TODAY'S TOP STORY: A US judge this week told Universal Music Publishing that more than $500,000 in royalties due to R Kelly should instead be handed to federal prosecutors in New York. The money will be used to pay off fines and restitution stemming from his conviction in the New York courts back in 2021, where the former musician was found guilty of running of a criminal enterprise in order to sexually and physically abuse women and teenagers... [READ MORE]

TOP STORIES Universal Music ordered to hand over R Kelly royalties to pay fines and restitution
LEGAL Lizzo's threat to countersue dancers is a "scare tactic", say the dancers' legal reps
Disney settles song-theft dispute in relation to Frozen II track

Majors return to court over Grande's $46.8 million damages bill

ONE LINERS Ed Sheeran, Selena Gomez, The Killers, more
AND FINALLY... Fyre Festival II pre-sale tickets sell out
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Universal Music ordered to hand over R Kelly royalties to pay fines and restitution
A US judge this week told Universal Music Publishing that more than $500,000 in royalties due to R Kelly should instead be handed to federal prosecutors in New York. The money will be used to pay off fines and restitution stemming from his conviction in the New York courts back in 2021, where the former musician was found guilty of running of a criminal enterprise in order to sexually and physically abuse women and teenagers.

Responding to this week's court order, Kelly's current legal rep, Jennifer Bonjean, stressed that her client is appealing this conviction - and another one that resulted from a separate trial in Chicago - and that when the appeals courts "reverse Mr Kelly's convictions, we will seek the return of every cent that has been wrongfully taken from him".

Prosecutors began legal action last year to seize funds from Kelly in order to pay off fines that were part of the sentence in the New York case. They initially went after monies that were sitting in Kelly's prison inmate account. The musician's debts then increased when he was ordered to pay restitution to some of the victims who testified during the New York trial.

Attention then turned to income generated by Kelly's music, managed by his former label Sony Music on the recordings side and former publisher Universal Music Publishing when it comes to income from his songs.

The prosecutors weren't the only people going after Kelly's Sony royalties. Another of the musician's victims - Heather Williams - is seeking to claim the $4 million in damages she was awarded in a civil lawsuit in 2020. And an entity called Midwest Commercial Funding is seeking to recover another $3.5 million debt.

However, it seems that the monies due to Kelly from Universal are sufficient to cover the fines and restitution in New York. District judge Ann Donnelly signed an order instructing Universal to pay $520,549 to the New York prosecutors on Wednesday.

Bonjean's full statement on this week's ruling reads: "We maintain that Mr Kelly's convictions and the restitution orders were erroneous and the Second Circuit [Appeals Court] will have the final word on it. I can promise that when the Second Circuit reverses Mr Kelly's convictions, we will seek the return of every cent that has been wrongfully taken from him".


Lizzo's threat to countersue dancers is a "scare tactic", say the dancers' legal reps
Legal reps for the three dancers who have sued Lizzo have issued another forthright statement, this time regarding the musician's apparent plan to countersue her former employees.

Lizzo's team - the dancers' lawyers claim - are employing the kind of "scare tactics, bullying and victim shaming" that is "exactly the behaviour employees face in the entertainment industry who feel they have no choice but to 'suck it up' for access and success".

Arianna Davis, Crystal Williams and Noelle Rodriguez are all former members of Lizzo's Big Grrrls dance outfit and have sued the musician and her touring company over allegations of inappropriate and unfair conduct.

A lawyer working for Lizzo, Marty Singer, this week told reporters that their lawsuit was a "sham", full of allegations that are disputed by the evidence. He specifically cited a video from earlier this year in which Davis said that working with Lizzo had "been amazing" and "such a beautiful journey", and also photos taken of a trip that the Big Grrrls dancers took to a club in Paris.

In their lawsuit, Davis, Williams and Rodriguez say they were pressured to "attend outings where nudity and sexuality were a focal point" and that Lizzo "disregarded any apprehension from plaintiffs". But, Singer argued, photos of the plaintiffs at the Crazy Horse club in Paris showed them "happily carousing" with performers from a topless cabaret show.

Singer concluded: "These irrefutable photos and videos, along with additional substantial evidence, prove the glaring contradictions between what the plaintiffs claim in their bogus lawsuit and what is proven by the facts. The lawsuit is a sham. Lizzo intends to sue for malicious prosecution after she prevails and these specious claims are dismissed".

Legal reps for Davis, Williams and Rodriguez had already hit out at Singer's comments, insisting "our clients aren't afraid of Singer or his empty threats or his victim shaming".

They added "We've addressed all these instances where the plaintiffs appear to be happy alongside Lizzo during their time working with her", explaining that the plaintiffs had to appear to be happy to keep their jobs.

But in a new statement, those lawyers have responded more specifically to Singer's statement that his client "intends to sue for malicious prosecution", which - in the context of US law - refers to people initiating legal action without proper justification to intimate or harass another party.

One of the lawyers working for Davis, Williams and Rodriguez - Ron Zambrano - says: "Lizzo's threat to countersue for malicious prosecution is an insidious attempt at intimidation and delivers a chilling effect to all harassment victims in the workplace. The scare tactics, bullying and victim shaming coming from Lizzo's team is exactly the behaviour employees face in the entertainment industry who feel they have no choice but to 'suck it up' for access and success".

"Lizzo is trying to scare others from coming forward following the predictable path of promising a second trauma heaped upon them if they have the nerve to speak out", he goes on. "Her team is merely trying to suppress the truth and hide her hypocrisy of publicising her brand as one of empowerment and body positivity while privately depriving women of their empowerment".

"Lizzo certainly isn't empowering women by way of her threats", he continues, "rather she is disenfranchising them, but this lawsuit isn't just about her. This sort of behaviour is pervasive in the entertainment industry. That doesn't make it right, and it's still illegal".

"The entire point of employment law", he concludes, "is to enable victims to speak freely without fear of intimidation, a nuance wholly missed by Lizzo and her team who have comfortably slipped into the 'you're the problem, not me' script. Lizzo is emblematic of the overall issue with harassers and abusers who try to silence their accusers. To all victims, we assure you that you no longer have to remain silent. Fight back".

Zambrano's colleague Neama Rahmani adds: "Singer has no legal grounds to countersue on behalf of Lizzo and, by doing so, he would have to step inside a courtroom and expose his client and her lies to cross-examination at trial".

"We have mountains of evidence and more people coming forward each day independently supporting the plaintiffs' allegations", he goes on. "He may be referring to the lawsuit against Lizzo as a 'sham' but the only thing that is a sham here is Singer's media strategy of shaming the victims. We'll take the moral high ground and fight for what's right".

We await to see how Lizzo now responds, and also whether any countersuit does materialise.


Disney settles song-theft dispute in relation to Frozen II track
Disney and the creators of 'Frozen II' song 'Some Things Never Change' have settled a legal dispute with an artist who accused the film studio and songwriters of song-theft.

Legal reps for both sides in the dispute had previously told the court that a settlement was close to being finalised. With that settlement seemingly now reached, the judge overseeing the case this week declared that the litigation was "dismissed with prejudice, with each side bearing its own attorneys' fees, costs, and expenses".

Daniel E Grigson claimed that 'Some Things Never Change' - written by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez - ripped off his song 'That Girl', which he wrote and released via his own label Pelican Records all the way back in 1999.

Grigson's lawsuit, filed with the courts in California last year, set out the alleged similarities between the two songs, citing one of those expert musicologists.

It also added that, so striking are the similarities, when Grigson first saw 'Frozen II' with his family and heard 'Some Things Never Change', he "involuntarily stood straight up, turned to look at his wife, and then at his kids, his eyes wide open as saucers. He sat back down with his head in his hands. His eleven year old daughter leaned over to him and said 'Dad, Disney took your song'".

However, some technicalities hindered Grigson's litigation. Ownership of the song copyright in 'That Girl' is complicated because of past bankruptcy proceedings, and while Grigson controls the sound recording copyright, the plaintiffs argued that there was no evidence at all that the earlier track had been sampled in any way.

With that in mind, in May this year, the judge dismissed Grigson's claim in relation to the 'That Girl' sound recording, but gave him the option to submit an amended complaint.

However, according to Law360, parties on both sides then agreed to go into mediation in July, from which this week's settlement presumably emerged.


Majors return to court over Grande's $46.8 million damages bill
The major record companies have urged an American court not to approve proposals by internet service provider Grande Communications regarding a bond it is posting while it appeals a copyright ruling that ordered it to pay the labels $46.8 million.

Grande - which rebranded as Astound Broadband last year - is one of the American ISPs that was sued by the music industry for not doing enough to combat copyright infringement and infringers of its networks.

After a court sided with the record companies and ruled that Grande could be held liable for its users' infringement, the ISP was ordered to pay $46.8 million in damages.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, Grande is appealing that ruling. But should it hand over the damages in the meantime? The labels demanded that the ISP at the very least post a bond equivalent to the damages while the appeals process goes through the motions, to be certain that the cash will be available to pay the damages if the appeal fails.

Grande tried to argue against such a thing, claiming that its parent company had lots of money so the labels were guaranteed payment if the appeal goes in favour of the music companies. Meanwhile, posting a bond would mean considerable extra expense for the net firm. However, last month the courts said a bond must still be posted.

The labels are now taking issue with how Grande is planning to post the bond. They have two issues. First, when and how they will get the $46.8 million if Grande loses its appeal. And second, concerning interest also due on the damages.

Under Grande's current bond posting proposal, the labels said in a legal filing this week, the surety - ie the entity that will take responsibility for the ISP's debt - "will become liable only if Grande first fails to pay the judgment".

They then stated: "Imposing such a condition precedent on the surety's liability both fails to protect plaintiffs' security interest in their judgment and is impermissibly vague about when the surety will become liable".

"Grande's bond should instead state clearly that the surety is immediately liable for the judgment if Grande does not prevail on appeal", they insisted, "but that such liability is obviated if Grande satisfies the judgment itself".

And as for the interest issue, the legal filing simply said: "The amount of Grande's bond does not account for post-judgment interest".

So, with all that in mind, the music companies would like the court to reject Grande's current proposal.


Setlist back next week
CMU's podcast Setlist returns on Monday after a short August break, with Andy Malt and Chris Cooke discussing YouTube's Music AI Incubator, the three principles that the Google company has set out for developing music AI tools and platforms, and Universal Music's involvement in all that.

They'll also discuss the letter recently sent to the boss of US collecting society BMI by various organisations representing songwriters. That letter set out lots of questions about BMI's decision to become a for-profit enterprise and the recent reports it is close to selling itself to a private equity outfit.

To get every edition of Setlist in your podcast feed as it goes live, make sure you subscribe.


BMG has promoted Tony Abner to Global General Counsel and EVP Business & Legal Affairs. Abner joined the company in 2018 as VP Business & Legal Affairs, becoming SVP Business & Legal Affairs in 2020.

Morrison Hotel Gallery - the music photography gallery with locations in New York and LA - has announced former Sony Music exec Adam Block as its new CEO. "I'm deeply honoured to be stepping into the role of CEO at Morrison Hotel Gallery, a beacon of artistry in the world of music photography", he says. "I've long taken pleasure and pride in advocating for and championing artists across the spectrum of mediums. Focusing my energy on photographers just feels like a very natural extension of that work". Former Concord CEO Scott Pascucci has also been announced as Executive Chairman.

Rights management software platform TCAT has appointed Harry Lawrence as Head Of Sales and Donna Kei joins as the new Head Of Marketing. Lawrence joins from Lickd, while Kei moves over from Netflix.



Ed Sheeran has announced that he will release new album 'Autumn Variations' - his second LP of 2023 - on 29 Sep. Like recent album 'Subtract', it was produced by The National's Aaron Dessner. Sheeran says that the record was inspired by Elgar's 'Enigma Variations'. "Each of the four compositions were about a different one of his friends", he says. "This is what inspired me to make this album. When I recorded 'Subtract' with Aaron Dessner, we clicked immediately. We wrote and recorded non-stop and this album was born out of that partnership. I feel he has captured the feeling of autumn so wonderfully in his sonics and I hope everyone loves it as much as I do".

Selena Gomez has released new single 'Single Soon'.

The Killers have released new single 'Your Side Of Town'. "It's got the ghosts of a lot of the synth music that inspired us over the years", say the band. "And yet, somehow, feels completely our own".

Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.


Fyre Festival II pre-sale tickets sell out
The first batch of tickets for Fyre Festival II have sold out. On one hand, that's not particularly impressive, as only 100 tickets were released. On the other hand, how the hell did they convince 100 people to fork out $499 a piece for Fyre Festival tickets?

"The first Fyre Festival II drop has sold out", announced founder Billy McFarland on Twitter earlier this week, not long after confirming that the initial batch of tickets were on sale.

"Since 2016 Fyre has been the most talked about festival in the world", his tweet added. "We now saw this convert to one of the highest-priced [general admission] pre-sales in the industry".

Let's not forget that the original Fyre Festival has been one of the "most talked about festivals in the world" because of how dramatically the event collapsed before it had even started.

Billed as a luxury event in the Bahamas, ticket holders arrived to find that not even basic facilities were in place and, as a result, the festival never actually got underway. McFarland then ended up in prison for fraud related to his financing of the event.

"Fyre is about people from around the world coming together to pull off the impossible", he continued. "This time we have incredible support. I'll be doing what I love while working with the best logistical and infrastructure partners. In addition, all ticket sale revenue will be held in escrow until the final date is announced".

Yes, well, I suppose that's something. Although quite a lot went wrong with the last festival between the dates being announced and those dates actually arriving.

Still, McFarland goes on: "We look forward to surprising the world alongside our partners as we build Fyre and Fyre Festival II into the island adventure of a lifetime".

Yup, yup, yup. Of course, the first Fyre Festival could be described as a once in a lifetime island adventure. So that's not necessarily a good thing.

In a video update yesterday McFarland said that "the past 72 hours has completely changed my life", telling his Twitter followers that after those first 100 tickets sold out, 6900 people added themselves to the waiting list for more.

"Thank you guys for all the love, thank you guys for all the hate", he concluded. "Together you are creating absolutely the perfect storm and I can't wait to give the rest of you a front row seat as I fly right through it".

What could possibly go wrong?


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