|TUESDAY 29 AUGUST 2023||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The future of the Brixton Academy will be considered at a two day licensing hearing later this month. Councillors will consider whether Live Nation's Academy Music Group should be allowed to continue running the South London venue following last year's crowd crush incident in which two people died... [READ MORE]|
Lambeth Council to consider future of Brixton Academy at two day hearing this month
The Night Time Industries Association says that the upcoming meeting of Lambeth Council's licensing sub-committee will be a "critical moment" for the venue, adding that the Brixton Academy and AMG will "require as much support as possible throughout this hearing".
Concert-goer Rebecca Ikumelo and Gaby Hutchinson, who was part of the security team at the venue, both died during the crowd crush, which occurred at a sold-out Asake gig at the Brixton Academy last December. A third person remains in a serious condition in hospital.
The venue has been closed ever since the incident, with London's Metropolitan Police recommending that Lambeth Council revoke AMG's licence to operate the building. Officers criticised the live music company's response to the crowd crush and its proposals for safely re-opening the venue, adding that they had "lost confidence in the premises licence holder".
AMG countered that it had "co-operated fully with the Metropolitan Police and Lambeth Council since the tragedy at Brixton occurred", and that it had "presented detailed proposals that we believe will enable the venue to re-open safely".
Confirming the two-day hearing later this month, a post on Lambeth Council's website on Friday stated: "The shocking incident at the venue claimed the lives of two people and left a third in a critical condition. A full licensing hearing must take place before any proposals to re-open the venue can be considered".
"A two day licensing hearing to consider the future of the venue's licence will be held at Lambeth Town Hall in Brixton on 11 Sep and 12 Sep", it then explained. "The meeting, of Lambeth's licensing sub-committee, will be attended by key parties, including the venue's representatives and the Metropolitan Police, and will be streamed online".
"There are currently two outstanding [licensing] applications in relation to the venue", it added, "a licence variation submitted by the venue's operator and a licence review submitted by the Metropolitan Police, both of which will be considered by the licensing sub-committee meeting".
Commenting on last year's crowd crush incident and the upcoming review, Lambeth Councillor Mahamed Hashi said: "Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Rebecca Ikumelo and Gaby Hutchinson who lost their lives, as well as with the person who is still in hospital, and all those suffering the trauma of witnessing such distressing scenes at one of our borough's live music venues".
"We are determined to use the powers we have available to us to make sure the lessons of this tragedy are learnt", he added, "and that we never see a traumatic incident like this again in Lambeth".
The NTIA has been working with the Save Our Scene initiative on a campaign in support of the Brixton Academy, urging Lambeth Council to ensure that the venue re-opens.
It said last week: "We have finally received the news that the licensing review hearing will take place on the 11/12 Sep 2023 in Lambeth Town Hall. This is a critical moment for the venue as it will determine its future, and will require as much support as possible throughout this hearing".
NTIA urged as many of the venue's supporters as possible to request to speak during the hearing. The trade group stated: "We are asking as many people as possible to respond and request the opportunity to speak at the hearing. The more voices and people attending the stronger the representation".
US Copyright Office declines to review mechanical copying compulsory licence
The compulsory licence - sometimes referred to as the Section 115 licence - means that anyone can make a mechanical copy of a song in the US without getting bespoke permission from its writer or publisher, providing they go through the administrative process set out in the compulsory licence and pay royalties at rates set by the US Copyright Royalty Board.
As well as covering the pressing of physical recordings of songs, the licence also applies to the copying element of a stream. This means that, whereas in most other countries streaming services negotiate deals with either publishers or collecting societies to license the copying element of each stream, in the US they can rely on the compulsory licence and the rates set by the CRB.
There have been various controversies in relation to the compulsory licence in recent years, including disputes over the rates that should be charged for both physical discs and streams, and also in relation to the administration of the licence in the context of streaming.
The 2018 Music Modernization Act - which resulted in the creation of the aforementioned MLC - sought to address the administration issues. Meanwhile, thanks to persistent campaigning - not least by Johnson - the CRB has increased the royalties due under the licence on both discs and streams.
However, despite the royalty rate increases, there remains some debate in the songwriter community as to why the compulsory licence even exists, especially in the streaming domain, given streaming services are more than capable of negotiating direct licensing deals on the open market.
In a letter to the Copyright Office back in June, Johnson noted that the compulsory licence was originally introduced all the way back in 1909 for the sale of piano rolls, the concept of mechanical rights having begun with the sale of player pianos.
Back then, he wrote, it could not have been anticipated that that compulsory licence would ultimately be "used billions of times, by the largest trillion-dollar corporations in the history of the world, with teams of attorneys".
While the Copyright Office has reviewed the role of the compulsory licence before, Johnson also noted the major changes that have occurred in the way music is consumed over the last decade.
"Unfortunately", he stated, "those [previous] studies are now outdated and considering the vast changes in the delivery of musical works and sound recordings, experts now think a new study would be very helpful".
Responding to that letter last week, the Copyright Office wrote: "As you know, the section 115 licence was previously explored by the Office and it was recently amended by Congress as part of the Music Modernization Act".
"As the changes made to the licence through the MMA have been effective only for the past two and a half years, the Office believes that it would be premature at this time to engage in a new study of the section 115 licence".
The letter then noted a previous report it published in 2015 which acknowledged that "many parties have called for either the complete elimination or modernisation of section 115".
At the time, it added, the Copyright Office opted for reform instead of repeal because "it was … concerned that eliminating the licence would cause extraordinary difficulties associated with negotiating individual licences for the millions of musical works offered on digital music providers' services".
The letter concluded: "Although we do not intend to undertake a new study of the section 115 licence at this time, we want to remind you that the Office welcomes input from stakeholders and members of the public to better inform our decision-making. I would like to thank you again for your letter and any additional views that you may wish to provide to the Office in the future".
The Copyright Office is obliged to review the entity that administrates the compulsory licence in the streaming domain - ie the MLC - every five years, with the first review due to take place next year. It seems likely that, once that review is underway, songwriters will again urge the Copyright Office to consider not just how the compulsory licence is being managed, but the compulsory licence itself.
Songwriter groups again ask for information about the pending BMI private equity sale
In the new letter, the Black Music Action Coalition, the Music Artists Coalition, Songwriters Of North America, the Artist Rights Alliance and American performers union SAG-AFTRA note that BMI CEO Mike O'Neill has so far not answered any of the questions they posed in another letter sent earlier this month.
Most of the music industry's collecting societies are not-for-profit organisations owned by their members, so usually a combination of artists, songwriters, record labels and/or music publishers. BMI, however, is actually owned by a group of broadcasters, but it nevertheless operated on a not-for-profit basis until last year.
The shift to becoming a for-profit entity followed a review in which BMI considered whether anyone would be interested in buying the society. Initially, it decided not to proceed with any sale but still became a for-profit business. It then emerged last month that talks were back on with possible buyers, with New Mountain Capital being reported as a preferred bidder last week.
In their letter earlier this month, the songwriter groups asked O'Neill for clarification on BMI's current profitability and the extent to which the introduction of a profit margin is impacting on the fees and commissions the society charges on the royalties it collects for its member writers and publishers.
They also wanted to know who will benefit from the profits of any sale of BMI and what impact a new owner might have on the running of the society moving forward.
O'Neill responded quickly to the letter, but without actually answering any of the questions in it. Instead, he repeated the rationale previously given for becoming a for-profit entity - mainly that it would allow BMI to seek investment to enhance and grow the business - and insisted that songwriters will benefit from that move and any future sale.
He also noted that since shifting to a for-profit model, BMI's royalty distributions to members had increased.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, the songwriter groups were not impressed by O'Neill's generic response and failure to actually answer the questions they had posed. Questions which, from a songwriter perspective, are all the more pressing given the reports that an acquisition deal is now close to being agreed with New Mountain Capital.
In the new letter, published by Billboard, the groups state: "We were extremely disappointed and upset to read the announcement of BMI's sale to New Mountain Capitol. Songwriters have real questions and deserve real answers before any further action is taken".
"While we appreciated you responding to our letter, all of our questions went unanswered", they go on. "Your response was that distributions went up last year. Of course distributions went up - all [collecting societies'] revenue went up".
"This does not answer any of our questions", they add. "And, it does not explain where the $145 million [in earnings] - as reported by Billboard - came from and why that money was not distributed to songwriters".
Noting rumours that the New Mountain Capital deal has not yet closed, they then write: "Prior to taking any other action, we are giving you another opportunity to provide songwriters with real, substantive answers to the questions we posed".
Responding to the new letter, a BMI spokesperson told Billboard: "Relying on the past has never sustained a business for the future. Our goal is to stay ahead of the changing industry and invest in our business to grow the value of our affiliates' music".
"Any path forward would prioritise the best interests of our songwriters, composers and publishers, including their financial success", they went on. "Our focus is on delivering for our affiliates".
Given that statement has basically been pulled out of the same bucket of waffle as O'Neill's previous response, it seems unlikely that the songwriter groups will be placated.
Indeed, the songwriters might argue that "prioritising" their interests also involves ensuring that they are properly informed about how the society to which they have entrusted their copyrights is being managed.
We wait to see if any more useful information is made available by BMI in the days ahead.
Festival industry overstating environmental impact of audience travel, study finds
The research does show that audience travel is the largest contributor to the overall carbon footprint of events at large. However, on average it accounts for 41% of emissions. This can vary greatly between events though, ranging from between 18% and 76%, depending on various factors, including the size, location and nature of a festival. For UK events specifically, the average is just under 50%.
Other studies often come out with higher percentages for audience travel by failing to report the impact of other sources of carbon emissions, says AGF.
This, of course, then places more responsibility on individual festival-goers for the sustainability of an event. However, many emissions come as a result of production and planning decisions in the run up to and during a festival.
Artist, production and trader transport, while not as significant as ticket holder transport, does also make up a significant portion of emissions. When combined, transport as a whole accounts for more than 58% on average across UK and European events.
After audience travel, by far the largest source of emissions is food and drink, which on average accounts for just over 34%. This is significantly reduced at events that have adopted plant-based policies.
"We love festivals, their contribution to culture and their potential to show alternative ways of living", says AGF CEO Claire O'Neill. "It's important to have a fuller picture to understand their carbon footprints".
"Focus for event sustainability is often on waste, cups and audience travel. Whilst clearly important, this is a narrow view missing broader impacts. This can delay important decisions at the planning and design stage, such as moving away from animal and other high impact food and drinks".
While A Greener Future's new report does look deeper at the environmental impact of music festivals than other studies, the organisation says that there is still further research to be done.
Carbon footprint studies do not provide any insight into other aspects of festivals, such as light and noise pollution, habitat disturbance and pollution on site.
These require biodiversity and environmental impact assessments, and AGF is now inviting industry groups, festivals and other sustainability organisations to collaborate in order to gain a clearer picture of how the various different negative impacts of music festivals could be addressed.
Eminem tells Republican presidential hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy to stop using his music
Political newcomer and entrepreneur Ramaswamy has been gaining attention as one of the people hoping to stand as the Republican candidate in the next US presidential election with his efforts to pander to Donald Trump's core base. After a debate between those hopefuls - aside from Trump himself - last week, most American news media concluded that Ramaswamy gave the most Trump-like performance.
In general, the journalists and commentators connecting Ramaswamy to Trump were doing so based on his combative approach to the debate and his willingness to make the kind of statements that go down well with the Trump base while annoying plenty of other people.
However - given how many artists have expressed annoyance at Trump making use of their music at his political events - Ramaswamy already annoying Eminem is another connection. Even if Ramaswamy is actually an Eminem fan, whereas you never felt Trump had any actual interest in the artists whose music he used, beyond the way their songs got the MAGA crowd roused.
Ramaswamy declared during last week's debate: "God is real. There are two genders. Fossil fuels are a requirement for human prosperity. Reverse racism is racism. An open border is not a border. Parents determine the education of their children. The nuclear family is the greatest form of governance known to man. Capitalism lifts us up from poverty".
This all seems like a political agenda that many musicians would want to distance themselves from. Although, in Eminem's case, there is another video doing the rounds that he might prefer not to see a repeat of. Joining Iowa's Republican Governor Kim Reynolds on stage at the Iowa State Fair earlier this month, Ramaswamy didn't just walk on stage to Eminem's 'Lose Yourself', he insisted on joining in.
As we learned after a plethora of artists hit out at Donald Trump for using their music at his rallies - although live events utilise blanket licences from the music industry's collecting societies which often make it hard for writers to exercise any veto - with political events in the US there is actually the option for writers to stop their music from being used.
Eminem's collecting society, BMI, has told Ramaswamy that the rapper's music is now excluded from the licence it has issued to the presidential hopeful's campaign.
In a letter published by the Daily Mail, BMI states that, having issued the Ramaswamy campaign with a licence back in May, it "has received a communication from Marshall B Mathers II, professionally known as Eminem, objecting to the Vivek Ramaswamy campaign's use of Eminem's musical compositions and requesting that BMI remove all Eminem works from the agreement".
"As such", the letter continues, "pursuant to paragraph 2(a) of the agreement, this letter serves as notice that the Eminem works are excluded from the agreement effective immediately. BMI will consider any performance of the Eminem works by the Vivek 2024 campaign from this date forward to be a material breach of the agreement for which BMI reserves all rights and remedies with respect thereto".
In an article last week, New Yorker journalist Jay Caspian Kang concluded that Ramaswamy is not really the next Trump - despite what other media have said - because, whereas the former President "inspired fear in his political enemies", Ramaswamy isn't seen as a "credible threat". He added: "I have a hard time believing that Ramaswamy actually cares about the red-meat MAGA positions that he tries to co-opt".
I've no idea about any of that, but Ramaswamy is definitely not adopting the Trump approach when it comes to dealing with pissed off musicians. In that his campaign seems to be responding to BMI's letter by complying with Eminem's wishes without issuing any diss about the rapper. Though, I guess if Ramaswamy is an actual fan, dissing Eminem in that way would be a harder thing to do.
Anyway, referencing both Ramaswamy's recent rapping at the Iowa State Fair and the resulting letter from BMI, a spokesperson for his campaign told reporters: "Vivek just got on the stage and cut loose. To the American people's chagrin, we will have to leave the rapping to the real Slim Shady".
Exeter radio station launches Christmas songs service - yes, in August
Yeah, it's August and I just tuned in to hear Shakin Stevens sing 'Merry Christmas Everyone'. And if that wasn't bad enough, they've called this new service Radio ExeMas.
Commenting, Radio Exe presenter Matt Rogers told RadioToday: "Whilst I'd simply love to play non-stop Christmas songs on Radio Exe, Mr Scrooge who runs the station has kiboshed that. Radio ExeMas is the solution though, so whenever you fancy a festive fix, select it on your digital radio".
However, don't be thinking Radio ExeMas is the only back-to-back Christmas songs radio station on offer right now. Global's Heart Xmas never turned off its online feed from last December.