|TUESDAY 1 AUGUST 2023||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Travis Scott and his legal team have been dubbed "stunningly tone deaf" for criticising the timing of the publication of a police report about the Astroworld tragedy. The Houston Police Department made that lengthy document available on Friday, just as Scott released his new album 'Utopia', his first since the fatal crowd surge that occurred during his headline set at the 2021 edition of the festival he founded... [READ MORE]|
Travis Scott criticised over his team's response to Astroworld police report
On Friday, a representative for Scott told TMZ: "The timing of the Houston Police Department report's release, coinciding with the launch of Travis Scott's highly anticipated album, is anything but coincidental ... it is outrageous that HPD has chosen to resort to tactics that attempt to discredit Travis and his team, casting doubt on how the unfortunate events at Astroworld actually transpired while deflecting blame from their own critical failures".
Responding to those remarks, a lawyer working for the family of one of those who died during the crowd surge, ten year old Ezra Blount, said in his own statement to TMZ: "For an artist making his living with music, these are stunningly tone deaf comments about this preventable tragedy that took so many lives and injured so many".
Ten people died and hundreds more were injured during the crowd surge at Astroworld 2021, which took place in Houston's NRG Park. A criminal investigation got underway almost immediately, with the city's police department investigating whether the actions of Scott and various other people working on the Live Nation-promoted festival contributed to the crowd surge and therefore the fatalities.
That investigation was completed last month, with HPD's report then going to a grand jury to assess whether any crimes had been committed. After several hours of deliberations, the grand jury concluded that there were no grounds for criminal charges against Scott or any other people working on the show.
Police confirmed at the time that their full report would be made public in the near future. And all 1266 pages of it were published last week, albeit with some redactions.
Though, even before the report's publication, the HPD had already set out a timeline of the events that unfolded during Scott's Astroworld set. They confirmed that the first 911 call referencing distress in the crowd was made just five minutes after the rapper took to the stage shortly after 9pm.
Police became aware that multiple people were entering the festival's medical tent around 9.30pm, with the first victims being transported to hospital ten minutes later. A mass casualty incident was declared at 9.47pm. However, Scott's performance didn't end until 10.12pm, after a guest spot from Drake.
Ever since the tragedy occurred there has been much discussion as to why Scott's set wasn't stopped sooner; who on stage and among the festival's production team were aware of the scale of the problems; and who was involved in the decision to let the show continue.
Since the publication of the police report last week, most attention has fallen on the police interviews with Scott and Drake, as well as statements made by some members of the crew working backstage. The latter seem to contradict the version of events presented by the two musicians regarding what information was available to them and their direct team as the crowd surge was unfolding.
Scott has insisted throughout that he was not aware of what was happening in the crowd while he performed his headline set. He did pause his performance a few times after spotting isolated issues in the crowd, but he did not know about the crowd surge. Even when he was told to cut his set short, he said, he was not informed that an emergency situation was underway.
According to the Texas Tribune, he told police that for much of his set he was "in a trance" and fully focused on his performance. And, he added, in normal circumstances if something drastic was happening someone would "come hit the button or pull the plug".
Drake likewise said he had no knowledge of any crowd issues, telling police he was "whisked onto and off the stage" for his guest performance, and that the stage lights made it very hard to see what was happening in the audience.
However, a monitor system engineer, Steve Hupkowizc, who could hear the on-stage communications during Scott's performance, told police that more information was available to the rapper and his team as events were unfolding. He claimed that autotune operator Bilal 'Bizzy' Joseph told Scott mid-set that they needed to get to the Drake section of the performance as quickly as possible because "three people have died".
Another backstage engineer reported hearing a similar message being relayed, except he recalled it as "we need to wrap this up, we got like two bodies in the ground".
Police also spoke to an executive at security company B3 Risk Solutions, Marty Wallgren, who talked about Scott's reputation for encouraging his audiences to behave recklessly. The police report notes: "Of all the shows and genres he has seen, he has never seen anything like the environment that Travis Scott creates. Going into the show, he expected 'mayhem'".
Wallgren also told police that he had a bad feeling about the entire focus of the festival falling on to Scott's headline set, with another key stage being closed ahead of the performance. That would inevitably result in a significant number of people rushing to the already crowded main stage. But, he said, "nobody wanted to tell Travis no, or that it was a bad idea to set up the festival with the stages like they were".
Scott's reps - as well as criticising the timing of the publication of the HPD report - have also hit back at those focusing on statements made by the likes of Hupkowizc and Wallgren in the police document. After all, they point out, the grand jury based their decision that there were no grounds for criminal proceedings on this very report.
The statement from the Scott camp to TMZ on Friday continued: "Travis Scott and his team were, as anticipated, fully cleared of any wrongdoing associated with the Astroworld tragedy by a grand jury based on the very report released today".
They went on: "Travis's commitment to his audience's safety and well-being is well-documented. As reported countless times, he actively stopped the show three separate times. Contrary to the HPD report's inaccuracies, the concert did end at the exact time communicated to Travis".
"Meanwhile, Houston police officers present at the event did not intervene during the unfolding situation. They were observed throughout the show standing by idly, buying merch and even filming the concert in its entirety".
The statement concluded: "We encourage the Houston PD to make peace with the fact that Travis Scott and his team were found innocent of any wrongdoing and to focus on what really matters - making sure tragedies like Astroworld never occur again under their watch".
Although there will be no criminal charges in relation to the Astroworld tragedy, there are hundreds of lawsuits working their way through the system filed by those who were injured during the crowd surge and the families of those who died. Including the family of Ezra Blount.
Their lawyer, Bob Hilliard, commenting further of how the Scott team has responded to the publication of the police report, told TMZ: "Of course they would only focus on how the report's release date hurts their album sales instead of the facts contained inside of the report".
Hilliard reckons that the report contains "damning" information about how Astroworld was planned and run.
He added: "For Mr Scott to allow his lawyers and spokespeople to make the reckless and untrue statement that just because he was not indicted means he's blame-free is arrogant and insulting to the memory of ten year old Ezra as well as the other victims of this terrible night".
Final ruling in Flo & Eddie lawsuit against Pandora provides overview of the pre-1972 copyright debate
A lot of that debate centred on lawsuits pursued by the artists Flo & Eddie, who were members of the 1960s band The Turtles.
In theory, the 2018 Music Modernization Act removed the ambiguities that those lawsuits sought to address. However, some technicalities remained in relation to Flo & Eddie's litigation, meaning the lawsuit against Sirius rumbled on until 2021, and the Pandora dispute until last week. Ultimately the courts sided with both Sirius and Pandora.
US-wide federal copyright law is unusual in that it doesn't provide a general performing right as part of the sound recording copyright, meaning AM/FM radio stations do not need a licence from or to pay any royalties to the record industry.
However, there is a digital performance right, which means satellite and online radio services do need to get licences from the record industry. Though they can - if they wish - rely on the compulsory licence administered by Sound Exchange.
But federal copyright law only applied to sound recordings released since 1972, with earlier recordings protected by state-level laws.
So Sirius and Pandora decided that they weren't obliged to pay royalties when they used pre-1972 recordings. Because the digital performance right in federal law didn't apply, and there were no performing rights at all in state-level copyright rules.
For their part Flo & Eddie - and later the record industry at large - disputed that latter assumption. In many states, copyright rules were somewhat ambiguous about whether the performance of sound recordings required a licence. AM/FM radio stations had never sought any such licences and had never been sued, but maybe a performing right did exist in state-level copyright law, even though no one had ever enforced such a right.
Flo & Eddie went legal in multiple states, with their lawsuits ultimately going before a number of different district courts and appeal courts. Initially, the rulings on whether or not performing rights applied to sound recordings at a state level differed from state to state. The Californian courts suggested for a time that maybe such a right did exist. However, ultimately, in other states, judges ruled that they did not.
All of these debates were rendered redundant to an extent by the MMA in 2018. Because - among other things - it specifically said that pre-1972 recordings should benefit from the same digital performance right as post-1972 recordings, thus Sirius and Pandora do need to pay royalties when they use older music.
Nevertheless, some of the litigation rumbled on. In part because Flo & Eddie pointed out that, in order to make their pre-1972 recordings available, Pandora had also made copies of those tracks, meaning the more clear-cut reproduction element of the copyright had also been exploited.
But either way, ultimately the courts, including in California, have generally concluded that there probably aren't any performing rights for recordings within state-level copyright law; that it's the performing rights that are relevant with services like Sirius and Pandora; and that the MMA means the negative impact these conclusions may have on artists have already been addressed.
Issuing a summary judgement in Pandora's favour last week, the Californian court noted: "The court is inclined to agree with Flo & Eddie … with regard to Pandora's permanent copies. It is commonly understood that one infringes a copyright owner's reproduction right by making one or more unauthorised copies or phonorecords 'even if [they are] used solely for the private purposes of the reproducer, or even if the other uses are licensed'".
"But courts across this country that have considered the issue do not agree", it went on, "finding instead that Flo & Eddie's copying claims rise and fall with the public performance right". And, it added: "To the extent Flo & Eddie argues that New York and Florida common law do not inform the outcome of this matter under California law, its reasons are unpersuasive".
As for the key question as to whether sound recordings enjoy performing rights under state law, last week's judgement observed: "One after another, federal circuit courts and state supreme courts answered with a resounding 'no'".
So that's that then. Is the long-running debate over the copyright status of pre-1972 recordings in the US finally at an end? Maybe. We'll see.
Grande Communications must post multi-million dollar bond while it appeals music industry's copyright litigation
Grande - which rebranded as Astound Broadband last year - was one of the American ISPs sued by the music industry for not doing enough to combat infringement and infringers on its networks.
As with the precedent-setting legal battle in this domain - against Cox Communications - the record companies argued that Grande did not do enough to deal with repeat infringers among its customer base to avoid liability for its users' infringement via the copyright safe harbour.
Siding with the music industry on all this, last year a jury ordered Grande to pay the labels $46.8 million in damages in relation to the 1400 tracks which the music companies said had been distributed across the ISP's networks without licence.
Attempts by the net firm to persuade the judge overseeing the case to reverse that decision then failed.
Which is why Grande is now taking the matter to the Fifth Circuit Appeals Court. The labels want the ISP to post a bond equivalent to the damages while the appeals process goes through the motions, to be certain the cash is available to pay the damages should the appeal fail.
However, Grande has argued that its parent company Astound has lots of money, so there is no risk of any damages going unpaid down the line.
Moreover, it told the court earlier this year: "Requiring Grande to post bond or other security when there is no dispute as to Grande's financial security would be a 'waste of money'. A bond for the full amount of the current judgment would cost Grande approximately $4 million per year".
"Because Grande is capable and will continue to be capable of satisfying the judgment", it added, "it would serve no legitimate purpose to require Grande to incur this substantial annual expense, which would benefit the issuer of the bond and no one else".
To that end, Grande filed a motion asking the court to state that it did not have to post any bond. But the labels hit back at that suggestion.
In their legal filing, the labels noted that during the actual court case on this dispute, Grande insisted that its parent company was irrelevant and should not be factored in when considering the size and revenues of the net firm. Therefore, the labels argued, the parent company shouldn't now be used as a reason to not post the bond.
The judge considering the matter has agreed with the music companies. "Having considered the parties' filings, the record, the applicable law, and the arguments and evidence offered at the hearing", a judgement last week stated, "the court, for the reasons stated on the record ... denies Grande's motion".
Las Vegas police receive battery complaint after mid-show altercation with Cardi B
During a performance at Drai's Beachclub on Saturday, an audience member threw a drink at the rapper. She then quickly retaliated by throwing her microphone at said audience member.
Video footage of the event seems to show the person who threw the drink subsequently apologising before being escorted out of the venue by security. Cardi B then reportedly left the stage shortly after the incident.
Subsequent to all that, the Las Vegas Metro Police Department said in a statement to Variety: "On 30 Jul 2023, an individual came into an LVMPD police station to report a battery. According to the victim, she was attending an event on 29 Jul 2023, at a property located in the 3500 block of Las Vegas Boulevard. During a concert, she was struck by an item that was thrown from the stage".
It's not clear if the person who filed the complaint was the audience member who threw the drink, or whether another person was hit by the microphone.
There have been a number of incidents of late where audience members have thrown items on stage. Most notably, a man was arrested after he threw a mobile phone at the stage during a performance by Bebe Rexha, who was injured as a result requiring stitches above her left eye.
A third of independent artists interested in using AI in their music-making, according to TuneCore survey
Around a third said they were interested in using AI as part of their music-making process, with a similar amount reckoning AI technologies could help them with their marketing and promotion.
Commenting on the study, TuneCore CEO Andreea Gleeson says: "As AI continues to be a conversation topic across creative industries, we sought to engage directly with independent artists to determine their awareness of AI and how they're most interested in engaging with it".
"TuneCore's main priorities lie in the interests of our artists", she adds, "so the responses to this survey will help us enable them to utilise AI on our platform with consent, control, transparency, and fair monetary compensation".
Of those surveyed, 35% said that they are interested in using AI in their creative process, while 31% said it could help with marketing and promotion around releases.
Meanwhile, 18% said they might use AI technologies to create promotional content - including videos to post to TikTok and Instagram - while 16% said they were interested in how AI could help them more generally engage and develop their fanbases.
In terms of allowing tech companies to use their creative output in order to train generative AI models, 50% showed a willingness to allow that to happen. Although, the report notes, the majority of those artists say that consent, compensation and credit are all key if AI companies want to use existing music in that way.
Not everyone surveyed was fully on board with the AI revolution, however. The report notes that 39% of those surveyed were "unaware and apathetic toward AI" and/or "have fears and concerns with the technology".
Believe CEO Denis Ladegaillerie has also commented on the survey, stating: "Generative AI and AI will open a new age of creativity and discovery, and transform in a positive manner every aspect of our partnerships with artists and the way we partner with digital music services".
"This is why", he goes on, "it is essential that our strategy as a company is aligned with that of our artists: that of a responsible approach to AI and to the exciting opportunities and future use cases that we will develop as a core part of our mission to serve all artists, at each stage of their career, with respect, fairness, expertise and transparency".
"These fundamental values", he concludes, "have defined the four responsibility principles that we will use to assess each AI and generative AI opportunity: consent, control, compensation and transparency".
TuneCore rival Ditto also recently undertook a survey of independent artists about AI. It spoke to nearly 1300 music-makers and said that of them 59.6% were already using AI as part of their creative process in some way: 11% to support their songwriting, 20.3% for music production, 30.6% for mastering, and 38% to help create artwork.
Digital Catapult and Sony Music announce start-ups benefiting from inaugural FutureScope Black Founders Programme
The ten start-ups taking part are Cashblack, Deya, Flossy, Happaning Ltd, Korda, Loud Parade, Musircle, Nyangibo Gallery, Stories & The City and Waves.
FutureScope, the Innovate UK-backed Digital Catapult explains, is a "deep tech acceleration support system for the UK's leading tech innovators and businesses".
The Black Founders Programme iteration of the scheme has been specifically launched in response to research from investment firm Atomico that revealed that "62% of black founders have found it increasingly hard to raise venture capital, with only 38 black founders receiving venture capital funding between 2009 and 2019, just 0.24% of the total sum invested".
Confirming Sony's support for the programme, the major's Dorothy Hui says: "Sony Music is committed to helping improve diversity in digital entertainment and we look forward to supporting the entrepreneurs participating in the programme by providing access to industry expertise and our network. We can't wait to see how the businesses develop through the programme".
While Jessica Rushworth, Chief Strategy & Policy Officer at Digital Catapult, adds: "This cohort is really one of the most exciting we have seen since the launch of FutureScope nearly two years ago. The range of solutions on show, built using advanced digital technologies, just highlights why companies like this are a key part of the future of the UK's creative sector".
"The reality is that choosing ten companies from a strong field of applicants was an incredibly tough process for the judging panel", she goes on, "but ultimately a very encouraging one, that really demonstrated to us the breadth of talent that exists within the UK's black tech community".
Deezer has appointed Florence Lao as its General Counsel. "Deezer is leading the way for the future of the music industry and I'm looking forward to contributing to continued success, together with the talented teams in France and across the globe", she says. "The music landscape is changing quickly, with Deezer playing a key role for its partners, the industry, and fans alike. It's exciting to have joined the company at such a pivotal time".
Sony Music has hired Omolola Ige as Marketing Manager for West Africa. "Joining Sony Music West Africa is a dream come true for me", she says. "The company's dedication to nurturing creativity and pushing boundaries aligns perfectly with my own passion for developing innovative marketing campaigns that resonate deeply with audiences".
Flo Milli has announced that she will release new album 'Fine Ho, Stay' later this summer, and has put out its first single, 'Fruit Loop'.
The Hives have released a new double A-side single, featuring new songs 'Trapdoor Solution' and 'The Bomb'. Both are taken from new album 'The Death Of Randy Fitzsimmons', which is out on 11 Aug.
Ashnikko has released new single 'Cheerleader'. "It's twisting this perfect cheerleader into a monstrosity", she says of the track. "It's a commentary on the need to be fuckable to be commercially viable, and I really do feel that pressure. It's so tiring and played out. No matter how much logic I've built up in my head, there's still some carnal part of my brain that says 'you have to be fuckable to sell this music, bitch!' It's draining on my spirit and makes me feel like I have literal car exhaust in my brain". Her debut album 'Weedkiller' is out on 25 Aug.
GIGS & TOURS
Killer Mike has announced that he will play a one-off show at Lafayette in London on 31 Oct. Tickets go on sale on Friday.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Ed Sheeran heats up hot sauce marketing with Honest Burgers tie-up
Throughout August, anyone who walks in the doors of one of Honest Burgers' 42 UK restaurants (or orders takeaway via Uber Eats) will be able to grab a special burger which, says a press release, will be "drenched" in Ed's special sauce. Drenched.
Also in there will be halloumi, American cheese, crispy onions, avocado ranch mayo, lettuce and pickles. They may also get some secondary drenching.
It's not the first time Sheeran has hooked up with Honest, having featured the restaurant chain in the music video for his song 'Put It All on Me' in 2019.
"Honest and Ed go way back", barks Adam Layton, Honest Burgers' Head Of Food. "So, we were chuffed when the man himself got in touch asking us to be the exclusive restaurant launch partner for Tingly Ted's. This burger is a world first for the exciting hot sauce brand that is destined to be Ed's next global smash hit".
Sure. And to help it on the way, the first 5000 people to order this burger will get a free bottle of the stuff. Good news if you find that your burger isn't sufficiently drenched to your taste.
There are more opportunities for freebies, too. Honest and Ed are asking people to sing for their supper by uploading a video of themselves singing a song to Instagram or TikTok, adding the hashtag #buskforyourburger and tagging @honestburgers and @tinglyteds.
And when I say that someone will be getting "freebies", I of course mean the marketing value Honest and Ed's sauce will enjoy via that engagement. But there's also the opportunity for fans to win a £250 Honest Burgers voucher by taking part as well.
Of course, you may have read this far wondering whether you, as a non-meat eater, can get hold of an unnecessarily wet burger too. No. You'll have to drench your own.