• BREAKING NEWS: Government Backs Agent of Change for Venues

     

    The British government is to write the ‘agent of change’ principle into planning law, in an announcement hailed by UK Music as a “seismic victory” for grassroots venues.

    Housing secretary Sajid Javid announced yesterday that the National Planning Framework with which local authorities are legally bound to comply, will be amended to include “detailed reference” to agent of change, making housing developers building new homes near UK venues responsible for addressing potential noise issues for example.

    Javid said: “Music venues play a vital role in our communities, bringing people together and contributing to the local economy and supporting the country’s grass roots music culture. I have always thought it unfair that the burden is on long-standing music venues to solve noise issues when property developers choose to build nearby”.

    Javid continued: “That’s why I consulted on this in February last year as part of the Housing White Paper. I am pleased to finally have an opportunity to right this wrong and also give more peace of mind to new residents moving into local properties”.

    The move follows significant industry campaigning on the issue from trade bodies including UK Music, Music Venues Trust and the Musicians Union. Last week, Labour MP and former Government minister John Spellar tabled a proposed new law in the House of Commons, which would mean developers would have to take account of the impact of any new scheme on pre-existing businesses before going ahead with their plans. The Spellar Bill has now been put on hold in light of the Government’s announcements.

    UK Music CEO Michael Dugher said: “This is a seismic victory for all those who fought so hard to safeguard the future of music venues across the UK – from grassroots community activists to Britain’s global music stars who have spent years calling for Agent of Change and recently supported the Spellar Bill”.

    Dugher added: “It’s great that ministers have listened and are prepared to work with UK Music and others from the industry, including the Music Venue Trust, to make sure grassroots venues get the support and protections they need”.

    Various MPs, artists and industry execs convened last Wednesday outside of Parliament to back the changes, so the scramble to take credit for the win is well underway, both across industry and the political community. But we should not let that detract from celebrating a hugely positive common sense move from the Government.

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  • Sigrid is the Sound of 2018

    The singer is signed to Island and made a splash in 2017 with the ‘Don’t Kill My Vibe EP which racked up more than 100 million global streams and secured Radio One playlist support.

    Sigrid was chosen by a panel of more than 170 somewhat shadowy “music experts and tastemakers”.

    This year’s longlist included the likes of Rex Orange County, Khalid, Pale Waves and IAMDDB.

    Sigrid said: “It’s a lot to take in to have won something as prestigious as BBC Music Sound Of. I feel honoured as there are so many other artists I look up to who have won this before me, and honestly, I’m just really happy and proud of what my team and I have achieved together. I’m from a small town called Ålesund in Norway. I’m still 21 and it’s quite crazy to get this recognition. I’m very excited about the year ahead and sharing new music with everyone. I want to thank the panel for voting and the team involved in BBC Music Sound Of 2018.”

    Radio 1 DJ Annie Mac added: “Sigrid is one of those really special artists making quality, exciting and feisty – yet fragile – pop songs that are an absolute pleasure to play on the radio. Sigrid is an incredibly talented performer and songwriter and so very deserving of the Sound Of 2018 crown. I’m really looking forward to watching her rise.”

    The ‘Sound of’ poll was launched in 2003 and has proved to be a mixed blessing for some, with previous winners including the likes of Adele and Sam Smith alongside Little Boots and The Bravery.

    The BBC is also promoting a live show on 30th Jan from Maida Vale. The imaginatively titled ‘Sound of 2018 live’ will feature Sigrid alongside Pale Waves, Rex Orange County and Years and Years, who won in 2015 and are back in some kind of victory lap move.

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  • YouTube Rollout Streaming Service

     

    YouTube is planning to launch its Red subscription service in “dozens” more countries this year. According to an interview with French Newspaper Les Echoes, the Google-owned video platform’s Chief Business Officer Robert Kyncl said that new deals with Universal Music and others would help a wider rollout of the paid tier.

    Launched in 2015 to replace former YouTube music subscription service Music Key, YouTube Red is currently available in the US, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea. Subscribers gain ad-free access to the whole YouTube site, alongside exclusive content.

    Kyncl said that Universal Music’s recently announced deal with YouTube provides “licences to distribute their catalogue on the free and paid part of our platform and all over the world”, adding that other deals were in the pipeline, meaning that Red Will be launched in “dozens of markets” this year.

    Interesting- especially with Facebook recently inking more licensing agreements for its music offering. The social media giant recently announced that in addition to Universal and Sony / ATV, they have reached agreements with SESAC’s HFA/Rumblefish platform, Kobalt Music Publishing and Irving Azoff’s Global Music Rights.

    YouTube is also reportedly considering launching a music specific streaming service in March. Codenamed ‘Remix’ this will combine a Spotify style paid audio with video clips and will possibly replace Google’s ‘Play Music’ offering. The question is why and the answer is quite simply because they can- be prepared to go into 2018 completely dazzled by options for streaming services. The true battleground now is curation, personalised playlists and music tailored to different experiences and times of the day and Spotify are certainly winning on this front so far.

     

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  • Live Nation Litigation Settled

    Live Nation has acquired the remaining assets of Songkick in an £80m settlement that will end the long-standing legal battle between the two companies.

    Concert discovery and ticketing firm Songkick, which merged with CrowdSurge in 2015 originally sued Live Nation and its subsidiary Ticketmaster, alleging the firms “exploited their monopoly power” by engaging in anti-competitive behaviour. The promoting giant was accused of pressuring touring artists and concert venues to not work with Songkick on concert pre-sales.

    The lawsuit then took a new turn and became a whole lot juicier after Songkick filed an amended complaint accusing a former CrowdSurge employee, who went on to work for Ticketmaster, of hacking and stealing trade secrets.

    The case was scheduled to go to trial this month. However, Live Nation and Complete Entertainment Resources Group, Inc (CERG), which is the entity formerly known as Songkick, have now announced that Live Nation has acquired certain assets from CERG, including CERG’s ticketing platform, anti-scalping algorithm, API applications and patent portfolio.

    Joe Berchtold, President of Live Nation: “We are pleased that we were able to resolve this dispute and avoid protracted and costly legal proceedings, while also acquiring valuable assets”.

    Bully for you, mate.

    In summer 2017, it was announced that Warner Music Group had snapped up the Songkick app and brand and shut down its ticketing operation in the autumn- citing the conduct of Live Nation and Ticketmaster as the key factor.

    Also this week, Live Nation announced that its global acquisition rampage continues apace, with the major company purchasing a majority interest in previously independent US promoter Frank Productions.

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  • Are the BRITS doing enough?

    The nominations for next month’s BRIT awards have been announced, with Dua Lipa leading the way with five nominations, Ed Sheeran up for four awards and Rag’N’Bone Man and J Hus picking up nominations for three each.

    On the one hand, Dua Lipa’s total makes her the most nominated female artist in a single year at the BRITs. On the other, she is the only female performer booked to play at the ceremony at The O2 on 21st Feb, as recently highlighted by Paloma Faith. The line-up includes Ed Sheeran, Foo Fighters, Rag’n’Bone Man, Sam Smith, and Stormzy.

    Surely, we can do better than this?

    The BRITS rightly sought to address the #BritsSoWhite outcry in 2015 with an overhaul of the voting panel last year but this didn’t amount to much- Nominations for the likes of Kano, Skepta, Stormzy, Michael Kiwanuka, Craig David and Anohni saw those artists ultimately get passed over.

    This time, the likes of Stormzy, J Hus and Dave, Loyle Carner, Sampha, and Dua Lipa as serious contenders seems to suggest that the BRITs is embracing the diversity evident in modern pop. But the proof is in the pudding.

    Diversity is the most important conversation in our industry and it feels like we’re approaching a flashpoint of real change, with unacceptable and entrenched attitudes being called out and a great deal of will to make the modern music industry the progressive and inclusive place that it should be. Organisations such as Women in Music, Lets be the Change and networks such as the Network of Women in Events (NOWIE) have made great strides.

    This cannot be tokenistic in approach but you do not get anywhere without quotas and this applies to everything from festival line-ups to industry conferences.

    As the supposed flagship of the commercial music industry, if the BRITS is not reflecting this drive towards diversity then frankly it is failing and will struggle to shake claims that it is simply no longer relevant.

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  • Lana Del Reydiohead Ruckus

    Another year, another music industry lawsuit, as Radiohead prepare to reportedly see Lana Del Rey in Court, suing the singer for allegedly ripping off their breakthrough single, Creep.

    The British band are widely reported to be taking action over similarities between that track andGet Free’, the closing track of Del Rey’s 2017 album Lust For Life.

    Lana Del ray tweeted earlier in the week: “It’s true about the lawsuit. Although I know my song wasn’t inspired by Creep, Radiohead feel it was and want 100% of the publishing”. The singer added that she had offered the band 40% of the publishing but that lawyers had been “relentless” (as lawyers tend to be in these matters).

    The plot thickened yesterday when Radiohead publisher Warner / Chappell issued a statement denying the lawsuit but confirming they are seeking writing credits, with a spokesperson saying: “As Radiohead’s music publisher, it’s true that we’ve been in discussions since August of last year with Lana Del Rey’s representatives. It’s clear that the verses of ‘Get Free’ use musical elements found in the verses of ‘Creep’ and we’ve requested that this be acknowledged in favour of all writers of ‘Creep’. To set the record straight, no lawsuit has been issued and Radiohead have not said they “will only accept 100%” of the publishing of ‘Get Free’”.

    Creep has an interesting history, as Radiohead themselves were successfully sued by The Hollies over Creep’s similarities to ‘The Air That I Breathe’. Subsequently, Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood are listed as co-writers and share royalties on the track.

    Its the latest in a string of similar lawsuits, including Ed Sheeran settling out of court with other songwriters after similarities were found between his song Photograph and X Factor winner Matt Cardle’s song ‘Amazing’.

    As widely reported, Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams were successfully sued in 2015 by the estate of Marvin Gaye in for $7.4m, after a jury ruled that Blurred Lines plagiarised Gaye’s track Got to Give It Up.

    Whether intentional or not, there are only so many chord progressions and song structures in the world but at least this is all keeping music industry lawyers and musicologists in business.

    Sources:

    • http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-39556351).

     

     

     

     

     

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  • Mind the (pay) gap

    Music companies in the UK of a certain size will legally have to reveal their gender pay gap statistics in April.

    Firms with 250 employees and over will soon have to publish statutory calculations every year showing how large the pay gap is between their male and female employees. While much of the industry is made up of smaller businesses, that threshold will easily include all major labels and some large live promoters. Such companies will be carefully considering how to present themselves in the best light on any disparity.

    The requirement is mandatory and was introduced by the Government’s Equalities Office and workplace relations and employment law advisory body ACAS in 2017.

    The issue is hugely topical and has already caused controversy with the BBC China Editor Carrie Gracey (pictured) resigning week in protest of the disparity between male and female journalists (link to) and stating that she “could not collude” in pay discrimination.

    The BBC was already under fire for revelations about the gender pay gap when it released the earnings figures of its top talent- with many male employees earning more than their female counterparts in similar positions.

    The UK Music Diversity survey revealed in 2016 that between the ages of 25 and 34, women account for 54.5% of the music workforce. That number dropped to 41.4% in the 35-to-44 age range and to 32.7% between 45-and-64.

    Overall, in 2016, the UK gender pay gap across all sectors was 9.4% (with female wages 9.4% less than the average male wage) for full-time workers – and 18.1% when all staff were considered.

    It will be interesting to see what the picture is at those larger music companies in April. Gender equality on all levels is rightfully a huge conversation right now and issues that are likely to be brought into focus include the enduring lack of women in senior executive roles, working culture and what support companies offer to new parents- Spotify famously offers staff six months parental leave on full pay, and Facebook does so for four but this is an approach unlikely to be mirrored across the music sector.

    Sources:

    • https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/01/08/576405509/bbc-veteran-quits-china-editor-post-to-protest-gender-pay-gap
    • http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-40661179

     

     

     

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  • The Best of Times, the Worst of Times…

    As the music industry rumbles into 2018 with headline retail growth of almost 10%, we ponder the key issues and cut through the hyperbole to map out where we go from here.

    All of the vital signs are positive – Spotify announced at the beginning of the year that, as it heads towards an IPO, it has added 10m subscribers in the past five months, bringing its total to over 70m paying customers worldwide.  According to the Entertainment Retailers’ Association (ERA), the UK has announced recorded music revenue figures for 2017, with headline retail growth of almost 10%.  ERA announced a 9.6% rise in UK retail spending on music last year – up to £1.2bn, driven unsurprisingly by a dramatic rise in subscription streaming of 42%.  9.6% is more double the rate of the 3.5% increase experienced in the previous year and the live industry continues to boom, generating £4bn in direct and indirect spending in 2016 according to UK Music’s ‘Wish you were here’ report.

    Separate figures from the BPI demonstrate that streaming now accounts for more than half of UK music consumption, fuelling the fastest growth in consumption this millennium.  Bring on the hyperbole – The BPI bangs its drum and proclaims a “Tipping Point” with Chief Executive Geoff Taylor saying: “Demand for music in the UK is growing fast, driven by brilliant British artists such as Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith, Rag‘n’Bone Man, Little Mix, Stormzy and Dua Lipa and the innovative music industry that supports them” and various publications scrambling around proclaiming a streaming revolution. You’re a little late to the party mate.

    These developments are positive and working in the industry certainly feels much less like arranging the deckchairs on the titanic as it did in the early days of online piracy. There is at least now a chance to steer the ship and it was always clear that streaming was the long game that now hopefully looks like it is going to pay off on a global level – especially once it truly cracks emerging markets like China and Africa.

    Back in the UK, it would be foolhardy for the industry to start thinking it is returning to the heady heights of 2001, a mere 16 years ago in which the industry was worth £2.11bn.  Of course, “We’re in a different kind of thing now” to quote one of my favourite tracks of last year, ‘The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness’ by The National, themselves a trend defying slow burning indie success. The musical landscape, indeed the world is immeasurably different, more connected, transformed by technology with consumer habits rapidly evolving.

    2017 was also propped up by some huge selling UK pop releases, not least Ed Sheeran et al. referenced above and serious challenges lie ahead from solving the value gap created by YouTube to remaining nimble and maximising the potential of reaching new audiences through streaming, voice activation and smart devices in the home and AR and VR.  It is an exciting time but having allowed itself a brief air punch, the music industry will need to work harder, better, faster and stronger to sustain and hopefully surpass these results in 2018.

    Sources:

    • https://eraltd.org/news-events/press-releases/2018/streaming-boom-powers-entertainment-market-to-new-all-time-high-of-724bn-in-2017/
    • https://www.ukmusic.org/research/music-tourism-wish-you-were-here-2017/
    • https://www.bpi.co.uk/news-analysis/rising-uk-music-consumption-enjoys-fastest-growth-this-millennium/
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  • Swift Sales Defy Streaming Critics

    In our previous edition, The Gen questioned the wisdom of Taylor Swift’s team in withholding the star’s latest album ‘Reputation’ from streaming platforms. In our view, ‘windowing’ is short sighted and an invitation to access the album through piracy or more likely, user uploads to YouTube.

    In fact, the album has still not appeared on streaming platforms and has become the biggest selling album of 2017 in one week, with 1.2m units shifted in the US according to the Official Charts Company

    Swift has in fact smashed all of the records and is the only artist to achieve four million-selling weeks since their data gatherers Nielsen started electronically tracking sales in 1991. ‘Reputation’ is the first album to sell over one million copies in a single week in America since Adele’s ‘25’ shifted 1.157 million during its fifth week on-sale.

    The Gen’s original points still stand- windowing is bad for business and will encourage some fans to seek out the album by alternative and illegitimate means. This is no rewriting of the rulebook but Swift is clearly in a rare stratosphere of success in which rules don’t really apply and phenomenal sales will be achieved anyway. Its interesting to note that Swift hasn’t entirely steered clear of digital thus far- a partnership with UPS reportedly meant that those ordering the album also received three digital copies to gift to friends.

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  • Sweden Shaken by Sexual Assaults

    A few weeks ago, The Gen asked if the music industry has a Weinstein problem as sexual assault scandals began to engulf Hollywood. This week, almost 2,000 women working in the Swedish music industry have alleged that they have experienced sexual assault, harassment or overt sexism during their career and signed an open letter calling for urgent change.

    The story broke via Swedish Newspaper Dagens Nyhter and was subsequently reported on extensively by Music Business Worldwide. 

    The Swedish petition is signed by 1,993 women who work as producers, songwriters, artist managers, A&Rs, booking agents, publishers and artists including Robyn (pictured), First Aid Kit and Zara Larsson.

    Others featured amongst the 1,993 signees – who have all given their names – include both junior and senior executives at all three major labels, as well as people working at independent record companies, publishers, live promoters and booking agents.

    The open letter contains a series of anonymised stories from some of the women containing historical allegations of abuse and criminality by powerful male industry figures, including allegations of rape and attempted rape by executives and musicians.

    The letter cites “excerpts from hundreds of testimonies” and states: “In the music industry, we work around the clock, often with unsafe and temporary employment. Being courteous and not worrying becomes extra important… this makes women in the music industry targets for power demonstrations that are often of a sexual nature.

    It continues: “We live in a life… where we are objectified and where sexual abuse and harassment are more common than [not]. If we report these events [the result] is words speaking against words… we tie our fists into our pockets and rarely mention [these incidents]. Silence culture prevails. But we will no longer be silent… We demand zero tolerance against sexual exploitation and violence”.

    A leading major label executive in the Swedish music business has subsequently been suspended following multiple serious allegations of sexually harassing young women.

    In related news, the UK’s Musicians’ Union has announced that, at a meeting with its counterparts from across the Nordic region in Stockholm last week, it was agreed that tackling sexual harassment and abuse in the music industry must now be made a priority. The MU recently ran a series of meetings in London and Manchester to discuss the issues of sexual assault and harassment in the music industry.

    Commenting on these meetings, MU Assistant General Secretary Naomi Pohl said: “The feeling around the table was a wish that we had realised the scale of the problem earlier, so we could have intervened and acted on behalf of victims and survivors of sexism, sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse at work”.

    Pohl continued: “While abuse of power occurs in all industries, in the entertainment industries there is the carrot and stick of success and exclusion that makes the imbalance of power especially stark and open to abuse. While we regularly deal with such cases for MU members, they are individual, isolated from a bigger picture and often subject to confidentiality agreements that end up protecting the victim but also the perpetrator, masking the true scale of the problem”.

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