|TUESDAY 2 JULY 2019||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Spotify has decided that having direct commercial relationships with DIY artists isn't such a good idea. And it's probably right. As such, the direct-upload tool for artists that the streaming firm began piloting last year will be wound down without ever going properly live... [READ MORE]|
Spotify abandons plans to offer direct-upload tools for artists
The market-leading streaming firm announced its decision last September to allow artists to directly upload music onto its platform. This played into the often told, if somewhat dubious, narrative that Spotify ultimately wants to become a record company in itself.
This, we are told, would weaken the power of the traditional labels and distributors, and allow the streaming firm to increase its profit margin. It would do so by taking some of the cut that would usually go to the label, while also paying the artist some of the label share too.
We knew that Spotify had directly licensed recordings from some bigger name artists who are now releasing their new material via management-led single-artist-labels. The direct-upload tool was seen as the streaming firm replicating that at the DIY end of the market.
Of course, while YouTube and SoundCloud have always allowed artists to directly upload their content, all the streaming services going this route would create a problem. Artists really need their music to be on all the streaming platforms in the world, and having to directly upload tracks onto each service separately would be a real inconvenience.
However, what if Spotify not only allowed you to directly upload music onto its platform, but also then pumped that music elsewhere, onto its rival services? The streaming firm's investment in and alliance with Distrokid could help make that happen. Meanwhile, SoundCloud put that concept to the test by allying with FUGA and likewise allowing artists who upload content to their site to opt for that music to also be pushed to other services too.
Even with that problem possibly solved, some questioned whether Spotify pushing ahead with its direct-upload plan was such a good idea. Not least because, by this point, more attention was being given to the trend of people using DIY distribution platforms to upload - and profit from - other people's music.
Spotify itself has been putting pressure on the distributors to do more to combat copyright infringement of this kind by making anti-piracy measures one of the criteria for getting onto the firm's preferred and recommended distributor lists.
Did Spotify really want to get into the messy business of monitoring uploads for pirated material itself, given that if leaked pop star tracks made their way online via Spotify's direct upload tool, that would make it a much bigger story. And if the pop star whose music was leaked went legal, could Spotify rely on the pesky safe harbour to avoid liability for the infringing upload? What about the soon-to-be-reformed safe harbour in Europe?
These are all technicalities and fun times that may have contributed to Spotify formally abandoning its direct-upload tool yesterday, it having only ever been available to a few hundred artists. Or maybe that particular tool is actually being shut down so that busy Spotify types can focus on evolving their playlist pitching platform and Spotify For Artists service, as the company claimed when announcing the direct-upload project was over yesterday.
The pilot had convinced Spotify, it said, that "the best way for us to serve artists and labels is to focus our resources on developing tools in areas where Spotify can uniquely benefit them - like Spotify For Artists and our playlist submission tool".
As for getting content into Spotify, the pilot suggested that "the most impactful way we can improve the experience of delivering music to Spotify for as many artists and labels as possible is to lean into the great work our distribution partners are already doing to serve the artist community".
"Over the past year", it added, "we've vastly improved our work with distribution partners to ensure metadata quality, protect artists from infringement, provide their users with instant access to Spotify For Artists, and more".
For the few hundred artists that had been involved in the direct-upload pilot, Spotify says it is helping those people transition their music to other distributors. Given most of those artists were presumably still using a distributor to get their music elsewhere, that shouldn't be too tricky. And if not, I'm sure Spotify's Distrokid buddies would be happy to help.
"Thank you to the artists who participated in our upload beta", the streaming service concluded. "We're incredibly proud to have played a small part in the music they released. Spotify wouldn't be what it is today without artists and labels who are willing to collaborate with us to build a better experience for creators and listeners".
Cliff Richard backs petition demanding anonymity until charge for those accused of sexual offences
The petition, on the Parliament website, says that such a rule would "provide balance in the criminal justice system since complainants have anonymity for life" and would "protect the reputations of all innocent suspects, whether well-known or not, from the lasting stigma of a false sexual allegation".
Richard and Gambaccini both have personal experience of being accused of sexual offences, of those accusations being subject to police investigations and intense media scrutiny, but said investigations never actually resulting in any charges.
Richard, of course, successfully sued the BBC over the way it reported on a police raid at his Berkshire home in 2014 which was linked to allegations of historical sexual abuse. A judge concluded that the BBC's coverage of the raid was in breach of the Human Rights Act, which says that "everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence".
However, the ruling in that case related to the context and style of the BBC's reporting on the police raid, not the fact it reported on the allegations made against the pop star even though police were yet to charge him - and, indeed, never did.
Of course, none of this is a new debate. There have long been discussions as to whether or not those accused of sexual offences should enjoy the same anonymity as alleged victims - and, indeed, at one point UK law actually provided anonymity to both parties.
Many argue that the problem with providing anonymity to alleged offenders is that it makes it harder for police to gather evidence, as witnesses and other victims may come forward once initial allegations of sexual assault are made public. Some also question why those accused of sexual assault should be treated any differently than those facing allegations of other kinds of assault, or indeed any other crime.
Those on the other side of the argument say that allegations of sexual assault are particularly damaging to the reputations of the accused, and that reputations can remain tarnished even when police decide not to press charges or the accused is found not-guilty in court. And, the petitioners would likely add, they are only seeking anonymity until the point that charges are made, after which allegations would be made public and those who could help police and prosecutors with their case could come forward.
According to the BBC, Richard, standing alongside Gambaccini outside Parliament, said: "We have both been through the mill. When you know you didn't do it, you feel you're in a hole you can't get out of". Asked about the possible negative impact of any new anonymity rule on victims of sexual assault, the musician added that they were seeking a "compromise" that would help "re-adjust the balance" that, he said, was currently stacked against the accused.
There are, unsurprisingly, critics of the new rule Richard and Gambaccini are proposing. Katie Russell of the charity Rape Crisis said yesterday: "It's current best practice for suspects not to be named publicly until after they've been charged with an offence, unless the police judge there to be a specific investigative reason for doing so. This was reviewed by the Home Secretary in relation to sexual offences only a few years ago, and it was concluded that there were no grounds for treating suspects in these cases differently".
"Rape Crisis agrees with [that] review's conclusion that there are no grounds for changing the law specifically in relation to those suspected of sexual violence and abuse crimes", she added. "Giving these suspects exceptional treatment compared to those suspected of similarly serious and stigmatising crimes would inevitably reinforce the public misconception ... that those suspected of sexual offences are more likely to have been falsely accused than those suspected of other types of crime".
In an interview earlier in the day with Radio 4's 'Today' programme, Gambaccini had said: "There are actually two crises [at the moment] - one is a sex abuse crisis and the other is a false allegation crisis. When you solicit more accusations, most of them turn out to be false". The new rule he and Richard are backing seeks to alleviate the negative impact of the latter crisis.
But in her response, Russell insisted that: "So-called false allegations of rape, sexual abuse and other sexual offences are rare, while experiences of sexual violence and abuse are far more common than most people appreciate. But disproportionate media focus on so-called false allegations, and the subsequent widespread myth that they are common, contribute to an environment in which it's very difficult for victims and survivors to talk about what's happened to them and seek the support and justice they want, need and deserve".
The petition launched yesterday has now been signed by more than 15,000 people. At 10,000 signatories the government is obliged to respond. More than 100,000 people need to sign up for the issue to be considered for a parliamentary debate.
Guildford venue successfully appeals noise abatement order after court applies the agent of change principle
Guildford Borough Council issued the noise abatement order last October against the Star Inn, a pub in the town that stages live music. The Council acted after receiving a complaint from the developer of a new block of flats nearby. The pub's owner, the Shepherd Neame brewery, appealed the order, arguing that complying with it would cost a significant portion of the business's revenue and could therefore potentially force the venue to close.
The complaining developer had, or course, chosen to convert an office block next to an existing music venue into a residential property. Common sense would say that if you choose to put new flats next to an existing music venue, then it's your responsibility to deal with any resulting issues with the noise that comes from that existing venue. Although in the past, when situations like this have arisen, common sense has not always prevailed.
Hence the ultimately successful agent of change campaign in the UK, that sought to amend the guidelines used by the planning committees of local authorities, so that those committees make it the responsibility of developers putting residential properties next to existing venues to both anticipate and counter any future noise issues.
Explaining the flow of logic behind the decision to quash Guildford Borough Council's noise abatement order in relation to the Star Inn, judge Nick Wattam stated: "The Star was said to have only been a nuisance because of [the new flats] existing. It wasn't a nuisance before the conversion of the office building into flats. The venue has a useful or reasonable use. Matters in the venue are carried out in a lawful way. The venue is no greater nuisance now than when the building was first converted".
The pub's general manager Georgina Baker told Surrey Live: "This has been going on for basically a year, so we've had a whole year of not knowing whether we can carry on with our music, whether we can keep booking bands".
She added that the real problem was a flawed system when the local council considered the planning application to convert an office block into flats all the way back in 2013. Officials should have recognised the potential issues with those new flats being adjacent to an existing venue and should have ensured that the developer was working to deal with those issues as part of the conversion work. Which, of course, is the kind of logic that the agent of change principle says planning committees should always employ.
Commenting on the court's decision to quash the noise abatement order, Baker added: "It's such a high, we had no idea which way the decision was going to go even until we adjourned today. It's so nice that we've now got the go-ahead, we can carry on, we can go back to doing our live music and our local bands - that's what the lifeblood of this pub is".
In a post on Facebook, the Music Venue Trust, which campaigned for agent of change alongside the likes of the Musicians Union and UK Music, said: "Attention all developers: Stop and read this judge's decision carefully. Our door is open to all developers that want to talk sensibly about how to build around grassroots music venues in a manner that protects culture and beloved community spaces".
The post went on: "Let this case be the end of trying to work around agent of change or bend the law or planning guidance. Let it be the start of building great housing that protects our cherished grassroots music venues". It then concluded: "Congratulations to the team at the Star. Absolutely brilliant!'
Epidemic Sound raises new finance to fund Asian expansion
Epidemic Sound has done a very good job of identifying gaps in the market not filled by traditional record companies and music libraries, and then setting about filling those gaps. Sometimes resulting in traditional players in the business getting pissed off, even though that means they are annoyed about a gap filler filling gaps they failed to fill. Or even see.
The core Epidemic Sound business is about providing background music to grassroots video makers who can't deal with the total mind-fuck that is music licensing. Even production music licencing which - although designed to be simpler - traditionally only cut out the labels, and retained the confusing slicing of song rights and, often, the kind of territorial collective licensing that makes no fucking sense at all in the internet age.
By reading the comments below videos using its music, Epidemic Sound then decided to ignore the mantra that says production music is always inferior and no one in their right mind would ever want to listen to it in isolation, and pumped some of its catalogue into Spotify. Where it found a bunch of insanely popular chill out and relaxation playlists in desperate need of new tracks, because few labels commercially release that sort of music.
Three gaps in the market to fill and Epidemic Sound filled each of them. Which is presumably why the company gets to brag about revenues doubling in the past year. So why, if revenues are booming, raise another $20 million in equity and debt funding? World domination, of course! As its customer base grows beyond grassroots video makers, the company also wants to soundtrack more videos elsewhere in the world.
Asia's currently the priority with a new base in South Korea set to launch later this year. Says CEO Oscar Hoglund: "Asia is home to some of the world's most exciting and dynamic online content creators, musicians and businesses. We have witnessed strong growth in demand for Epidemic's music platform across the Asian continent prior to even having a presence there, so this launch feels like a natural next step for Epidemic".
Second National Album Day will tell music fans: "Don't Skip"
For artists and songwriters, one of the biggest challenges with the shift to streams is that it's even easier for fans to permanently skip tracks they don't like on first listen and - unlike with discs and downloads - you only earn from the tracks people actually play.
For artists, this means that what we used to call 'filler tracks' don't make you any money anymore, so the hits need to work harder to ensure you get your share of the ever-expanding digital pie. And for songwriters - who may have only contributed to track seven, the song rude journalists like me needlessly write off as filler - it means you earn nothing at all.
That is a commercial challenge. But also, potentially, a creative problem. Because, while you - yes you - outrageously and, I should add, totally unnecessarily slammed track seven as a filler track, what if it's actually a 'grower track'? Didn't think of that, did you?
In the olden days, when track skipping was harder (the cassette era being the most anti-skip, I guess), you would have persevered with listening to that filler track, only to discover - on 23rd play - that it's actually the best track that artist ever made. And the world makes so much more sense when the album is consumed in its complete form.
So, people, "don't skip". Because that track you're skipping might be fucking magnificent if only you give it some time. Maybe it enhances the overall experience. Maybe it ultimately changes your perception of what the album - in its totality - is really about. Maybe it will change your entire life. I mean, it's probably just shit. But it might not be.
Anyway, while changing the skip-happy music consuming practices of the digital generation may be something of a big task, perhaps the record industry - with the backing of its top pop stars - can persuade a few people to stop bloody skipping for just one day of the year. And that one day is 12 Oct. National Album Day. See, there is a point to it after all!
"Some artists see the album as a collection of short stories, we see the album as a novel", say Elbow, one of the acts backing National Album Day 2019. "Songs are often included or omitted on account of the balance of the overall record rather than on their individual merits". By which, they mean, listen to that fucker in full, OK?
Because remember, those fillers might be growers. As Lewis Capaldi, another Album Day backer, says: "[It's] unreal to have finally released my debut album this year. On the whole I'm very proud of it. Although I won't lie, there's probably a few stinkers on there, but I'm only human". Hmm, yeah, that's true. Come to think of it, thank fuck for the skip button.
Beatport's streaming service integrated into Pioneer's Rekordbox software
Announced earlier this year, Beatport Link is the dance music focused digital firm's second foray into streaming, the first occurring during its time under SFX ownership. The new service is focussing on DJs rather than general consumers.
Noting that existing offerings that allow you to mix streamed music don't provide functionality required by professional DJs - mainly the ability to download tracks for offline play - Beatport aims to overcome this and take the lead in a potentially lucrative market.
Rekordbox already requires a subscription to access its DJing features, though the Beatport add-on will bump that up considerably. It's $39.99 per month for a package allowing you to store 50 tracks offline, and $59.99 if you want to download 100.
The key to the service is that integrates directly and hopefully seamlessly into your DJ software, providing recordings that it promises will be higher quality that 320kbps MP3s. Tracks can also be purchased from the Beatport download store and included in the same library.
"At present, most DJs can't easily stream music directly into a club set-up", says Beatport CEO Robb McDaniels. "With our offline locker technology, laptop DJs can now store tracks offline to play without worrying about wi-fi".
He adds: "This game changing technology will give DJs a huge selection of new tracks they can confidently take to gigs to combine with their download collections. We're excited to work with Pioneer DJ on this next evolution, and you can expect further integrations throughout 2019".
As well as the public beta of the new Rekordbox software for Mac, Beatport Link is also available on Pioneer's WeDJ iOS app.
New podcast offering health and wellbeing advice for musicians to launch this month
Presented by Elevate Music CEO Lucy Heyman, the show will offer advice for musicians on maintaining their mental and physical health throughout their careers. The first episode will be released on 15 Jul, featuring interviews with Help Musicians' Head Of Health & Welfare Joe Hastings and Babyshambles drummer turned psychotherapist Adam Ficek.
"When I was thrust into the music industry, it was amazing, I felt adrenalised, but I didn't have the same business sense I have now", says Ficek. "On reflection, the biggest transition was after the phone stops ringing. It's a business, it's an industry and it's neither good nor bad".
Of his own experience, he goes on: "With Babyshambles, we were quite lucky, the biggest struggle was keeping the cohesive sense of what we needed to deliver, if that was making an album, doing an interview, going on tour".
"I was in the eye of the hurricane trying to keep it all together, barely making stuff work", he adds. "There was no real plan, it was mayhem. After shows, there were substances. Being in that environment, there was nowhere to go for preventative support, unless there was an urgent health need on the road. It's just the way it was, the nature of the industry".
"There needs to be more information and awareness, to help musicians be better prepared", he concludes. "A place for musicians to go. I'm really happy to be involved in Elevate Music with Lucy, Help Musicians and Wisebuddah and hope this podcast will go some way towards that".
Heyman, who co-founded Elevate Music with Widebuddah's Mark Goodier, decided to launch the podcast based on her PhD research on the health and wellbeing at the Royal College Of Music. She says: "Studies have shown that pop musicians feel unsupported in their careers with health and wellbeing issues, so this podcast is looking at the key topics that research tells us they need most help with".
"The podcast, along with the other services that Elevate Music provides, is initiating a much-needed crisis-prevention model within the industry to try and stop issues from impacting on musicians' health in the future", she adds.
Other musicians set to appear on future episodes of the show include Shaun Ryder, Miles Kane, Nina Nesbitt and cellist Ayanna Witter-Johnson. A taster episode is available here, before the official launch later this month.
Taylor Swift didn't get advance warning of Big Machine deal from Dad
My Uncle Derek reckons it's yet another example of talented artists being screwed over by the "big machine". By which I think he means the music industry at large. As in, Big Machine is simply part of the big machine. And to not even inform poor Swifty that her recordings catalogue was being bought by Braun's Ithaca business? That's just shameful!
But, my Aunt Marge counters, that Swift should just stop all her moaning and recognise how fucking lucky she is to have built a global audience and made millions of dollars thanks to the hard work of people like Big Machine boss Scott Borchetta. Her dad would have told her about the Ithaca deal anyway. And it's just so unfair to lay into Braun and his top pop buddy Justin Bieber on the social networks.
It's been quite a day at by Uncle Derek and Aunt Marge's place, I can tell you. Divorce proceedings are due to begin at lunch time.
Though, hang on everybody, there's on update on one aspect of the Big Machine big deal big fallout story. On Sunday Swift claimed that she only found out about Braun acquiring all her master recordings that morning when the story broke in the news media. Borchetta countered that he'd given her ample advance warning by, erm, texting her on Saturday night. Which does make keeping Swift in the loop seem like a major after-thought.
Except that Borchetta then pointed out that Swift's dad Scott was a shareholder in Big Machine, so had been consulted about the sale before it went through. The Big Machine chief wrote: "We first alerted all of the shareholders on Thursday 20 Jun for an official shareholder's call scheduled for Tuesday 25 Jun".
"On [that] call", he went on, "the shareholders were made aware of the pending deal with Ithaca Holdings and had three days to go over all of the details of the proposed transaction. We then had a final call on Friday, 28 Jun in which the transaction passed with a majority vote and three of the five shareholders voting 'yes' with 92% of the shareholder's vote".
Swift Senior, therefore, must have known about the deal and would surely have told Taylor, right? No, not at all, said a spokesperson to People magazine yesterday.
"Scott Swift is not on the board of directors and has never been", they said. "On 25 Jun, there was a shareholder phone call that Scott Swift did not participate in due to a very strict NDA that bound all shareholders and prohibited any discussion at all without risk of severe penalty. Her dad did not join that call because he did not want to be required to withhold any information from his own daughter".
And as for Borchetta's very late in the day text? She didn't see it. "Taylor found out from the news articles when she woke up before seeing any text from Scott Borchetta and he did not call her in advance", the spokesperson concluded.
So that's that settled. Aunt Marge is yet to comment. Though in light of this new information, I suspect Uncle Derek will get the house.