|FRIDAY 31 MARCH 2023||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Music distributor and artist services company Believe has acquired music publisher Sentric Music in a deal which it describes as "its first break into building a digital-first innovative music publishing business"... [READ MORE]|
Believe buys Sentric Music amid speculation about future of Utopia
Sentric is perhaps best known for providing admin services and sync support to self-published writers including DIY artists, although it also has a more traditional music publishing business too.
Bigging up its new purchase, Believe said yesterday that "Sentric's proprietary and innovative platform is one of the most advanced solutions in the market, able to manage publishing for self-releasing artists profitably and at scale, while also offering global publishing deals to rightsholders at each stage of their development".
"Sentric's backend platform offers a publishing infrastructure best fit for digital rights' management", it went on, "while providing songwriters and publishers with a suite of tools and actionable data to power their strategies through its user portal".
Sentric already had an alliance with Believe's DIY distributor TuneCore, powering the publishing services that it offers artists who are self-releasing their recordings and also control the rights in their songs.
Unlike with recordings, where self-releasing artists need to find a distributor, on the songs side songwriters can actually rely on their collecting societies to license their rights to digital services, if they so wish.
However, in the UK, that requires writers to join mechanical rights society MCPS as well as performing rights society PRS. Plus, many would argue, because of various data issues that routinely negatively impact on songwriter earnings, by working with a platform like Sentric writers can get paid quicker and more accurately.
Noting the existing TuneCore tie up, Believe's statement went on: "Moving forward, Sentric's integration will further strengthen publishing for TuneCore's self-releasing artists and expand it to new geographies. Sentric will then offer publishing services to all clients within the Believe Group, who will be able to monetise their music seamlessly".
Commenting on the deal and his company's ambition on the songs side of the business, Believe CEO Denis Ladegaillerie says: "The acquisition of Sentric is the first step for Believe in the roll-out of a global and comprehensive publishing offer".
"The growth and digital transformation of the songwriters' market is opening-up many opportunities", he adds. "We are excited to be able to immediately expand the services we provide to our existing TuneCore clients with Sentric's best-in-class royalty collection service, while starting to work on future innovative products and services for all of Believe's songwriters and publishers".
Believe has acquired Sentric - in a deal that values the latter at €47 million - from Utopia Music, which only bought the publishing business a year ago. That earlier deal was part of a flurry of acquisitions at Utopia which at the time seemed to have ambitions of provide a wide range of distribution, data and rights management services across the music industry.
Those acquisitions greatly increased the size and significance of Utopia, but then later in the year it was announced that the company was downsizing its recently expanded workforce, and in January this year CEO Markku Mäkeläinen departed the company, with founder Mattias Hjelmstedt stepping into that role.
Then it was announced that Utopia had sold back one of its other acquisitions, music industry directory and data platform ROSTR, to its founders. After which another company it had tried to buy in early 2022 - LA-based music rights management and licensing platform SourceAudio - sued the firm over the collapse of that deal.
Shortly before the Sentric sale was announced, Swedish business news site Breakit reported that Utopia's subsidiary in that country, Utopia R&D Tech, was facing demands for tax payments of eight million kroner - about £625,000 - as well as other legal claims over unpaid bills and a bankruptcy petition filed by employees over the alleged non-payment of pension payments.
Another employee told the business site that they had not received their most recent salary payment. A spokesperson for Utopia told Breakit: "We sincerely apologise to all affected employees and stress that we are taking this matter very seriously. All late payments have been identified and will be resolved in the coming days".
Profits from the Sentric deal will presumably help Utopia meet those financial demands. Though, of all the businesses that Utopia acquired, Sentric was the one most relevant to the company's much stated wider mission of addressing data and royalty payment issues across the music industry in order to ensure every music-maker gets "fair pay for every play".
IFPI welcomes latest ruling in web-blocking dispute with Cloudflare
The Italian record industry went legal against Cloudflare last year seeking to force the firm to instigate three web-blocks that are in place against piracy sites in the country on its DNS resolver 126.96.36.199.
Although, in many countries now, internet service providers routinely instigate web-blocks against piracy sites, usually on the back of orders from relevant courts or regulators, web-savvy people can circumvent the blockades by using things like VPNs or alternative DNS resolvers.
To that end, music and movie companies have been seeking to get the providers of VPNs and DNS resolvers to also start web-blocking.
Many of those companies are resisting those attempts, hence the legal battle with Cloudflare in Italy. The Court Of Milan twice sided with the music industry on this last year, ordering Cloudflare to put in place on 188.8.131.52 the web-blocks that have been instigated in Italy by regulator AGCOM.
Explaining the most recent legal wrangling, IFPI said yesterday: "In its most recent judgment, the Court Of Milan dismissed an additional application filed by Cloudflare to clarify the technical implementation of the order".
"The court held that Cloudflare's motion was outside the scope of enforcement proceedings as it addressed issues which had already been considered in the injunction proceedings. The court also noted that Cloudflare can block websites via its public DNS service as it adopts similar measures for example in connection with other illegal or harmful content".
Commenting on the new ruling, IFPI added: "We welcome the decision today from the Court Of Milan which confirmed that Cloudflare is obliged to cease providing access to three copyright infringing sites and any additional 'mirror sites' via its public DNS service. In doing so the Court Of Milan has set an important precedent that online intermediaries can be required to take effective action if their services are used for music piracy".
Lucian Grainge to lead Universal for five more years
The new "extended and amended" deal sees a change to the way Grainge is compensated, the company explained in an announcement. Rather than an "all-cash compensation package" he will now receive a combination of equity and cash, with "an equity compensation programme with a broad set of performance-based objectives aligned with shareholders' interest and corresponding to the company's long-term growth strategy".
"To assure the compensation programme is aligned with shareholders' interest, the majority of the compensation package's economic value will be paid in UMG equity and UMG performance-based stock options", it adds.
This may avoid further controversies like that in 2021, where Grainge's annual pay packet topped $150 million, thanks to a bonus of $123 million. That special post-IPO pay packet - it was widely pointed out - was higher than the total monies that all songwriters earned from the sales and streams of their songs in the UK in 2019.
Indeed, the big statement goes on, Grainge's actual salary will be reduced by more than two-thirds, to just $5 million a year. How will he survive? Well, he'll still be eligible for "an annual bonus with a target of $10 million", we are reassured. So, while he'll still be earning a lot more than your average songwriter, he will probably not earn more than all of them put together again. Assuming you ignore those stock options.
"UMG is the world's most successful music company and there are incredible opportunities ahead for a company with the right leadership and vision", brags chair of UMG's board Sherry Lansing. "The UMG board is resolutely committed to converting those opportunities and maximising shareholder value for the long term".
"Only the right kind of chief executive can help achieve that goal and Lucian is just the one to do it", she goes on. "Through his clear vision and strong execution in building UMG into the industry leader, Lucian has also essentially created a new category of music company. This agreement is designed to drive both the sustainable success of UMG and long-term shareholder value".
Grainge became CEO of Universal Music in 2010 and has overseen various big developments for the company, including the acquisition of rival major record company EMI in 2012. Currently, he is calling for an overhaul of how streaming royalties are paid out in order to be more beneficial to artists (and probably Universal too).
BMG bigs up rights and royalty management capabilities in stats brag memo
While the recordings side of BMG has continued to grow in recent years and, according to yesterday's memo, "reached a new high with a 40% share of total revenues", BMG is still bigger on the songs side of the music rights business.
On the songs side, there are more complexities to navigate and more administration to complete to ensure songwriters get paid whenever their music is played. Collective licensing is a much bigger deal when it comes to songs, meaning that effectively interacting with the big network of collecting societies around the world is key.
And with digital, music publishers and collecting societies need to identify what recordings contain their songs and then claim the royalties they are due, which is complicated by the fact song copyrights are usually co-owned, and the music publishing sector has traditionally dealt with the mechanical rights and performing rights separately. All of which can cause delays and deductions in songwriter payments, or stop the songwriter from getting paid entirely.
There are data challenges on the recordings side too of course. And for both songs and recordings, deals with user-generated content platforms create extra issues around identifying what music users are including in their videos.
With that in mind, Masuch's memo honed in on BMG's investments "in our capabilities, our systems, our processes and our people". As a result of those investments, he added, "the past year has seen significant developments, migrating our systems to the cloud for speed, resilience, and flexibility, introducing new AI tools for income tracking and sync and, of course, further adding to our teams all over the world".
"We continue our relentless drive to eliminate the frictions and inefficiencies which have plagued the music industry for decades", he went on. "In the past year we have again halved the time to register a song with societies and digital services worldwide. And we have increased the acceptance rate of automated registrations to a new high of 99.7%".
"We want our clients to receive their income generated anywhere in the world as quickly as possible", he went on. "The US and the UK have doubled the accounting cycle for all publishing clients to quarterly. At the same time, 99% of global revenues are now accounted to our artists and writers within the same accounting period we receive them, no matter the country these royalties were generated in. This all was achieved while royalty data volumes processed tripled compared to last year. And we're far from finished".
"From our industry leading YouTube optimisation team to our new royalty system which runs seven times faster than its predecessor", he continued, "we remain focused on being the most reliable and effective partner for artists, songwriters and rightsholders globally".
In terms of the financial stats, Masuch bragged: "BMG's revenues increased by 31% last year to €866m. That's over €200m more than in 2021 and three times more than the previous year's revenue increase of €61m. Importantly, our growth did not come at the expense of profitability, and we actually increased our margin to 22.5%".
The memo was technically from Masuch and Thomas Coesfeld, the latter being the company's current CFO who is set to takeover as CEO next year.
Lyor Cohen posts some YouTube Shorts stat brags
That being, of course, the Google-owned service's TikTok rival that ensures old-timers like me are now up to speed on all the latest TikTok trends and gimmicks, because those videos usually make their way over to YouTube's super short-form feed pretty quickly, as TikTokkers push their TikToks to rival platforms.
Though, of course, YouTube Shorts is no TikTok clone full of TikTok content from TikTokkers who want to get their TikToks into the brains of people yet to embrace actual TikTok.
I mean it is. But it's so much more. It's a place where music-makers across the world can expand their reach, their audience and their fan engagement by making and inspiring great content. Or at least that's what Cohen reckons.
"In January 2023, fan-created Shorts increased the average artist's audience of unique viewers by more than 80%", Cohen declares in his blog post. "This means fans on Shorts are nearly doubling an artist's total reach, so artists can spend more time doing what they do best: making great music".
"And not only are fans on Shorts growing an artist's total reach by soundtracking their hobbies, day-to-day adventures, and more", he goes on. "They are also becoming new fans by engaging with Shorts created by artists. Artists who upload Shorts are seeing outsized returns. In January 2023, artists active on Shorts saw more than 50% of their new channel subscribers coming directly from their Shorts posts on average".
Keen to distinguish the TikTok-esque Shorts from TikTok itself, Cohen then reminds everyone that by being part of the wider YouTube platform, Shorts drives new-found fans to other content and experiences, and revenue generating opportunities for artists and their business partners.
"While Shorts' growth has been a wow - generating 50 billion daily views as of December 2022 - I will continue saying again and again", he declares, "that Shorts are the appetiser to the entrée. They are the entry point, leading fans to discover the depth of an artist's catalogue, including music videos, interviews, live performances, lyric videos, and more".
With the ongoing growth of Shorts, YouTube is also changing the way it reports streams on the platform. "As of this month", Cohen explains, "Analytics For Artists' total reach metrics from YouTube include fan-uploaded Shorts - in addition to official content uploaded by the artist and long-form videos uploaded by fans".
"This new metric shows how many people your music is reaching across all formats", he adds, "making it the most comprehensive snapshot of the size of an artist's audience on YouTube. We also created a brand new Songs section in Analytics to help artists see how fans are listening to their music or creating with it, across all video formats, all in one place".
Lovely stuff. "Only on YouTube can fans crank up the volume across every format including long form videos, livestreams, Shorts, and more", he concludes, "let's make it the best place for every single music fan together".
Arab Strap announce Philophobia 25th anniversary tour
"With a new album about halfway ready for release next year, we thought we could easily ignore our second album's 25th birthday", they say. "But we find it hard to say no to 'Philophobia'".
"If our first album [1996's 'The Week Never Starts Round Here'] was a ramshackle oddity filled with in-jokes and formerly private tape moments that we never expected to bother many ears", they go on, "it was 'Philophobia' where everything started to come together, when we began to realise making music might have a future for us, and the Arab Strap sounds and themes began to take shape".
"If you've seen us play in the past few years, you'll know we still include quite a few of its songs in our setlists", they add. "These tunes seem to have endured, and it's probably the only album we'd ever consider performing all the way through".
Eight shows have been announced so far, with more set to be revealed in the coming weeks. Here's what we have so far:
8 Jun: Carlisle, Brickyard
Hipgnosis has acquired the catalogue of 'Despacito' co-writer Erika Ender. "I am very excited about this partnership with Hipgnosis", she says. "I've always believed that music is eternal. I'm confident my songs are in good hands with Merck [Mercuriadis] and his team, and they will do their best to keep my catalogue active, present and alive, as they honour and recognise that the songs are the seeds to the entire music industry, the message that touches and marks people's lives and where it all begins".
[PIAS] has appointed Tom Keil as Global Head Of Dance & Electronic and EVP A&R. He joins from Ultra Music. The label has also announced the launch of new electronic music division [PIAS] Électronique. "I am very happy and proud to be joining [PIAS] and am very grateful to [co-CEO] Kenny Gates and the whole team for this great opportunity", he says. "Besides signing new and exciting artists it is going to be an amazing experience to be working with the great catalogue that [PIAS] has built over four decades. It makes me feel like a kid in the candy store!"
Metallica have released '72 Seasons', the title track of their new album, which is out on 14 Apr.
McFly have released new single 'Where Did All The Guitars Go?', the first from new album 'Power To Play', which is out on 9 Jun. "On every album, there's a song which becomes a foundation, a lightbulb moment, and this was it", say the band. "Guitars, honesty, energy, all these personality traits are what give us the band's identity. We want to reach that kid with long hair, get them excited about music and make them want to pick up a guitar and jump on their bed. That's what this record is about".
Professor Green is back with new track 'Pop Shxt', taken from an EP of the same name which will be out later this year. He's also announced a new record deal with Cooking Vinyl, saying: "To join a label so renowned, offering me the freedom to release music at the momentum I've been itching to tickles me in all the right places. No more major label bureaucracy and red tape, just enthusiasm and aligning values". Tour dates are also coming up next month.
French The Kid has released new single 'Quiet Kid'. "After hearing the beat I felt like it needed some emotion to the verse, as the chorus is so strong", he says. New mixtape 'No Signal' is out on 14 Apr and he will be touring in May.
Felicita has released new single 'Spalarkle (Alys)', featuring Caroline Polachek. The track is taken from new album 'Spalarkle', which is out on 5 May.
Be Your Own Pet have released their first new song for more than fifteen years, titled 'Hand Grenade'. Says vocalist Jemima Pearl: "'Hand Grenade' started out as a threat to the people who harmed me, that I will make them suffer as I have suffered. But the song grew like a mirror to my own grief process, through anger, denial, sorrow. In the end I gain my power back not through violence, but through self acceptance and rejection of the labels others might put on me. I define myself, no one else". The band will play London's Moth Club on 6 Jun.
GIGS & TOURS
Brix Smith will tour the UK in May, finishing with a show at The Lower Third in London on 28 May. Tickets are on sale now.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Owen Wilson reveals his 'lifetime' Rolling Stones backstage pass was revoked after one show
"I went to see the Rolling Stones in Argentina, and I was kind of friendly with some of the band, and then my friend was really good friends with Mick Jagger, and we got these special laminates, kind of all access [passes] that were good for the rest of your life", he explained on 'The Late Late Show With James Corden'.
"It was so exciting", he went on, thinking back to receiving that pass. "Then that night at the concert I'm wandering around testing it out, like, 'I'm gonna walk over here and see if anybody stops me'. And no one would stop me any place".
He said that he ended up standing on a platform with a very clear view of Jagger during the show. But then, he recalled, "all of a sudden he bolts during 'Jumpin Jack Flash' and comes running down... and it turns out where I was was kind of part of the stage".
"I just sort of froze and tried to be inconspicuous and he kind of came down and then left," said the actor. "And then someone came running over, [screaming] 'Get out of here! Move! You're not supposed to be here!' And I said, 'I didn't know! I'm so sorry!'"
"Then I get a call the next morning, from Mick's security team, asking, 'Do you have that laminate?' 'Yes I still have it'. 'Okay, we're going to come over and pick it up'".
He added that he was dressed all in white on the night of that show and realised afterwards that, as well as getting in Jagger's way, he would also have been fully visible to the entire audience.
As a result, he said he understood why his 'lifetime' pass was revoked - it having actually only been in his possession for less than 24 hours.