming human-competitive at general tasks and we must ask ourselves: Should we let machines flood our information channels with propaganda and untruth? Should we automate away all the jobs, including the fulfilling ones? Should we develop nonhuman minds that might eventually outnumber, outsmart, obsolete and replace us? Should we risk loss of control of our civilisation?"
"Such decisions must not be delegated to unelected tech leaders", it argues. "Powerful AI systems should be developed only once we are confident that their effects will be positive and their risks will be manageable. This confidence must be well justified and increase with the magnitude of a system's potential effects".
With that in mind, the letter calls on all AI labs "to immediately pause for at least six months the training of AI systems more powerful than GPT-4", which is the latest version of the AI that powers ChatGPT, developed by the research lab OpenAI.
"This pause should be public and verifiable, and include all key actors", the letter says. "If such a pause cannot be enacted quickly, governments should step in and institute a moratorium. AI labs and independent experts should use this pause to jointly develop and implement a set of shared safety protocols for advanced AI design and development that are rigorously audited and overseen by independent outside experts".
"These protocols should ensure that systems adhering to them are safe beyond a reasonable doubt", it adds. "This does not mean a pause on AI development in general, merely a stepping back from the dangerous race to ever-larger unpredictable black box models with emergent capabilities".
Signatories of the letter include Elon Musk - who co-founded OpenAI - and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, as well as numerous academics and researchers, and a bunch of founders and/or current CEOs of tech giants and AI companies. You can read the full letter and see the full list of signatories here.
Laurent Garnier announces new album and plans to step back from touring
The new record, titled '33 Tours Et Puis S'en Vont', will be Garnier's first solo album for the best part of a decade - the last being 2015's 'La Home Box'. Spanning house, techno and more, it will also feature guest vocals from the late Alan Vega of Suicide, who died in 2016.
"I'm not a nostalgic person, and yet, I can't help but draw comparisons between this new album and my very first album, 'Shot In The Dark'", says Garnier. "Except that this time around, I have a much better idea of the direction I'm heading in".
Turning to his decision to step back from touring, he goes on: "The global situation made me reassess what's important and helped me face up to some truths: becoming a dusty, old jukebox has never been an option, and so as my 'swinging' 60s draw nearer, the time has come for me to consider my life as a touring DJ differently".
"That doesn't mean abandoning the decks for good", he continues. However, "after the next few months, which I'm hoping will be full of excitement around the release of this album, the end of 2024 will mark an important turning point in my career where you won't see me playing the same weekend in three different cities anymore".
He concludes: "Although I might start visiting some countries, cities and festivals for the very last time sometime soon, I would like to make things clear: I will remain a DJ for the rest of my life, because being a DJ is, above all, a visceral need for me to share the music I love, no matter what, in one way or another".
'33 Tours Et Puis S'en Vont' is set for release on 26 May.
Georgia announces euphoric new album
Having recorded her previous two albums in her bedroom, Georgia says of the decision to up sticks, move to LA and get in the studio with Rostam: "I wanted an adventure! Being a self-produced musician, it's easy to get stuck on one thing or in one place".
She adds that she was keen to give up some of the control over the creation of her past music and focus on making an album that would surrender "to my issues, to my past, to my flaws and to the healing process".
'Euphoric' is set for release on 28 Jul. Ahead of that and some festival dates this summer, Georgia will play a one-off show at Omeara in London on 20 Apr. Tickets go on sale tomorrow.
Jenny Lewis announces new album Joy'All
"I started writing some of these songs on the road, pre-pandemic and then put them aside as the world shut down", she says. "Then from my home in Nashville in early 2021, I joined a week-long virtual songwriting workshop with a handful of amazing artists, hosted by Beck".
"The challenge was to write one song every day for seven days, with guidelines from Beck", she goes on. "The guidelines would be prompts like 'write a song with 1-4-5 chord progression', 'write a song with only cliches', or 'write in free form style'".
That experience seemingly reignited and also informed the creative process on this new record, which was produced by Dave Cobb.
Recalling the process of making the album with Cobb, she says: "Dave works fast and we cut the bulk of the record with his incredible house band - Nate Smith, Brian Allen and Cobb on guitar, and myself on acoustic guitar and vocals - live on the floor in a couple of weeks".
"Jess Wolfe came back to the studio to provide background vocals on the record", she goes on, "and then Greg Leisz and Jon Brion added pedal steel, B-Bender guitar and Chamberlin, respectively, back in LA".
'Joy'All' is set for release on 9 Jun. Listen to 'Psychos' here.
Tyler, The Creator has released another new track from the upcoming deluxe edition of his 'Call Me If You Get Lost' album, titled 'Sorry Not Sorry'.
Django Django have released new single 'Don't Touch That Dial', featuring Yuuko. It is taken from a second drop of tracks from the band's 'Off Planet' album, which will be out in full on 16 Jun.
Former Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo has released new solo single 'Separation From The Sacred'. The track is taken from his new drum album 'Rites Of Percussion', which is out on 5 May. "The songs on this album invoke imagery", he says. "I write from wherever my mind travels. I write how I think. I want the songs to conjure emotion. There are no lyrics, but there are many levels of intensity. In a way, I think I've found a hidden talent. That is, taking mental images and putting those images to music".
Jessy Lanza has released new track 'Don't Leave Me Now'.
JFDR has released new single 'Life Man'. "Most of us live fairly hectic lives and it can be a shock when things slow down", she says. "The song is about one of those moments; when you get a second to breathe and an overwhelming wave of existentialism hits you in the face. It's a good time to ask questions, as it is all very strange indeed". Her new album 'Museum' is out on 28 Apr.
Deadletter have released new single 'The Snitching Hour'. Commenting on the inspiration for the track, frontman Zac Lawrence says: "Are we slowly but surely being tacitly tempted into a culture of casual betrayal? The messages we are fed, on the outside, might be read as being solely in the interest of public safety - but take a closer look, and perhaps there's a more insidious undertone to it all".
Ezra Williams has released new single 'Bleed'. "It's a song about people you are close to and generally the disconnect one feels in certain situations", they say. "Wanting that closeness without it sometimes feeling/being possible". Their debut album 'Supernumeraries' will be out in June.
GIGS & TOURS
Ellie Goulding has announced UK and Ireland tour dates in October, including a performance at the Roundhouse in London on 24 Oct. Tickets go on general sale on 6 Apr.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Bravado sued in Rolling Stones lips dispute
That company, Simply Southern, says in its lawsuit that it was forced to go legal after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from Bravado over various t-shirts it sells that feature a cartoonish set of lips. At least two different cartoonish sets of lips, in fact.
The Universal division reckons that those lips are very like the tongue and lips logo famously employed by The Rolling Stones since the early 1970s. And Bravado, see, manages merch for the Stones.
"In the letter", the lawsuit explains, "Bravado claims that Simply Southern has been selling products bearing 'confusingly similar' versions of the 'tongue/lips trademark', thereby alleging infringement of trademark, copyright and/or other intellectual property rights that Bravado claims entitlement to bring claims about, without directly stating what rights have allegedly been infringed".
But, argues the lawsuit, "Simply Southern's use of mouth images on its products, and its products, did not, and does not, infringe on any rights held by or enforceable by Bravado, whether under US copyright, US trademark law, or other law. Simply Southern's images are neither copies of nor impermissibly derivative of Bravado's asserted tongue/lips image".
After all: "There are countless ways to depict a human mouth: closed or open to varying degrees; differing plumpness of lips; with or without teeth, and in different numbers and shapes of teeth; with or without a tongue; tongue resting in mouth or protruding outward; tongue directed up, down, or to the side; varying colours, saturation, and pattern; etc".
"Simply Southern's mouth images show many elements that are very different from Bravado's asserted tongue/lips image", the lawsuit argues.
"For example, Simply Southern's images have a more plump lower lip, more square teeth, and a wider and more open mouth when compared to Bravado's asserted image. Another image has a differently directed tongue. The lip/mouth angles and lengths are also significantly different. Moreover, one or more of Simply Southern's images depicts lips and/or tongues that are not red and/or are patterned".
"Also", it continues, "because the mouth is an inherently expressive body part, subtle changes in shape and positioning result in markedly different interpretations of emotional expression".
"Bravado's asserted image is mostly devoid of emotion but has slight hints of either playfulness or defiance. By contrast, Simply Southern's images are deeply expressive. The images can also be seen as artistic comments upon prior depictions of mouths in pop culture".
As a result, the Simply Southern lips and the Rolling Stones lips are "clearly and demonstrably different", and there is no "likelihood of confusion, mistake or deception" as a result of the clothing company selling its lippy t-shirts. Or so the lawsuit claims.
With all that in mind, the plaintiff would like the court to confirm it is not infringing the copyright, trademarks or any other rights of the Rolling Stones or their merch-making buddies at Bravado.