|WEDNESDAY 12 JULY 2023||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The UK's Featured Artists Coalition has stepped up its 100% Venues campaign, which encourages music venues to allow artists to sell merchandise at their shows without being charged any commission on sales. In an open letter, the FAC calls on the live sector to embrace four key principles around merch sales at shows and also urges music fans and the wider music community to sign a petition backing those principles... [READ MORE]|
FAC steps up its 100% Venues campaign against merch commissions
The FAC originally launched its 100% Venues campaign in January last year and now maintains a directory of venues that have confirmed they never charge commissions on merch sales that occur on their premises. Most grassroots venues didn't charge merch commissions anyway, but some bigger venues have also made that commitment and added themselves to the directory.
It's no secret that, since the live sector returned post-pandemic, touring has become more challenging than ever before for many artists, with production costs surging while the cost of living crisis makes it hard to put up ticket prices too much.
This means that - while at the top level the live industry is generally doing well again - in the mid-tier as well as at the grassroots it can be hard for artists to stage profitable shows, making things like merch sales at gigs all the more important. Therefore, venues taking a commission of up to 25% is even more problematic - with that commission usually taking a significant portion of the profit margin of any one merch sale.
One challenge is that some venues have deals with third party companies around merchandise sales in their buildings, with the third party paying an upfront fee in return for the right to manage and run merch sales in the venue, which includes collecting merch commissions from artists.
That makes it harder for those venues to immediately switch to a no merch commissions policy - or to negotiate a specific deal on merch commissions with each artist and promoter when a show is booked.
At the upper level of the live music market, some venues would also argue that the economics of big shows require them to take a commission on merchandise sales, given that the majority of any ticket revenue goes to the headline artist.
That may or may not be true. But the commissions then also routinely apply to support acts who are likely earning much, much less from the show itself.
The four principles set out by the FAC in the new open letter acknowledge these complexities. They are as follows:
1. Support acts must never be subject to commission charges on merchandise sales.
2. Artists should be offered the option to staff and operate merchandise operations at their own shows.
3. There must be no surprises for artists regarding commission rates when they get to the venue - rates must be agreed upon upfront.
4. Every show must be open to negotiation on merchandise commissions.
Commenting on the ramped up 100% Venues campaign, FAC CEO David Martin says: "Since launching our campaign, awareness amongst fans and across the wider industry has increased about the devastating impact that onerous commission fees can have on the livelihoods of artists. Fans, in particular, have become aware that money they thought was being used to support their favourite artist is in some cases spent on punitive commission fees".
Noting that for many artists "the money made from merchandise sales is crucial to keeping shows on the road", he goes on: "Ironically, it is when artists step up to play bigger venues, and the moment their costs and opportunities increase, that the most crippling fees kick in. In many instances, venues have sold on or outsourced their merchandising rights to a third party - meaning that fees appear 'baked in' to hire costs, with little room for negotiation".
"It is these outdated contractual terms that we now intend to address", he adds, "but if every UK venue implemented the four pragmatic principles outlined in today's open letter it would mark a significant step forward".
The open letter is signed by over 60 music companies and organisations, including management and merchandise companies, as well as Kevin Brennan MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group For Music.
The campaign is also backed by numerous artists, including Steve Mason, who says: "The current cost of touring is higher than ever before. Everyone is struggling with rising costs and especially solo musicians who must pay a band. The one income that all artists rely on to make a worthwhile profit is the sale of merchandise in the venue before and after a show".
"Certain venues appear to now be refusing to allow us to sell merchandise without handing over up to 50% of the profit", he goes on. "This is completely unworkable and will cause the majority of artists to think long and hard about the costs of touring. Because live performance is where we earn 70-80% of our income, this could potentially mean artists being unable to sustain their careers any longer".
"Britain has a strong global reputation as a leader in music and performance, but do not think for one moment this reputation was easily earned. Unlike other countries who love and support their artists' output, British performers are continually ignored by the government and have to face constant obstacles being placed in our path".
"We endure because we love what we do, but that is often used against us", he concludes. "This stripping of our merchandise profit is very wrong and could be the end for many of your favourite bands and singers".
Jury rules that document found under a cushion is Aretha Franklin's will
After Franklin died in 2018, two documents were found in her home that could constitute a will, one from 2010 and one from 2014. How her four children will benefit from Franklin's estate varies according to which will is enforced. These differences were significant enough to trigger a legal dispute between the siblings.
One of her sons, Theodore Richard White, would benefit more from the 2010 document. He argued that the 2014 document, while more recent, was incomplete and therefore only a draft. It was written in two different inks, there were gaps in the document, and his mother had left it under a cushion on the sofa in her home. Meanwhile, the 2010 document was more complete and stored in a locked drawer.
However, his brothers, Kecalf Franklin and Edward Franklin, who would benefit more from the 2014 document, said that the later document was signed and therefore should be considered legally binding. And the fact it was stored under a cushion rather than in a drawer was irrelevant.
The brothers and their respective lawyers began setting out their respective arguments regarding the two documents in court on Monday. The attorneys then presented some final arguments before the jury yesterday.
According to Law360, the legal rep for Kecalf and Edward said that attorneys for Theodore had honed in on features of the 2014 document that made it seem less complete - like the blank spaces and words crossed out - without acknowledging that some of those features also appeared in the 2010 document. And neither document had been put together by a lawyer.
After those closing arguments had been presented, the jury deliberated for less than an hour before concluding that, by signing the 2014 document, Franklin intended that to be her will.
With that decision made, it's now for the judge overseeing the case to actually rule on what should happen with Franklin's estate. However, given the jury's decision, legal reps for Kecalf and Edward will urge the judge to completely set aside the 2010 document and set in motion what the musician had requested in the 2014 document.
UK Music sets out proposals for AI regulation in letter to government
In the letter, Njoku-Goodwin notes that government has requested a clear position from the music industry regarding the challenges posed by AI, and especially generative AI. UK Music, and some of its member organisations, are also participating in a working group convened by the UK's Intellectual Property Office which is seeking to put together a code of practice regarding copyright and AI.
Generative AI can create new content - but in order to be able to do this, needs to be 'trained' on examples of existing content. In some cases, this training is done using content specifically developed to train the AI. However, in other cases it is less clear what data has been used, how that data has been obtained, and whether use of any one particular data set requires permission from copyright owners.
As AI tools become more sophisticated, and an increasing number of companies begin to develop and release generative AI models, the various copyright questions these tools raise become more pressing.
That includes the issue of whether or not developers who train their generative AI with existing copyright-protected materials need a licence from the relevant copyright owners. The music industry - and other copyright industries - would argue that using copyright-protected material to train generative AI definitely needs an explicit licence from the owners of the copyright.
However, some tech companies argue that the training of AI models is covered by exceptions in copyright law, at least in the countries where they base their servers, which would mean that licences are not required. And at one point the UK government proposed putting a specific exception covering 'data mining' - which would apply in this scenario - into copyright law, although it subsequently backtracked on that proposal.
Other questions relate to how copyright owners even know if their content has been used for training purposes, and whether there should be an obligation on AI companies to clearly state what data they have used to train their AI. And there is also the question as to whether content generated by AI should enjoy copyright protection.
There has also been lots of discussion in the music industry about AI tools that can generate 'deep fake' vocal clones of established artists, allowing almost anyone to create AI-generated output that mimics the vocal characteristics of a real person. Those cloned vocals can then be integrated into tracks that in some cases purport to be the work of the artist whose voice has been cloned.
That takes the conversation beyond copyright. How can artists protect their vocal style - or for that matter their visual identity - from being used without their permission? In some countries, they could possibly rely on what are variously called image, publicity or personality rights for such protection, although that concept doesn't exist in UK law.
In his letter to Frazer, Njoku-Goodwin writes: "Ultimately, we believe that a responsible and balanced approach to AI must be centred on the principle of consent. As an industry, we are excited about some of the opportunities that AI offer, and want to work with the technology sector to help seize these opportunities".
"However", he goes on, "it is not acceptable for creators' work or their identity to be used by AI developers without their consent. Taking other people's work without their permission contravenes basic principles of property rights, undermining both creator incomes and the economic model which has enabled the UK to build a world-leading music industry".
The letter is accompanied by a policy document which outlines the five key principles identified by UK Music that, it says, should guide any policy-making in this domain. That policy document echoes what Njoku-Goodwin previously wrote in a opinion editorial piece on AI last month, and also the priorities of the globally focused Human Artistry Campaign which UK Music is supporting.
The five key principles are as follows...
1. Creators' choice: The creator, or their chosen rightsholder, should be able to decide if and how they want to use their creative talent. This certainty underpinned by legal rights (copyright) should not be undermined by any exception to copyright or compulsory licensing during the input stage. Users need to respect creators' choice as baseline for any discussions.
2. Record keeping: It is important that in the input stage, the technology providers keep an auditable record of the music ingested before the algorithm generates new music. This is the only point in the process when these data points can be documented.
3. Without human creativity there should be no copyright.
4. Labelling: Music generated by AI should be labelled as such.
5. Protection of personality rights: A new personality right should be created to protect the personality/image of songwriters and artists.
FXR and CMU put the spotlight on music royalty reporting - provide your input now
The research is part of a project co-funded by the European Union's MusicAIRE programme and will result in a report later this year which will identify best practices in royalty reporting within the collective licensing system, and offer recommendations for artists, songwriters and their managers, as well as societies and policy-makers.
As part of the research, FXR and CMU are currently asking music creators and their managers about how they access and use the usage and royalty data offered by their collecting societies or, if you prefer, collective management organisations or performing rights organisations. That includes societies that represent the performing and mechanical rights in songs and those that operate on the recordings side.
FXR explains: "This research is to help us know more about how music creators and their teams use portals offered by CMOs and PROs, and how those portals help them to understand how the music they have created is being used, and how that usage is reported".
"We're interested in whether the current information provided by CMOs gives songwriters enough detail and how easy it is to find the data that is important", it adds. "We're also looking at how different CMOs make that data available to download as a statement, CSV or other file".
Music creators and managers interested in sharing their insights as part of this research can do so right now in a brief online survey. Everyone who participates in the survey can also opt to enter a draw to win €250. You can fill out the survey here.
Technical glitches affect Taylor Swift ticket sales again - this time in France
And yet, there were issues yesterday as tickets went on sale for Swift's dates in France next summer. Fifteen minutes in, Ticketmaster France tweeted that "some of you may be having issues with the site this morning - we are working on it and will let you know". Sales were then subsequently put on hold entirely as problems continued.
Ticketmaster subsequently stated that: "This morning's sale was disrupted by an issue with a third-party vendor who is working to resolve the issue as soon as possible. As soon as we saw fans having problems, the queues were put on hold".
Fans had to sign up in advance to buy tickets, with codes then being distributed by ballot to allow actual purchases. Ticketmaster added that any codes not used yesterday will remain valid when sales resume.
OfCom approves Kiss FM to Greatest Hits Radio switchover in East of England
Bauer has been busy for some time now extending the reach of its GHR brand by sticking it onto frequencies previously used by other radio stations the media firm operates.
OfCom is much less opinionated these days about how broadcasters used their AM and FM frequencies. However, Bauer using the FM channels it controls in Cambridge, Peterborough and Suffolk for GHR instead of Kiss FM required a change to the programming format specifically described in the licences covering those frequencies.
In a preliminary opinion, the regulator said that the proposed switchover should be allowed to go ahead. However, it still undertook a consultation about Bauer's plan. Ten parties made submissions to said consultation, all opposing the plan. Which means, well, OfCom still reckons that the proposed switchover should be allowed to go ahead.
Two of the parties opposing the switchover were rival radio companies: Star Radio, which operates in Cambridge, and Nation Broadcasting, which operates a station in Suffolk. The other submissions came from individuals who, OfCom confirmed yesterday, "were all firmly against the proposed change".
However, OfCom decided that the various issues raised about the switchover were not sufficiently problematic to block it.
That included the reduction of choice for radio listeners in the affected region, especially younger listeners, given Kiss FM is aimed at a younger demographic than GHR. However, the regulator noted, Kiss FM will still be available via digital channels which, it said, "are all widely used by younger listeners".
As for GHR creating new competition for other stations targeted at a similar audience in the region, OfCom reckoned: "We do not consider that there is sufficient evidence to conclusively demonstrate that increased competition for audiences aged over 35 in the relevant areas of Cambridgeshire and Suffolk will negatively impact competition and lead to some commercial radio licences becoming unsustainable".
With all that in mind, OfCom confirmed that the switchover from Kiss FM to GHR in Cambridge, Peterborough and Suffolk can go ahead.
Bucks Music Group has signed new songwriting agreements with Jamie McCool and Simon Pogson. "Jamie and Simon are incredibly talented and sought-after individuals with reputations that are growing every day among artist and industry communities alike", says the music publisher's MD Simon Platz. "They combine to make something really special. It's wonderful to have them at Bucks and we look forward to helping them reach ever greater heights".
Artist manager Amy Frenchum has joined Blue Raincoat Artists. She currently manages Ezra Collective and Yazmin Lacey. "Having operated on my own as an artist manager for the last six years, I am delighted to have joined the amazing team at Blue Raincoat Artists", she says. The company's CEO Jeremy Lascelles, meanwhile, is "THRILLED".
EDUCATION & EVENTS
The Music Venue Trust will host a panel on the challenges facing Scotland's music venues at the Scottish Parliament's Festival Of Politics in Edinburgh next month. "This panel represents a fantastic opportunity to highlight the value of grassroots music venues to Scotland's culture and communities", says MVT COO Beverley Whitrick. "We encourage everyone who has an interest in live music to come and be part of the discussion". More info here.
The Hives have released new single 'Rigor Mortis Radio'. The track is taken from the band's new album 'The Death Of Randy Fitzsimmons', which is out on 11 Aug.
Shamir has released new single 'Our Song'. The track is taken from upcoming album 'Homo Anxietatem', which is out on 18 Aug.
Forest Swords has released new single 'Butterfly Effect', which features a previously unheard vocal sample from Neneh Cherry. "The track swirled around as a pure instrumental for a while, a beat I made in the cold factory space in Liverpool I was recording in, some kind of attempt to cope with the psychedelic amounts of pain I was in from a leg injury", says the producer. "Neneh's unreleased archive vocal turned out to be a perfect fit, like they were meant to be together somehow. As a fan that has always idolised her, it's a true honour and life highlight to have her blessing to use the vocal on this track".
Deadletter have released new single 'Degenerate Inanimate'. The track, says frontman Zac Lawrence, "alludes to the feeling of betrayal felt when someone close to you is revealed as dishonest to the bone. There's a unique form of unease which arises from having your basic intelligence mocked, as they reveal their complete lack of decency".
Luci has released new single '11:11'. "I was laying on the vocal booth floor of Lou [Bartolini's] studio, listening to him and Elias [Abid] chop it up, bonding over drums and chords", she says. "I was hunting for melodies and searching for words. We knew we wanted to make something different from the rest of our work together, that's for sure".
GIGS & TOURS
Blur have announced that they will livestream a performance of their new album 'The Ballad Of Darren' from the Hammersmith Apollo in London on 25 Jul. It will first air at 9pm UK time, and will then be rebroadcast three times to catch other timezones, before being made available on demand until 28 Jul. Tickets cost £13.50 and are available here. The album itself is out on 21 Jul.
Corey Taylor has announced UK tour dates in November this year, finishing up at the Hammersmith Apollo in London on 14 Nov. Pre-sale tickets are available now.
100gecs have announced that they are cancelling their upcoming European tour dates. In a statement on social media, they said: "To our fans in Europe: we're sorry to cancel our upcoming shows, but we're physically and mentally worn out. We'll be back soon".
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Nandi Bushell to open her own music school
"I am so proud to announce I am opening my first music school with my family and music teachers", she wrote on Instagram.
Open to all ages and abilities, the school in Ipswich will be run by Bushell's family and that of Ashley Howard, who began teaching Bushell to play drums when she was seven years old. As well as drums, the school will offer courses on vocals, guitar, bass and keyboards. One aim of the school is to get students to play in bands with each other.
Bushell, of course, began gaining attention with her drum covers on YouTube and Instagram aged around eight, with Questlove gifting her a drum kit and Lenny Kravitz inviting her to play with him at a soundcheck at the O2 Arena in London.
Things really blew up when she took part in an online drum battle with Dave Grohl during the COVID-19 pandemic in August 2020. She later when on to perform with Foo Fighters in both the US and UK.
While it's unlikely that students at the school will reach those heights, it should at least be fun. And that's the main thing, isn't it? Courses at the Stairways Music School will commence in September. Find out more here.