|THURSDAY 13 JULY 2023||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The Electric Group has confirmed that it has begun legal proceedings against the current management team at Sheffield venue The Leadmill. The live music firm originally planned to start directly running the venue it acquired back in 2017 earlier this year, but The Leadmill's current team have so far resisted moves to evict them from the premises while running a high profile 'Save The Leadmill' campaign... [READ MORE]|
Electric Group begins legal action to take control of The Leadmill
The current management team announced in March last year that they had been given a deadline of one year to vacate the premises. They then launched their campaign, backed by numerous artists, calling on the Electric Group to change its plans and allow the current team to remain in place.
For its part, the Electric Group - which already runs venues in London, Bristol and Newcastle - has hit back, accusing the current Leadmill team of misleading people into thinking that the venue is set to close, when the plan is for the building to continue to operate as a venue, but under a new management team.
With the current team still in situ after the March 2023 deadline to vacate passed - and with that team still booking future shows into 2024 - legal proceedings seemed inevitable. And, reports the Sheffield Star, legal action is now underway. That should reach court early next year and, if successful, the current management team would then have three months to leave the building.
Electric Group CEO Dominic Madden is quoted by the Star as saying: "The Leadmill management's lease is protected under the Landlord And Tenant Act, which means that it can only be brought to an end by a hearing. If we are successful at that hearing, [the current leaseholder] would have three months to vacate the premises. We think the hearing is likely to be heard in 2024, but we hope for the first quarter".
In terms of the current Leadmill team, it has mainly been General Manager Ian Lawlor who has spoken out against The Electric Group. Although the actual leaseholder is businessman Phil Mills.
Again commenting on the 'Save The Leadmill' campaign, which he calls "toxic", Madden also told the Star: "Mills is very upset because he has profitable businesses coming to an end and he's just trying to cause as much difficulty as possible. He's trying to present me as a mainstream nightclub operator, who doesn't understand the cultural significance of The Leadmill".
But that's not true, Madden added. Expanding on his company's plans for the venue, he went on: "We intend to recruit a team from Sheffield, we intend to continue to run all the community engagement projects that they do at the moment, we will continue to run the studios that are set above the venue. The new version of the Leadmill will be almost seamlessly similar to the existing operations".
Although the 'Save The Leadmill' campaign has seemed to garner a lot of support along the way, Madden said: "From the conversations I've had locally, with the local authority, with political leadership, and all kinds of other people in the region, once people realised that the Leadmill wasn't closing, albeit that the management might be changing, people said 'oh, OK, that's fine'".
He continued: "We're good people, and we actually bought the venue to protect it from being redeveloped. Every city has its own peculiar, weird and wonderful handwriting, and the venues need to reflect that. We don't run a chain of venues. We're not the O2 Academy".
"What we intend to do is continue to allow the venue to evolve. When people come into the Leadmill when it reopens, I'm hoping that it will be curiously, incredibly similar to the existing version, but some of the facilities may be upgraded".
The current Leadmill management team are yet to comment on these latest developments.
Universal Music calls for federal publicity right and more transparency in latest AI hearing in US Congress
The major's General Counsel also set out the agenda of the Human Artistry Campaign, and stressed the importance of transparency around generative AI, seeking clarity on both when AI has been used to generate content and what data has been employed to train any one AI model.
The regulation of artificial intelligence is high on the political agenda in most countries now, of course. In Washington, the House Judiciary Committee previously held a session looking specifically at the copyright issues raised by AI. And yesterday the Senate Judiciary Committee did the same, with Universal Music's Jeff Harleston speaking for the music industry during that session.
In his testimony to the committee, he set out how the music industry is already employing AI technologies, including in the music-making process and as a tool for music marketing. And he spoke about the potential for future use of generative AI by artists and their business partners.
"One of our distributed artists", he observed, "South Korean artist Lee Hyun, used a generative AI system to train on recordings of his vocals, allowing him to simultaneously release his single in six languages - in his own voice - on the same day. Here, the ethically trained tool enhanced and extended the artist's creative intent - with his consent - enabling him to reach new markets and fans".
"Imagine", he went on, "an artist or songwriter creating personalised recordings for fans - such as 'Happy Birthday' or perhaps a brand-new creation. Imagine the ability to perform a concert and livestream it globally in dozens of languages simultaneously. Imagine collaborations never even dreamed before. It's a powerful technology - and once there is a more responsible, legal, and respectful AI marketplace, the opportunity for creators is vast".
And, he stressed, Universal Music - and the music industry at large - is eager to collaborate with the makers of generative AI technologies. But only if those tech companies respect copyright and other artist rights. And, for the music industry, that begins with those companies seeking licences from record labels and music publishers before they use any existing recordings or songs to train their AI models.
However, of course, some AI companies argue that the training of AI is covered by copyright exceptions in some countries - and maybe even the fair use principle under US law - which would mean they wouldn't necessarily need to secure licences for that activity.
"It's unfathomable to think AI companies and developers think the rules and laws that apply to other companies and developers don't apply to them", Harleston declared. "Beyond the issue of copyright infringement, these generative AI companies are often obtaining our content from sources that explicitly prohibit downloading and use of that content outside of personal and non-commercial purposes".
"We've also seen examples of AI-generated music being used to generate fraudulent plays on streaming services, siphoning income from human creators", he went on. "And we've seen many troubling cases where an artist's name, image, likeness or voice is used without their knowledge or authorisation - to generate videos of them saying things they didn't say, to use their voice and recordings without their knowledge, or to exploit their name to promote fraudulent works".
But what can lawmakers do to help the music industry and other copyright owners tackle all these issues? Well, Harleston said, pay attention to the music industry-led Human Artistry Campaign, which insists that permission should be sought before any AI companies utilise copyright-protected works, or seek to imitate or clone the voices or identities of human creators. And that no new copyright exceptions should be considered that could remove that requirement.
Interestingly, Harleston then honed in more specifically on the use of AI to generate 'deep fake' vocal clones of established artists, referencing the headline-grabbing track that did just that with the voices of Drake and The Weeknd, both Universal-signed artists. When it comes to artists protecting their voices or identities, we move beyond copyright, with publicity or personality rights most likely to provide that kind of legal protection.
However, in the US publicity rights exist at a state rather than US-wide federal label. "We urge you to enact a federal right of publicity statute", Harleston said. "Deep-fake and/or unauthorised recordings or visuals of artists generated by AI could lead to consumer confusion, unfair competition against the actual artist, market dilution and damage to the artist's reputation and brand - potentially irreparably harming their career".
"An artist's voice is the most valuable part of their livelihood and public persona", he added, "and to steal it - no matter the means - is wrong".
Earlier this week, UK Music set out its priorities when it comes to the regulation of AI. It also bigged up the Human Artistry Campaign and stressed the copyright and transparency obligations of AI companies. And it also referenced publicity or personality rights, which don't currently exist at all under UK law, stating that "a new personality right should be created to protect the personality/image of songwriters and artists".
Digital music consumption rockets as 112,000 new tracks a day are added to streaming services, says Luminiate
Among other things, the report confirms that digital music consumption continues to grow, with the global music industry's trillion streams milestone being reached in March this year, a month earlier than in 2022.
And, by the end of June, two trillion audio streams had been delivered across the various digital platforms since the start of the year, a 22.9% increase on the same period last year. When audio and video streams are combined, 3.3 trillion streams were delivered, 30.8% more than in the first half of 2022.
Of course, in the streaming domain, from a revenue perspective, subscriber numbers are more important that the total number of streams.
Indeed, if total consumption is increasing faster than the total number of subscribers, then - once everything is averaged out - the industry will actually be earning less money per stream. But, you know, more music is being consumed than ever before, and I guess that's good news in its own right.
For the US, Luminate also has stats around sales, both physical and digital. Physical discs and downloads now account for a relatively small minority of US recorded music revenues, of course, but nevertheless album sales are up this year. And an increase in sales is generally more closely linked to an increase in revenue.
Across all formats, album sales in the US were up 7.9% year-on-year for the first half of 2022, with all physical formats - so CD and cassette as well as vinyl - seeing increases. Although the vinyl revival remains key in that domain, with vinyl sales up 21.7% so far this year.
Other stats that have been notable talking points in recent years relate to the increased importance of catalogue in the streaming age and the huge quantities of music being delivered to the streaming services each day. And Luminate has new stats in both those areas too.
According to its data crunching, in the US catalogue music - which it defines as anything released more than eighteen months ago - now accounts for 72.8% of consumption, up from 72.4% last year.
Meanwhile, based on the number of new ISRCs appearing on the streaming services - ie the unique codes that identify each sound recording - "on average, 112,000 new music tracks are being added to streaming services each day, representing a 28% increase from 93,400 per day in 2022".
You can access the full report - which also puts the spotlight on superfans and the increased engagement with non-English language music by US consumers - on the Luminate website here.
ECSA makes recommendations for streaming reform ahead of discussion in European Parliament next week
The ECSA document has been published ahead of a meeting of the European Parliament's culture and education committee next week which will discuss a draft report produced by MEP Ibán García Del Blanco that is focused on "cultural diversity and the conditions for authors in the European Music streaming market".
Introducing the new report from ECSA, the organisation's President, songwriter Helienne Lindvall, says: "Despite the apparent success of the music streaming market, the composers and songwriters - who are the engines of the entire music industry - struggle to make a living from their craft, with less than €1 out of a €9.99 subscription going to them".
"With this report", she adds, "we want to provide a vital call to action, with six major recommendations to fix streaming and ensure long-term sustainability for music creators".
The first of those recommendations puts the spotlight on the debate around how streaming income is shared out between all the different stakeholders in the digital music business, including the streaming services, record labels, music publishers, artists and, of course, songwriters.
Music streaming is generally a revenue share business, with approximately 50-55% of revenue flowing to the recording rights, and 10-15% to the song rights.
Songwriters have long called for a re-slicing of the digital pie so that more money flows to the songs side. In its report, ESCA calls for the industry to "share the streaming pie in a more sustainable manner and value the fundamental role played by music authors in the streaming market".
Beyond what slice of the money is allocated to the song rights, there are also data issues that affect how songwriters get paid, which increase the costs of processing royalties, delay payments getting through, and sometimes stop writers getting paid at all. The same data issues also mean songwriters are not always credited within the streaming services.
To that end, ECSA's second recommendation is that the industry "ensure better identification of creators on streaming services".
Elsewhere in the report, ECSA stresses the need for streaming subscription prices to keep up with inflation; backs calls from across the music community for a review of how streaming revenues are allocated to individual tracks each month; demands more transparency around streaming service algorithms and playlisting operations; and notes the importance of ensuring the "prominence and discoverability" of European music via the streaming services.
With the streaming business very much on the agenda in the European Parliament, the ECSA report also sets out how European Union lawmakers could help bring about some of the changes that are proposed. Noting the political dimension, Lindvall continues: "We take this opportunity to thank and congratulate MEP Ibán García del Blanco for his draft report on music streaming".
"As highlighted in both reports", she goes on, "it's crucial to address the current revenue imbalance in the music streaming market and create a fair and transparent ecosystem that promotes cultural diversity. Moreover, improving creators' identification, ensuring the prominence and discoverability of European works on music streaming platforms, and enhancing transparency of algorithms and content recommendation systems are crucial steps to fix streaming".
She then concludes: "We urge all MEPs to support this important initiative and we look forward to working collectively towards a sustainable future for the music industry".
You can download the report - which was compiled with input from CMU's consultancy unit CMU Insights - via the ECSA website here.
Cherry Glazerr to release new album in September
Describing the new single as her "Evanescence moment", the band's Clementine Creevy says: "It's a real 'losing your fucking shit' kind of vibe. I wanted this album to be just heart and soul. Completely exposed. It's also a little bit about loving the anguish and toxicity that comes with being ruined by another person. Letting go and submitting to them but then catching yourself becoming too much like them".
"The songs on this one are songs I've dreamed of making", she goes on. "I've spent these years taking a hard look at myself, at my relationships, and writing about it. I guess I'm coming to terms with a lot of my bullshit. When you're always leaving, you don't have a great sense of where your relationships stand, romantic or otherwise. You're not thinking about the work that goes into maintaining them".
'I Don't Want You Anymore' is set for release on 29 Sep. Listen to 'Soft Like A Flower' here.
Universal Music Publishing China has signed a global publishing agreement with singer-songwriter Tia Ray. "Music brings people together", she says. "It transcends borders, culture and gender. Songwriting allows me to express myself and also tell stories that are happening around us. As a singer-songwriter, I'm THRILLED to be able to partner with UMP China because the UMP family is borderless too".
Booking agency UTA has promoted Brandi Brammer to SVP Global Music Operations. "I'm THRILLED to take on this new leadership role during such a pivotal moment in the growth and evolution of UTA Music", she says. "This is such an incredible opportunity to foster synergy across so many integral parts of UTA Music on a global scale with the most talented people in the business".
Georgia has released new single 'All Night'. "I want people to feel inspired and empowered listening to this song", she says. "It's a celebration of life and the world". Her new album 'Euphoric' is set for release on 28 Jul.
Yard Act are back with new single 'The Trench Coat Museum'. The song, says frontman James Smith "is about how our perception of everything shifts both collectively and individually over time at speeds we simply can't measure in the moment. Within whatever space in society we occupy, we often see our own beliefs as being at the absolute pinnacle of what should be the 'cultural norm' and whilst the completely human trait of being self-assured can't be helped, it's an absolute hindrance on our collective process. We are one etc (are we fuck)".
Genesis Owusu has released new single 'Tied Up!', taken from his new album 'Struggler', which is out on 18 Aug. He's also announced that he will play Heaven in London on 15 Nov.
Laurel Halo has announced that she will release her latest album 'Atlas' on 22 Sep - the first release on her new label Awe. Out now is new single 'Belleville'. She is set to premiere the album at the Barbican's Milton Court Concert Hall in London on 10 Sep.
Jessy Lanza has released new single 'Limbo', taken from new album 'Love Hallucination', which is out on 28 Jul.
Svalbard have announced that they will release their fourth album 'The Weight Of The Mask' on 6 Oct. Out now is new single 'Faking It'. "It addresses the ways in which those who suffer with depression can feel guilted into putting on a happy mask", says the band's Serena Cherry of the song. "The lyrics are a reflection on happiness as a social obligation and how scarily good you can become at deceiving everyone around you into thinking that you're fine when you're not".
GIGS & TOURS
Playboi Carti will play two UK shows later this year at Manchester's AO Arena on 21 Nov and The O2 Arena in London on 22 Nov. Tickets go on general sale tomorrow.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Zayn Malik says he left One Direction to get "ahead of the curve"
Speaking to Alex Cooper on her Call Her Daddy podcast, he said: "I don't want to go into too much detail, but … there was a lot of politics, certain people didn't want to sign contracts and I knew something was happening. So, I was like, I'll just get ahead of the curve and get out of here, I think this is done".
"I just [saw] it [coming] and I completely selfishly wanted to be the first person to go and make my own record", he went on. "I jumped the gun and when it comes to my music I'm serious and competitive and I wanted to be the first to do that".
He added that the group's interpersonal relationships had become strained by early 2015, saying: "There were obviously underlying issues within our friendships too - we'd got sick of each other, if I'm being completely honest. We had been together nearly every day for five years. We were close and got to do crazy things together that no one else in the world will ever understand. I look back [at it] now in a much fonder light than when I first left. It just ran its course".
Malik's comments come days after fellow 1D-er Liam Payne publicly apologised for comments he previously made about his former bandmate.
Payne appeared on Logan Paul's Impaulsive podcast last year and made a number of controversial comments, which included digs at Malik. In a video posted to YouTube this week, he revealed that he had gone into rehab this year, in part as a result of the backlash to those comments.
"My own frustrations with my own career and where I kind of landed [meant] I took shots at everybody else, which is wrong", he said. "Obviously, I want to apologise for that, in the first instance, because that's definitely not me".
"The rest of the boys really stuck by me when I needed them most, they kinda came to the rescue", he went on. "Even Zayn, as well, which is why I did send him a little thank you online".
So yeah, none of this suggests a reunion is happening any time soon. Also, let's not forget, Niall Horan claimed last month that, despite all of One Direction's former members being in regular contact, they've never actually discussed getting back together.