|WEDNESDAY 7 JUNE 2023||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: UK Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer yesterday reassured MPs on Parliament's culture select committee that the recently announced government-led working group on music-maker remuneration will be effective and set out to deliver solutions, and not just become a talking shop... [READ MORE]|
Culture Secretary insists new music-maker remuneration working group will not become a mere talking shop
She was responding to concerns expressed by committee member Kevin Brennan MP that some in the music industry are pushing for the terms of reference for that working group to be so wide that it will not be able to focus on the core issues.
The new working group, confirmed last week, is part of ongoing work initiated by the government following the select committee's big inquiry into the economics of music streaming back in 2021.
Working groups were previously convened to discuss issues around data and transparency in the music streaming domain, the former resulting in a metadata agreement that was signed last week, and the latter in a similar transparency agreement that is now in the final stages of negotiation.
However, when it came to the various remuneration issues raised by the committee, the government initially commissioned research into the copyright law reforms that MPs had proposed to address said issues, rather than facilitating any active industry discussions.
During a general session before the select committee yesterday, Frazer told MPs: "I am really pleased with the work that the industry has done to ensure that the right answers are reached - and you mentioned the announcement last week both in terms of the metadata agreement and the progress on transparency".
"I do think it is really important in all these sub-sectors", she went on, "that ... organisations within industry work together to resolve the issues of the industry, and I'm really pleased that music has done that".
However, music-maker remuneration is the area where there is the most disagreement within the music industry, which will make it trickier to reach any consensus within the newly convened working group. Things are also complicated somewhat by the fact that the specific remuneration issues are different for different groups of music-makers. So new artists, heritage artists, session musicians and songwriters all face different challenges.
Among the label community, some - especially independents - acknowledge there are issues still to be addressed, especially in relation to heritage artists and session musicians. Although few labels support the copyright reforms proposed by the select committee and those that acknowledge the issues would prefer voluntary industry-led solutions.
But some - especially the majors - generally dispute many of the remuneration issues raised by the music-makers and MPs on the select committee. They argue that modern record deals are much more generous to artists and that - by committing to pay through royalties to unrecouped heritage artists - issues in that domain have been addressed too, even if much lower CD-era royalty rates are often being applied.
The majors are also prone to argue that the priority for government - and for the music-maker community for that matter - should be ensuring that the UK record industry can compete in an increasingly competitive global marketplace. And/or that the focus should be whatever copyright issue the majors are prioritising right now - so a few years ago that was the 'value gap', in a few years time it will be the sound recording copyright term in Europe, but right now it's AI.
Following the confirmation last week that a remuneration working group will be convened - which in itself proved controversial in some parts of the music industry - now the government is trying to work out what the terms of reference for that working group should be. Which brings us to Brennan's concerns.
After praising the government for its ongoing work around music streaming - and welcoming the new remuneration working group - the MP said: "There is some concern, I think, because, of course, it's also terms of reference that count in relation to these sorts of groups".
"And it's come to my attention", he added, "that there's some in the industry saying privately that they would like to water down the government's intentions with this remuneration working group by making sure that the terms of reference are sufficiently diluted or wide that it can't really focus on the central issue here, which is creator remuneration - will you commit to the committee that you won't let that happen?"
He subsequently noted that the current lobbying focus in the music industry at large is on AI, but urged Frazer to ensure that those conversations aren't used to drown out other issues. "There's talk about AI which is very important", he observed, "but really this is a group that is - as I understand it - intended to focus on the issues that this committee raised about remuneration across the industry".
Responding, Frazer again stressed her preference for industry-led solutions, noting that "the industry has done a lot". However, she added, "I'm really not interested in working groups that aren't there for a purpose. I'm not going to set out here what the terms of reference are going to be, but I'm very happy to update you on those terms of reference".
Those terms of reference are still in development, she added, insisting that all stakeholders across the music industry would have an opportunity to input on what the agenda of the new working group should include.
Her overarching aim as Culture Secretary, she said, was "to deliver and not mess around". And therefore, "if we are going to have a working group it is going to do something and be effective".
Judge dismisses one of the song-theft lawsuits over Dua Lipa's Levitating
But the judge wasn't impressed with the theory put forward by the band for how Lipa and her team may have heard 'Live Your Life' before writing 'Levitating'.
Which possibly isn't surprising. Access was theorised on the basis that a co-writer of another song on the album on which 'Levitating' appears is - like Artikal Sound System - from the Florida city of Delray Beach and was mentored by the brother-in-law of one the band's members.
Acccording to Billboard, judge Sunshine S Sykes stated in her dismissal of the lawsuit that: "These attenuated links, which bear little connection to either of the two musical compositions at issue here, also do not suggest a reasonable likelihood that defendants actually encountered plaintiffs' song".
The band also argued that they have performed the song at lots of shows, have sold "several hundred" CDs featuring the track, and that 'Live Your Life' is available for any budding song thief to stream.
Though recent precedent in song-theft cases has generally said that songs being available on Spotify or YouTube is not enough to prove access, and a bunch of shows and a few hundred CD sales are also unlikely to be sufficient to employ the "well, they must of heard it!" card. Indeed, said Sykes, those arguments are "too generic or too insubstantial".
On the suggestion Team Lipa might have heard the song at an Artikal Sound System gig, she went on: "Plaintiffs' failure to specify how frequently they performed 'Live Your Life' publicly during the specified period, where these performances took place, and the size of the venues and/or audiences precludes the court from finding that plaintiffs' live performances of the song plausibly contributed to its saturation of markets in which defendants would have encountered it".
So there you go. Although Sykes dismissed Artikal Sound System's lawsuit, they do now have the option to file an amended complaint addressing the issues raised by the judge. We await to see if they do just that.
Of course, this isn't the only song-theft lawsuit in relation to 'Levitating'. Songwriters L Russell Brown and Sandy Linze also sued Lipa alleging that her hit ripped off not one but two songs they wrote back in 1979 and 1980.
Gazelle Twin signs to Invada Records
"After having the pleasure of releasing two brilliant scores by Elizabeth we are so incredibly happy to announce that she is signing to the Invada label as an artist", says label boss Geoff Barrow. "We've always loved her whole aesthetic which surrounds her art, so we feel honoured that she's chosen Invada to release her new Gazelle Twin album".
Bernhol herself adds: "I've long admired Invada and what they do. Getting to know them over the last few years, seeing how hard they work and how committed they are to the artists they release - as well as their supporters - I know I've lucked out big time".
As well as the new album, Invada is also set to release a third Gazelle Twin soundtrack later this year, for new Sky TV series 'You'. The show is set to begin airing in July.
Details of the new album are yet to be revealed, but the release will be accompanied by a series of live shows, tickets for which are on sale now. Here are the dates:
10 Nov: London, Bush Hall
AIF publishes Festival Forecast report outlining trends and challenges in the independent festival sector
Based on a recent survey of its members, the trade group estimates that "AIF festivals are on course to make a collective gross revenue of £195 million this year, with a gross expenditure of £177 million". And those events will "attract a total audience of 3.3 million in 2023 ... and will spend £36 million on music talent".
Talking of the music talent, 74% of AIF members have female headliners on their bill, though only 15% having a 50/50 male/female headliner split. Which confirms that there remains work to be done when it comes to line-up diversity, especially at the headliner level, though the new report will be a useful way of tracking what is being achieved within the independent sector.
Meanwhile, back in the money domain, "AIF members' economic contribution to the music sector and supply chain is equivalent to almost 50% of all grassroots music venues combined". And, the report confirms, "margins are tight" for festival promoters and "risk is now very high".
Which brings us to the challenges, and the campaigns AIF will pursue in the next year to help its members tackle said challenges.
That includes, the report tells us, "continued lobbying for a VAT reduction from 20% to 5% for festivals in the face of rising supply chain costs; and public facing campaigns for government support for young audiences affected by the cost of living crisis and COVID closures".
Commenting on the new report and the plans to publish a similar study on an annual basis, AIF CEO John Rostron says: "As the number of festivals joining AIF grows, we wanted to better understand the collective impact and the collective issues that our festivals share".
"The AIF Festival Forecast is an important snapshot of where we are as an association of events at this time", he adds. "It will inform our work over the coming months, and support policy makers and the wider sector in better understanding the vital role AIF festivals play in the music ecosystem".
Beyond the new report, Rostron has also been commenting this week on quite how independence should be defined in the context of independent festivals. That question was raised following the news that Superstruct has just acquired a majority stake in two more UK festivals.
In a report yesterday, events industry website Access All Areas notes that the still rather acquisitive Superstruct - set up by Creamfields founder James Barton and backed by US private equity firm Providence - is now a significant player in the UK festival market.
"Superstruct now owns more than a dozen major UK music festivals and nearly 90 worldwide", it adds. So does that mean that festivals that are majority owned by the company - many of which are AIF members - can still be considered independent?
Yes, says Rostron: "Superstruct is a big player in the festival market but small fry in the live music ecosystem as a whole compared to Live Nation and AEG".
"When it comes to ownership", he adds, "our major concern is those big vertically integrated global players that not only own major festivals but also venues, concert promoters, ticketing agencies, secondary ticketing agencies, management, labels, and have an interest that really gets deep into the music ecosystem".
Confirming that the Superstruct festivals still meet AIF's definition of independent, he goes on: "The difficulties our members face is with companies that have that wide integration across the sector and have the ability to make an artist an offer that means they can't work with another promoter; they have to sell tickets to this ticketing company or have to play in these venues".
"Those kinds of relationships move towards monopoly", he concludes, "they create a stranglehold whether deliberate or not, and that impacts our members in a way that somebody owning more than one festival, or a number of festivals, doesn't".
So there you go. Meanwhile, you can access the Festival Forecast report here.
Deezer says its "cutting-edge tools" will tackle streaming fraud and flag AI-generated music
The need to combat fraud on streaming services has been on the agenda for years, of course. We all know that scammers create and upload their own generic tracks, perhaps using music-making AI to help with the process, and then set up a room full of computers listening to those tracks on premium streaming accounts.
Because of the way the current streaming model works, those people can pull more out of the system in terms of royalties than they put in when buying their premium subscriptions.
But there are other scams too. Others upload existing music that they don't own - usually meddling with the tracks in some way in a bid to avoid audio ID detection - or they upload tracks with deliberately misleading metadata, and then get streams from genuine subscribers allowing them to pull money out of the system. So they are profiting through misrepresentation or just outright copyright infringement.
Then there's AI-generated music. The music industry is adamant that if you train an AI tool with existing music in order to create new music then a licence is required from whoever controls the rights in the existing recordings and songs. If the vocals in the AI-generated tracks imitate known artists, they are possibly also exploiting the publicity rights of those artists and further permission is required. But who, exactly, is ensuring any of that is happening?
Deezer and its magical machines, that's who. Because when technology creates a problem, technology can probably fix it. "With over 100,000 new tracks uploaded per day to our platform, it's becoming increasingly important to prioritise quality over quantity and defend real artists that create truly valuable content", says top Deezer geezer Jeronimo Folgueira.
"As a leading streaming platform, Deezer has a responsibility to create a fair and transparent environment for music consumption", he goes on. "Our goal is to weed out illegal and fraudulent content, increase transparency, and develop a new remuneration system where professional artists are rewarded for creating valuable content".
Deezer, of course, is one of the streaming services working with Universal Music on its grand plan to change the way that streaming monies are shared out across the industry each month, into what the major's boss Lucian Grainge likes to call an "artist-centric model".
Quite what that means remains unclear, though Folgueira confirms "we have embraced the discussion around a new artist-centric model", before confirming that his company is "also developing tools to detect AI-generated content".
But what does that mean? Well, an official explainer states: "By detecting AI-generated content on its platform, Deezer aims to develop a system for tagging music that has been created by generative AI, starting with songs using synthetic voices of existing artists".
"The tags will be used to keep artists, labels, and users informed of what's 'real' or AI-generated on the platform, reduce fraudulent activity, and ultimately develop a remuneration model that distinguishes between different types of music creation".
"Deezer's toolset will leverage years of research on audio AI and content identification", it goes on, "starting with the company's proprietary 'radar' technology".
"'Radar' can scan large catalogues of music", it then explains, "identifying any song even when the signal is distorted, tempo changed, etc, and is the foundation for Deezer's current fraudulent content detection. 'Radar' is one of many unique solutions Deezer offers to external parties as part of its tech services proposition".
Adds your main man Folgueira: "AI can be used to create new incredible content and I believe there are massive benefits of using generative AI, but we need to ensure it's done in a responsible way. There's an opportunity now to get things right from the start of the AI revolution, and not make the same mistakes as the social media giants did when fake news started to flood their platforms. We owe it to the artists and the fans".
So that's all good, isn't it? I think we all want streaming fraud to be stopped and transparency around AI-generated music to be ensured. And as for the legit artists and creators who are now getting caught up in and blocked out by all this ramped-up rights management activity? Well, let's worry about them another day.
Nordoff And Robbins announces more Silver Clef winners
Stormzy was previously announced as the winner of the actual Silver Clef for 2023, with the likes of Wet Leg, Neneh Cherry and Mark King also set to be presented with prizes at the ceremony, which takes place in order to raise funds for the music therapy charity.
"The need for music therapy is greater than it's ever been in the UK, and the vital support of artists and the music industry at the O2 Silver Clef Awards means we can reach more people who need our help the most", says Nordoff And Robbins CEO Sandra Schembri.
"The O2 Silver Clef Awards hold an incredibly special place in our hearts, and we're immensely grateful for the unwavering support we receive - from the phenomenal artists who accept their richly deserved awards to the tireless efforts of record labels, live music promoters, global and local venues, agents, management teams, and our wider supporters to help spread the word".
"Every day we see the profound impact music therapy has on people facing life-limiting illnesses, mental health challenges, disabilities, or social isolation, by helping them express themselves and find connection in society", she goes on.
"Every penny raised through the O2 Silver Clef Awards helps Nordoff And Robbins to provide these life-transforming services to those who need them, from an adult with dementia reconnecting with family to a child with autism finding their voice".
The ceremony is set to take place on 30 Jun. Here's the full list of winners:
Silver Clef: Stormzy
VV Brown, Laura Mvula and John Truelove have all been reappointed to the Members Council of UK collecting society PRS. Meanwhile, Dru Masters is standing down after six years on the committee. And Tom Toumazis has been reappointed as an independent non-executive council member. All of this was confirmed at the society's AGM yesterday.
Shaun Ryder, Zak Starkey, Andy Bell and Bez have formed new supergroup Mantra Of The Cosmos. Their debut single 'Gorilla Guerilla' is out now. "It's a fucking blast, mate", says Ryder. "It's great when we're not all irate".
Christine And The Queens has released new single 'A Day In The Water', taken from his new album 'Paranoia, Angels And True Love', which is out on Friday. "The song is about that feeling of being deep in the water when you feel the world cannot touch you anymore", he says. "It's behind the glass of your own melancholia but in that deep dive of vulnerability hopefully the light arrives. The light of honesty".
King Krule has released new single 'Flimsier', taken from his new album 'Space Heavy', which is out this Friday.
Cumgirl8 have released new single 'Gothgirl1', taken from their new EP 'Phantasea Pharm', which is out on 18 Aug.
Will Haven have released new single 'Diablito' ahead of the release of their seventh album 'VII' on 7 Jul. "This was one of the earlier tracks I wrote for the record, but it evolved all the way up to when we were recording it", says guitarist Jeff Irwin. "[Vocalist] Grady [Avenell] came up with the name of the song and he wanted to base the lyrics off our [1997 debut] record 'El Diablo'. That is a very important record to us, and we were coming up on our 25th anniversary of it while writing 'VII', so we wanted to give a tip of the cap to that record".
Thala has released new single 'Easy Out'. "I wrote 'Easy Out' about someone who got really sick and didn't bother to tell me, I eventually heard it from someone else and it made me super angry", she says. "So I got a bottle of wine, sat on my windowsill in my small apartment one night and started writing a sobby sad ballad of a song. The next day at the studio that sadness turned into anger and it became a powerful upbeat type of song, I think it was supposed to be that way". Her new EP 'In Theory Depression' is out on 7 Jul.
GIGS & TOURS
Pixies have announced shows next year at which they will perform their early 90s albums 'Bossanova' and 'Trompe Le Monde' in full. They will play Dublin's Olympia Theatre on 8-10 Mar, Manchester's Albert Hall on 12-14 Mar, and the Kentish Town Forum in London on 16-18 Mar. Tickets go on general sale on Friday.
The Charlatans have announced UK tour dates at the end of the year, including a show at London's Troxy on 7 Dec. Tickets go on general sale on Friday.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Foo Fighters seemingly confirm surprise Glastonbury performance
When Glastonbury published its full line-up earlier this month, The Churnups were listed as playing third from the top of the bill on the Friday of the event, before Royal Blood and Arctic Monkeys. And there has been no further information on who this hitherto unheard of band might be.
In a handwritten note posted on social media last night, Dave Grohl writes: "Hey. It's been a while. Now that we've returned from our first run of shows, I felt compelled to reach out and thank you all for being there for us".
The band, of course, recently returned to the stage for the first time since the death of drummer Taylor Hawkins last year.
"Every night, when I see you singing, it makes me sing harder", Grohl continues. "When I see you screaming, it makes me scream louder. When I see your tears, it brings me to tears. And when I see your joy, it brings me joy. But, I see you… and it feels good to see you, churning up these emotions together. Because we've always done this together. Time and time again".
If this is indeed confirmation that Foo Fighters are The Churnups, then they will play the Pyramid stage from 6.15pm to 7.30pm on 23 Jun - a considerably earlier and shorter set than their 2017 headline performance, which saw them play for over two hours. Grohl also made a surprise appearance during Paul McCartney's headline set last year.
As well as Foo Fighters, Pulp are also rumoured to be playing a secret set at the festival.