TODAY'S TOP STORY: SoundCloud has unveiled a new direct-to-fan tool within its SoundCloud For Artists platform that will allow music-makers to directly message their most engaged fans about upcoming releases, shows, merchandise or other activity... [READ MORE]

TOP STORIES SoundCloud unveils new direct-to-fan messaging tool
LEGAL RIAA responds to appeal from stream-ripper Yout
LABELS & PUBLISHERS Billboard updates chart rules on bundles yet again
LIVE BUSINESS Another campaign launches to address ticketing issues in the US
MEDIA Star Radio and Nation Broadcasting oppose Bauer's latest expansion of Greatest Hits Radio
INDUSTRY PEOPLE Tributes paid to A&R executive Malcolm Dunbar
ARTIST NEWS Ed Sheeran discusses song-theft claims in pre-trial interview
AND FINALLY... Iron Maiden objects to underwear seller Maiden Wear's trademark application
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Full Time Hobby Music is an umbrella group covering the record labels Full Time Hobby and Hassle Records, along with publishing and management. FTHM is looking for a new member of staff to cover it's online mail order business for D2C sales to fans via Bandcamp and Shopify using the ShipStation system.

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Y Royalties is looking for a detail orientated individual with a keen interest in the workings of the music industry and the ability to leverage significant quantities of data to provide meaningful analysis.

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Night Department is a London-based management company operating in the electronic music industry. It is looking for an ambitious, driven and dedicated Digital & Social Marketing Manager who is extremely passionate about the company's roster.

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The AEG Presents International Touring team are looking for a Tours Director. You'll be responsible for overseeing and project managing multiple international Artist arena and stadium-sized tours from start to finish, including coordination between artist teams, local partners, venues, and production teams throughout the life cycle of a tour.

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The AEG Presents International Touring team are looking for someone to head up their international ticketing department. You'll build out the Ticketing team by recruiting and onboarding the right people at the right time to assist with the ticketing needs of the International Touring Team.

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The royalty matching assistant will be responsible for supporting the Royalties team in the accurate matching and allocation of income in our bespoke royalty platform, RightsApp.

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Hawkr is a revolutionary new way of buying and selling music merchandise at live gigs. Hawkr is expanding rapidly and searching for an Artist & Festival Onboarding Manager to lead on recruiting and onboarding artists and festivals to the platforms and managing campaigns through.

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The Halls, Wolverhampton, AEG Presents newest venue, is seeking an Assistant Production Manager. Alongside the Production Manager you'll be responsible for assisting and in the absence of the Production Manager oversee the technical aspects of a production.

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The Halls, Wolverhampton, AEG Presents newest venue, is seeking an Assistant Box Office Manager. You'll assist and in the absence of the Box Office Manager oversee all aspects of The Halls Wolverhampton Box Office.

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The Halls, Wolverhampton, AEG Presents newest venue, is seeking a Senior Venue Manager. The Senior Venue Manager and their team are responsible for the efficient and safe running of the venue, as well as supporting with the growth of the business through developing relationships across a variety of event types that can be accommodated within two intimate venues.

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The Halls, Wolverhampton, AEG Presents newest venue, is seeking a Marketing Executive. You'll assist with setting up new show announcements across venue websites and social channels, with particular focus on The Halls Wolverhampton.

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SoundCloud unveils new direct-to-fan messaging tool
SoundCloud has unveiled a new direct-to-fan tool within its SoundCloud For Artists platform that will allow music-makers to directly message their most engaged fans about upcoming releases, shows, merchandise or other activity.

The new tool seeks to address a key issue in the streaming domain, which is that new artists use streaming services to build a fanbase, but then can't really identify who those fans are or access them in any meaningful way via said streaming services.

That's mainly because the mainstream streaming platforms want to tightly control access to their subscribers. Partly for the obvious commercial reasons. But also partly because they don't want to annoy subscribers with a flood of messages from artists that those subscribers may not really be that interested in, despite listening to some of their tracks.

Previewing the new direct-to-fan communication tool - which is simply called Fans - in a blog post yesterday, SoundCloud's SVP Creator Tracy Chan writes: "The music industry has a dirty secret. The promise of the music streaming business model is that as an artist, you can get your music to the world and build a fanbase. And with that fanbase, you can make money selling your fans tickets, merch and music, and make a comfortable living from your art".

"But here's the thing", he goes on, "that promise is empty. Streaming isn't working for the vast majority of artists. Why? Because streaming services won't tell you who your fans are. Instead, they run business models built on selling you access to your fans. And the streaming services aren't alone - ticketing and merch platforms won't tell you who your fans are either".

"The dirty secret of the music industry", he reckons, "is that these platforms expect you to give them content and sales to fuel their bottom lines, but they refuse to tell you who is listening to your songs (or buying your tickets and merch). Promises made, promises broken".

But SoundCloud is different, Chan would like you to all note. "That's why we're launching a new product we're calling 'Fans'", he says, which will help "artists discover their most valuable fans on SoundCloud". Chan then tells artists that, by crunching data from across the SoundCloud platform, the new tool will "[allow you] to sort your most engaged fans based on indicators like comments, listening behaviour, sharing habits and more".

Though "just knowing who your fans are isn't always enough", he adds. "That's why we're also allowing you to message those fans easily and directly. Say thanks, share previews of upcoming releases, sell tickets and merch, or just open up the opportunity to chat. Regardless of where you are in your career, you can bring your fans in on the journey - and let them help you succeed".

Chan adds that SoundCloud has been piloting the new tool with various artists and will now extend the beta to more than 50,000 creators who are signed up to the company's Next Pro service. "We're still building and this is just the start", he concludes, "so stay tuned for future updates". That we will.


RIAA responds to appeal from stream-ripper Yout
The Recording Industry Association Of America last week responded to an appeal filed by stream ripping service Yout as part of the ongoing dispute over whether or not the stream ripper violates US copyright law. The record industry trade group insists that a lower court was correct when it concluded that yes, it does.

Websites that allow people to download permanent copies of temporary streams - most commonly streams on YouTube - have been a top piracy gripe of the music industry for some time now, of course. Which is why the RIAA tried to get Yout de-listed by the Google search engine.

That prompted Yout to sue the RIAA, arguing that its service was entirely legal. It doesn't directly involve itself in copying. And - while US copyright law does prohibit the circumvention of technical protection measures that exist to stop people making copies of content without licence - YouTube doesn't have any such technical protection measures to circumvent, according to Yout.

When the case got to court, it was that latter claim that was key to the proceedings. Yout pointed out that, if they know what you are doing, people can actually download content from the YouTube platform via a web browser. However, the labels argued that doing so is complicated and time-consuming, and deliberately so. And the fact YouTube has made it that way constitutes a technical protection measure.

The lower court ultimately side with the record companies on that point and granted the RIAA's motion to dismiss Yout's lawsuit. The stream-ripper then took the matter to the Second Circuit appeals court.

Yout reckons that its dispute with the record companies involves some "first time novel questions" and a "preponderance of disputed issue of fact", and therefore the lower court was wrong to grant a motion for dismissal when there was a "clear need for discovery and expert testimony".

Not so, the RIAA says in its response to the appeal, filed with the courts last week. "The district court's opinion was correct on all counts", it states. "It is in line with multiple courts that have found similar stream-ripping technology unlawful, in some cases (outside the United States) including Yout's own service. The district court's judgment should be affirmed".

The US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, it goes on, "makes it illegal to 'circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a [copyrighted] work' and traffic in such circumvention technology. The core questions in this case are whether YouTube employs a technological measure that effectively controls access to copyrighted works, and if so, whether Yout circumvents it. The answer to both questions is yes".

"Yout raises a scattershot of arguments for reversal", it then goes on. "None of them succeeds". Expanding on that, the RIAA says that Yout insists discovery is necessary in this case to determine whether YouTube "intended" for various technicalities that make manually downloading content from its platform somewhat complex to actually constitute a technical protection measure. "But YouTube's intent is irrelevant under the statute", the RIAA counters.

"Yout also argues that YouTube 'does not restrict access to the videos available on its website'", the RIAA adds. "This is wordplay. YouTube provides access to streamed performances of music videos, ie, YouTube allows a user to press 'play' to watch and listen to a video".

"But YouTube uses technology to restrict users from accessing the underlying copies of the digital files containing the audio and the video, ie access to the copyrighted works themselves, such that users in the ordinary course cannot download copies of the music video files", it continues. "Indeed, if YouTube did not restrict access to those files, there would be no need for Yout's service".

With all that in mind, the RIAA concludes, the appeals court should uphold the lower court's ruling.


Billboard updates chart rules on bundles yet again
Billboard has updated its chart rules on album bundling yet again as part of its ongoing efforts to gauge the actual popularity of albums and stop artists from gaming the system in order to boost their US chart position.

Having almost entirely disallowed the bundling of albums with other items when it comes to counting sales for its charts via a previous rule change back in 2020, the company has now made provisions for what it is calls 'fan packs' to be chart eligible in the US.

Despite the previous efforts to limit the inclusion of bundles in chart eligible sales, Billboard says that research indicates that fans do want to support their favourite artists by buying more than one item in a single purchase. And so, bundles are back in. Although in specific circumstances.

The rules are these: There can be only two bundled options for any one album release; the other item in a bundle must be a physical product - so a t-shirt or poster, for example; and the album being sold in the bundle must also be a physical copy. Downloads are still out.

"Fan pack offerings are a way to recognise the dynamic artist-fan relationship [and] provide an efficient one-click step for consumers to purchase merchandise and music", says Silvio Pietroluongo, Billboard's EVP Charts & Data Partnerships.

Billboard previously changed its rules in relation to bundling in 2019 and 2020. At the time, it was felt that album downloads were often being thrown into purchases of other items, and then being submitted as a chart eligible sales.

However, as only a small number of those album downloads were ever redeemed, suggesting the fans were only really interesting in the merch they had bought, there were complaints that this did not actually reflect the popularity of an album.

Initial rule changes in 2019 attempted to counteract this, but many felt that they did not go far enough. So in 2020, Billboard announced that it would pretty much stop counting bundles in its charts altogether - except where a fan had actively chosen to add a discounted album to the purchase of another item.

The research cited to justify this latest rule change allowing bundles to be counted once more is the recent Music 360 report from Billboard's sister company Luminate. That report reckoned that 48% of Gen Z music fans want their favourite artists to provide more merch items for sale, as do 47% of all physical music purchasers.

The new rules will come into effect on 30 Jun.


Another campaign launches to address ticketing issues in the US
A coalition of music companies and organisations in the US last week announced a new campaign called Fix The Tix which will "advocate for a ticketing experience better than the nightmare many fans and artists currently navigate".

The ticketing business has been very much in the spotlight in the US in recent months after the issues that occurred when tickets went on sale last year for Taylor Swift's current tour prompted renewed interest within political circles.

An assortment of issues have been raised with the way ticketing works, both primary ticketing and secondary ticketing. And some of those issues relate specifically to the market dominance of Live Nation and its Ticketmaster subsidiary.

Keen to lead the debate, Live Nation itself has called for a number of reforms to the way ticketing is regulated in the US. Most of those proposed new regulations relate to secondary ticketing, though the live giant also supports mandated all-in pricing, whereby all ticketing sites would be obliged to state upfront the full cost of buying any one ticket, including any fees.

Live Nation presented its proposals as a five point plan dubbed the Fair Ticketing Act, with a number of booking agents, artist management firms and music industry organisations subsequently backing that plan.

It remains to be seen how the new Fix The Tix campaign compares to the Live Nation-led initiative, but it could well put the focus on some of the issues that the live giant would rather politicians not discuss.

Within US Congress itself two sets of legal reforms have been proposed, one seeking to implement some aspects of Live Nation's five point plan, the other setting out to provide "protection against the clear excesses and abuses of Ticketmaster". Needless to say, Live Nation is supporting the former but not the latter.

Among those backing Fix The Tix are Ticketmaster rivals See Tickets and Dice, as well as companies like Wasserman Music and Universal Music, plus a number of industry organisations including the National Independent Venue Association, the Music Artists Coalition, the Artist Rights Alliance and the Future Of Music Coalition.

The latter two organisations last year also backed a specific campaign calling on the US Department Of Justice to investigate and potentially unwind the 2010 merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster.

For now, though, the objectives of Fix The Tix are still to be confirmed. Organisers of the campaign said last week: "With representation from venues, promoters and producers, the performing arts, artists groups, recorded music, and independent ticketing companies, this coalition represents stakeholders who take on all the risk to create once-in-a-lifetime experiences and bring joy, employment, and economic impact to communities across America".

"We are coming together to protect fans from price gouging and deceptive and predatory ticketing practices", they went on. "There will be more to come from our coalition soon".


Star Radio and Nation Broadcasting oppose Bauer's latest expansion of Greatest Hits Radio
The latest plans by Bauer Media to expand its Greatest Hits Radio service on FM have been formally opposed by two rival radio companies.

Bauer has been busy for sometime now switching FM frequencies it controls over to GHR, replacing either local radio brands it used to operate or other national brands it broadcast on FM in some regions.

The most recent plan is to put GHR onto FM frequencies currently used by its Kiss station in Cambridge, Peterborough and Suffolk. That change, however, needs approval from media regulator OfCom, because doing so constitutes a change of the format described in the licences for those specific FM outlets.

With OfCom not really interfering much at all in what services radio companies want to offer on their FM frequencies these days, the regulator has already said that its preliminary opinion is that Bauer should be allowed to go ahead with the switchover. However, there was nevertheless a consultation on the format change request.

And, according to Radio Today, both Star Radio and Nation Broadcasting - which have services operating in Cambridge and Suffolk respectively - have submitted documents to OfCom opposing Bauer's proposals.

Star Radio argues that Bauer has failed to demonstrate that there is demand or support for GHR replacing Kiss in those areas, adding that doing so will reduce choice for local listeners, given the GHR service is closer to those already provided by rival stations in the region.

Nation - which, until July last year, had a partnership with Bauer that involved pumping out GHR on the Suffolk frequency it controls - says that the proposal to switch Kiss to GHR is one of the most radical format changes ever proposed, and is clearly driven by Bauer's national strategy rather than the needs of radio listeners in Cambridge, Peterborough or Suffolk.

We await to see how OfCom responds.


Tributes paid to A&R executive Malcolm Dunbar
Tributes have been paid to Malcolm Dunbar, the former A&R executive who has died after a short illness, aged 67.

Dunbar enjoyed a long career in A&R for both major and independent labels. Starting out at Polydor, he was subsequently Head Of A&R at Island Records, then A&R Director at Warner Music's East West division, and later MD for Mother Records. Subsequently moving into the independent sector, he had stints at both V2 and Sanctuary Records.

Along the way, artists he worked with included The Christians, Julian Cope, Tanita Tikaram, Ian McCulloch and Longpigs.

Later in his career, Dunbar worked with and advised start-ups in the music space, and was co-founder of the direct-to-fan platform PledgeMusic alongside Benji Rogers. More recently he had been working with MusicCapital.

Among those paying tribute on social media yesterday was musician, producer and former member of The Christians Henry Priestman, who wrote: "RIP Malcolm Dunbar. Our A&R man (and friend) at Island Records. His dedication led to the success of the first Christians album. After leaving Island he also gave me my first chance at production [with] Ian McCulloch. So indebted to him".

Meanwhile, Longpigs frontman Crispin Hunt wrote: "RIP Malcolm Dunbar, my A&R, he was one of a kind and one of many kinds of kindness. An outsider and an insider whose passion and power lay in inspiration over imitation, instinct over hyperlink, heart over head. Our business's heart beats fainter without him".


Setlist: Ed Sheeran wins another song-theft legal battle
CMU's Andy Malt and Chris Cooke review key events in music and the music business from the last week, including Ed Sheeran's victory in another high-profile headline-grabbing song-theft legal battle - this time over whether or not he ripped off Marvin Gaye's 'Let's Get It On' when he wrote his 2014 song 'Thinking Out Loud' - plus two sets of proposals for better regulating the sale of tickets put forward in US Congress late last month and another industry-led campaign launched last week that says it will advocate for "a ticketing experience better than the nightmare many fans and artists currently navigate".

Listen to this edition of Setlist here.

Ed Sheeran discusses song-theft claims in pre-trial interview
The 'CBS Sunday Morning' programme in the US this weekend aired an interview with Ed Sheeran recorded before last week's ruling in the big song-theft case over his 2014 song 'Thinking Out Loud' in which he discussed the legal battle.

Sheeran was accused of ripping off Marvin Gaye's 'Let's Get It On' when he wrote 'Thinking Out Loud' by the estate of the former song's co-writer Ed Townsend. But Sheeran and his lawyers countered that the two songs sound similar simply because they are built out of the same musical building blocks, which are not protected by copyright in isolation.

And last week a jury in New York agreed with Team Sheeran, concluding that the musician had not infringed the copyright in 'Let's Get It On' when he wrote 'Thinking Out Loud'.

As part of a feature for CBS to promote his new album '-', Sheeran was asked about the legal dispute that was still going through the motions when the interview was recorded. And he answered the questions despite his team seemingly urging him not to comment.

"There's like four chords that get used in pop songs", he mused. "And if you just think mathematically the likelihood of this song having the same chords as this song - there's multiple, multiple songs - it's all the same four chords..."

Which means, he added, if you believe short and common musical segments can be protected by copyright, "you are going to get [copyright claims] with every single pop song from now on. Unless it just stops, which I don't think it [will] because it's a big money business to take things to court".

But, as he has demonstrated by fighting the 'Thinking Out Loud' case in the New York courts this month, and the 'Shape Of You' song-theft claim in the London courts last year, Sheeran is now willing to fight any such claims if and when they are made against his songs.

He concluded: "You can only get caught out if you've done something wrong and I have not done something wrong. I used four chords that are very common chords to use".


Iron Maiden objects to underwear seller Maiden Wear's trademark application
So here's a question for you: if someone tried to sell you some Maiden Wear, would you think you were buying clothes for maidens or official merchandise from Iron Maiden? Or would you just be super confused?

It would be useful for Iron Maiden if you could be super confused, because they are trying to block a trademark application in the US by a business owner who wants the rights to use the Maiden Wear brand when selling abdominal corsets, shapewear, bras, lingerie and panties. And the band is seeking to block said trademark application on the grounds that there is a "likelihood of confusion".

It's an LA resident called Min Yu Chen who is trying to trademark the Maiden Wear brand. But, in opposing her application, Iron Maiden's lawyers point out that their clients own the 'Iron Maiden' trademark in various categories, including "clothing, namely, t-shirts, tank tops, long sleeve shirts, shorts, jerseys, sweatshirts, sweatpants, pants, jackets, hats, leather wrist bands, scarves and shoes".

And while the Iron Maiden merch store online isn't currently selling any abdominal corsets, shapewear, bras, lingerie or panties featuring the band's name, logo or artwork, you can buy yourself some lovely boxer shorts. So, you know, the band is currently using its trademark in the all important underwear market.

"The dominant term in applicant's Maiden Wear mark is Maiden and therefore the mark is confusingly similar in appearance and connotation to opposer's Iron Maiden mark", says a filing submitted by the band last week with the US Trademark Trial & Appeal Board.

"Moreover, the goods set forth in the Maiden Wear application are related to or the same as goods covered by the Iron Maiden registration and/or for which opposer has acquired common law rights in the United States", it goes on.

"Thus, applicant's Maiden Wear mark, when used in connection with the goods described in the Maiden Wear application, is likely to deceive or cause consumer confusion or mistake among members of the public and potential purchasers as to the source, sponsorship or composition of applicant's goods in relation to opposer's goods. Such confusion will damage opposer and injure its reputation in the trade and with the public".

And on those grounds, the band reckons, the Maiden Wear trademark application should be rejected.


ANDY MALT heads up our editorial operations, overseeing the CMU Dailywebsite and Setlist podcast, managing social channels, reporting on artist and business stories, and writing the CMU Approved column.
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CHRIS COOKE is co-Founder and MD of CMU - he continues to write key business news stories, and runs training, research and event projects for the CMU Insights consultancy unit and CMU:DIY future talent programme.
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SAM TAYLOR leads on the commerical side of CMU, overseeing sales, sponsorship and business development, as well as heading up training, research and event projects at our consultancy unit CMU Insights.
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CARO MOSES is Editor of CMU's sister media ThisWeek Culture and ThreeWeeks Edinburgh. Having previously also written and edited articles for CMU, she continues to advise and support our operations.
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