|THURSDAY 20 APRIL 2023||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Spotify boss Daniel Ek has called on lawmakers in Washington to stop the alleged anti-competitive behaviour of Apple within its App Store by voting through the Open App Markets Act. After all, he says in a new blog post on the matter, the American marketplace is meant to be one where the principle of fair competition "reigns supreme"... [READ MORE]|
Spotify boss heads to Washington to continue his battle against Apple's App Store policies
Ek's latest blog post - which accompanies a trip to Washington - is the latest attempt by Spotify to force a change to some of the rules Apple enforces on apps used on iOS devices. In particular, the rules governing in-app transactions.
Currently, many app makers are obliged to take any payments within their iOS apps via Apple's commission-charging transactions system. Moreover, there are restrictions on sign-posting users to where they can make payments outside of the app, ie by providing a big button that would take the user to a web-page.
Spotify argues that rules like this are anti-competitive, especially where Apple itself offers a rival service like Apple Music.
Because when it comes to iOS devices, Spotify either has to swallow Apple's commission, which is basically its entire profit margin; or pass the commission on to the customer, making it look like Spotify is more expensive than Apple Music; or not allow in-app purchases, making it harder to sign up new premium subscribers and add pay-as-you-go content.
Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite, is another company that has been very vocal about the anti-competitive nature of Apple's App Store rules. It has sought to force a change through the courts in multiple countries. For its part, Spotify has generally urged competition regulators and lawmakers to intervene.
In 2019, it called on the European Commission to instigate an investigation into the allegations of anti-competitive behaviour on Apple's part. That investigation is still ongoing, with EC regulators recently confirming that their main concern at the moment are the rules that prevent the sign-posting of alternative payment options.
The EU's recent Digital Markets Act also potentially helps, meanwhile there have been interventions by lawmakers in South Korea and a regulator in Japan, and the UK's Competition & Markets Authority is busy investigating the key complaints against Apple's App Store as well.
In the US, it was the Open App Markets Act - proposed in 2021 by senators Richard Blumenthal, Marsha Blackburn and Amy Klobuchar - that set out proposals that would force Apple to allow app-makers to use and sign-post alternative payment systems.
Those proposals were subsequently backed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, but have not yet progressed any further.
Hence Ek's trip to Washington and the new blog post. Having moaned about and lobbied on all this for years now, the Spotify boss would obviously like to see some significant changes to Apple's rules sooner rather than later.
Though it's probably the streaming service's current move into audiobooks that is making the need for such change all the more urgent, with Ek admitting that his platform's audiobook experience isn't great on iOS devices because of the restrictions put in place by Apple.
"As a Swedish entrepreneur, I've long admired the American marketplace, where principles like innovation, competition and initiative reign supreme", his new blog post states. "It's home to some of the most successful companies around the world because of these factors".
"When I founded Spotify almost seventeen years ago, I believed in many of these same principles", he goes on. "If you can build a better system and if you work hard enough and innovate like crazy, you might just have a real shot at changing an industry for the better - even one as long established as the music business".
"But as any entrepreneur can tell you, building a business is full of twists and turns", he adds. "While I expected some of these challenges, the one I didn't anticipate is the ongoing fight for fair competition as the digital marketplace has taken shape".
Going into the specifics, he continues: "Spotify and countless developers across the world want to be able to speak to our customers and compete fairly for their business. Apple prohibits competition by not allowing developers to discuss new products, features, and deals with their own users".
"For instance", he writes, "Apple promotes deals for Apple Music to Spotify customers, but denies us the same privilege. What's even more unbelievable, is that we can't even tell our users the basics of how to sign up for a Spotify subscription or how to purchase an audiobook. This leaves customers without the ability to make informed choices about the services and pricing options available to them".
As for how lawmakers in Washington can help, he says: "Last year, Congress had an opportunity to address this very issue by passing the Open App Markets Act, which aimed to rein in clear abuses by gatekeepers like Apple".
"Despite broad bipartisan support and overwhelming approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee", he goes on, "Congress did not take it up before the end of the year. Today I'm in Washington to urge the new Congress to take a leadership role and pass the Open App Markets Act to promote competition by providing basic checks on the anti-competitive behaviour that's harming both developers and consumers".
It remains to be seen whether this latest charm offensive in Washington delivers the goods.
Drake sued over Honestly, Nevermind sample
The lawsuit has been filed by Ghana-based artist Obrafour, real name Michael Elliot Kwabena Okyere Darko. He claims in his lawsuit that Drake's track contains "direct copying - or 'sampling' - of vocal excerpts" from his song 'Oye Ohene'.
Furthermore, the lawsuit states that Team Drake knew that the sample needed licensing, because they tried to license it. "Defendants released the infringing work on 17 Jun 2022, despite the fact that an agent of one or more defendants had previously contacted Obrafour seeking to obtain Obrafour's permission for the use of the copyrighted work in the infringing work".
Crucially, "Obrafour never granted defendants permission to use the copyrighted work", with 'Honestly, Nevermind' being released "mere days" after Drake's reps had made contact with Obrafour and before he had had chance to respond.
Based on these allegations, Obrafour believes that Drake and his business partners are infringing his copyright by making 'Calling My Name' available and he would like some lovely damages.
Financial regulators raid SM Entertainment amid investigation into Kakao's recent share-buying spree
According to news agency Yonhap, sources say that the raid is part of an investigation into allegations that South Korean internet company Kakao manipulated stock prices as part of its recent bid to take control of the SM business.
Kakao - which has its own entertainment division and operates streaming service Melon - went to war with K-pop powerhouse Hybe - best known as the home of BTS - in a bid to take control of SM Entertainment.
In doing so, the two companies basically got themselves involved in an internal battle within SM between its management team, on the one side, and its founder and until recently biggest shareholder Lee Soo-man, on the other.
The management team wanted an alliance with Kakao, proposing to issue new shares to sell to the internet firm. Lee opposed that proposal, blocked the issuing of any new shares in the courts. Then he persuaded Hybe to try to secure a controlling stake in SM by buying up existing stock from current shareholders. To facilitate that process, Lee sold most of his SM shares to Hybe.
But Kakao then announced that it was also in the market to buy up existing SM shares in a bid to get a 40% controlling stake and it offered a better price. Not keen to get into a price war, Hybe quickly bailed, allowing Kakao to acquire that 40% in SM stock and take control of the business.
Yonhap reports that, during these events, Hybe filed a complaint with the country's Financial Supervisory Service. The news agency explains that: "Hybe accused Kakao of manipulating SM's stock prices through another company to hinder Hybe from making a tender offer to secure a larger stake in SM".
Since then, officially at least, all three companies - SM, Kakao and Hybe - have made up. And to prove it, it was announced earlier this week that artists signed to SM will be using Hybe's direct-to-fan platform Weverse from later this year instead of a rival service SM itself launched last year.
However, the investigation into the allegations of misconduct on Kakao's part continues. This week's raid on SM's offices follows a similar raid at Kakao's headquarters and its entertainment business earlier this month.
MOBO announces TikTok partnership for next phase of its MOBO UnSung programme
Emerging artists will be able to put themselves forward as possible contenders for the MOBO Unsung 'Class Of 2023' via the TikTok app, and the music-makers that get through to the programme will also get specialist support from TikTok's artist platform SoundOn.
The wider scheme is also still being supported by Marshall, the PRS Foundation and the MOBO Help Musicians Fund. Artists can also apply to take part in the programme via this form.
Says MOBO CEO Kanya King: "We are delighted to launch this unique collaboration and partnership with TikTok's SoundOn to open up access to MOBO Unsung through its incredible platform. Through this partnership, we aim to grow the offering to the final ten artists, with an absolutely unbeatable industry leading talent development programme across a year, with additional services provided by SoundOn".
Meanwhile, Nichal Sethi, Head Of Artist Services UK at TikTok, adds: "SoundOn is hugely excited to be partnering with MOBO UnSung, using the power of TikTok to give the Class Of 2023 an even bigger stage to showcase their talent. For many years, the MOBO UnSung programme has unearthed some of the best British talent through the programme, serving as a valuable platform for emerging artists breaking into the industry".
"Together with Marshall and the PRS Foundation, we're excited to give emerging British talent the platform it deserves, helping new and independent artists share their music with a global community", he goes on. "As SoundOn supports so many emerging independent artists to build their careers, the partnership felt like a natural fit and we're really excited to see how the programme unfolds".
Foo Fighters announce new album But Here We Are
The album will be the band's first since the death of drummer Taylor Hawkins in March 2022. Produced by the band and Greg Kurstin, the record sees them processing the experience of the last year.
Hawkins died while on tour with the band in South America just over a year ago, aged 50. The band's other members then returned to the stage with a variety of guests for two tribute shows in London and LA in September.
On New Year's Eve, they posted an update announcing that they had decided to continue as a band. "Without Taylor, we never would have become the band that we were", they said. "And without Taylor we know that we're going to be a different band going forward".
"We also know that you, the fans, meant as much to Taylor as he meant to you", they added. "And we know that when we see you again - and we will soon - he'll be there in spirit with all of us every night".
'But Here We Are' is set for release on 2 Jun. Listen to 'Rescued' here.
The Japanese House announces new album In The End It Always Does
The new track was produced by Bain with Chloe Kraemer and The 1975's George Daniel. She says of the track: "I wrote 'Sad To Breathe' some time ago, it's one of the oldest songs on the record. It was very different back then; it's gone from being solely electronic to what it is now, mostly live/acoustic instrumentation".
"It's about that desperate feeling when someone leaves you and the disbelief that they could", she continues. "It's funny you could have those kind of insane dramatic thoughts, that feel so real at the time, but [then you] can, by some miracle, look back in fondness to your entire life being ruined. It all circles back around".
On working with Kraemer, who co-produced and engineered the whole album, Bain adds: "I'd never worked with a woman or queer person [in that way] before. It's nice to have someone who completely understands your standpoint and shared experience. Also, I say 'she' in every song… so it's important that someone understands that".
'In The End It Always Does' will be released on 30 Jun. Watch the video for 'Sad To Breathe' here.
Downtown Music has announced another rejig of its various businesses resulting in the creation of Downtown Artist & Label Services, bringing together the artists and labels previously working with its DashGo and Downtown Music Services units under one roof. The new division will be headed up by Ben Patterson. "There is no better person than Ben to lead the Artist & Label Services division, and I can't wait to see how his leadership and passion benefit the incredible artists and labels we represent", says Downtown Music President Pieter van Rijn.
Oak View Group has appointed Gary Roden as Executive Director and General Manager of Manchester's Co-op Live venue. "I am delighted to be joining Co-op Live, leading the team in Manchester to launch and operate a game changing arena experience for both fans and artists", says Roden. "I can't wait to get started, working with Oak View Group, City Football Group, key stakeholders and partners to launch what is not only set to be a groundbreaking arena for the UK, but one that will see Manchester firmly leading the way globally".
Rita Ora has released new single 'Praising You', taken from her new album 'You & I', which is set for release on 14 Jul. "This album really means a lot to me", she says. "It's like my diary of the last few years, it's my sound and it just feels so true to me and who I am today".
Arlo Parks has released new single 'Blades'. "I wanted to make something that I can dance to, finally, because I feel like my songs don't really have that quality in general", she says. "So, I took inspiration from bands like ESG, artists like Kaytranada, and a lot of the kind of 70s Zambian psychedelic rock that I love". Her new album 'My Soft Machine' is out on 26 May.
Killer Mike has released new solo single 'Don't Let The Devil', featuring his Run The Jewels bandmate El-P and Thankugoodsir. His first solo album since 2012's 'RAP Music' - 'Michael' - is out on 16 Jun.
Lucy Spraggan has released new single 'Bodies'. "I wrote 'Bodies' because I think it's important to be honest about the way our bodies and brains can work against each other", she says. "After a lot of therapy and work surrounding self-worth, I have been able to start a better relationship with myself, though I still struggle with body image issues". New album 'Balance' is out on 11 Aug and Spraggan will be touring the UK next month.
Blawan has released new single 'Toast'. His new EP 'Dismantled Into Juice' is out on 17 May.
Moon Panda have announced that they will release new album 'Sing Spaceship, Sing' on 21 Jul, and have released new single 'Starfruit'. Says the duo's Maddy Myers: "'Starfruit' has this really delicate verse where I'm basically asking to be held and cared for and then when the chorus hits it's just this complete freedom and boldness". They will play London's Waiting Room on 18 May, followed by UK tour dates in October.
GIGS & TOURS
Babymetal have announced three UK shows in November. Two will take place at The Roundhouse in London on 27 and 28 Nov, followed by The Civic in Wolverhampton on 29 Nov. Tickets go on general sale on Friday.
Quicksand have announced UK shows in October. The band are set to play Gorilla in Manchester on 21 Oct and London's Islington Academy on 22 Oct. Tickets go on general sale on Friday.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Liam Gallagher says AI version of himself sounds "mega"
Billed as being by AIsis, 'The Lost Tapes Vol 1' is the creation of musician Bobby Geraghty. It's actually a collection of songs written and recorded by his former band Breezer. He then trained an AI on Liam Gallagher's voice and replaced his own vocals with new ones created by the AI technology. Aside from the fact that it often sounds like Gallagher is singing with a mouth full of wool, it's pretty convincing.
Asked for his opinion of the album by a fan on Twitter, Gallagher replied: "Mad as fuck. I sound mega".
He told another that "it's better than all the other snizzle out there".
So, it seems there's one big name artist sold on the AI revolution. He'll no doubt be glad to hear that there's a second volume of AIsis tracks ready to go.