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Irving Azoff's GMR declares: "It's the radio industry being anti-competitive!"
As previously reported, Azoff set up GMR in 2014 and it now represents the performing rights in about 26,000 songs on behalf of about 70 clients, most of them big name hit writing artists. It means that any American organisation wishing to perform or broadcast those songs must secure a licence from GMR, in addition to any licence it may already have from the two main song right collecting societies in the US - BMI and ASCAP - and the other commercial PRO, SESAC.
Collective licensing - ie where the entire music community decides to license as one in certain scenarios - always raises competition law concerns, especially when, as is the case in most countries, that collective licensing is done through one single collecting society. In some countries specific regulations apply to collective licensing in a bid to allay those competition law concerns, which sometimes include a statutory body or court of law to ultimately set royalty rates.
BMI and ASCAP are regulated by the infamous 'consent decrees' that are administered by the US Department Of Justice. SESAC sits outside the consent decrees, but past litigation - such as that pursued by the RMLC - has meant that SESAC has voluntarily agreed to third party mediation on royalty disputes. But GMR's obligations have so far been untested.
Last month the RMLC sued GMR, accusing it of creating and exploiting a monopoly. The radio industry group basically wants GMR to agree to third party mediation, like SESAC.
As it filed its litigation, the RMLC said: "GMR, a public-performance-right licensing agency, is distinguished from ASCAP and BMI, in particular, in that it is a privately-held, for-profit firm that has created a bottleneck to, and artificial monopoly over, the works in its repertory. Unlike SESAC, ASCAP and BMI, which are all now subject to some form of rate regulation that acts to prevent monopoly pricing, GMR has thus far managed to avoid similar limits on its monopoly pricing".
Now, while GMR does represent about 26,000 songs, it's easy to take issue with the RMLC defining its licensing operation as a "monopoly". Where there is one solitary collecting society in a country, which also represents the rights of other societies abroad through reciprocal agreements, that is pretty much a monopoly, because if you're a music radio station and you can't agree a deal with that PRO, you can't play any music.
However, when an organisation represents 26,000 songs - compared to the 22 million repped by ASCAP and BMI - a licensee can realistically operate just fine without using those works if they don't think the asking price of a licence is justified. They'll just lose access to a load of popular hit songs.
This is a point that GMR basically makes in a lawsuit it filed against RMLC this week. According to The Hollywood Reporter, GMR states: "GMR has not accumulated and has no intention to amass the market power that other PROs have wielded. By keeping its catalogue small and high-quality across the board, GMR is able to provide personalised customer service to its songwriters and keep the cost of those services low".
While GMR is not a monopoly, the song rights outfit argues, the RMLC is, because it negotiates for the entire US radio industry, making it difficult for music rights owners, like GMR, to do bespoke deals with individual radio stations or broadcast groups. Writes GMR lawyer Daniel Petrocelli: "RMLC's member stations are competitors. Yet these 'competitors' created and actively participate in a 'committee' whose very purpose is to negotiate with PROs as a group and destroy competition among them in the acquisition of performance licence rates".
Where collective licensing applies, it is common for groups of licensees to appoint one organisation - or a trade body - to negotiate industry-wide rates with a collecting society, and then present that group's arguments should the matter end up in court. Though when songwriters and rights owners have, in essence, opted out the traditional collective licensing process, there is an argument that individual licensees should also be able to negotiate deals outside their representative organisations too.
GMR says that it has been negotiating with the RMLC since its launch, but any deal has been blocked because the rights body won't agree to industry-wide rates or third party mediation. Attempts have meanwhile been made to negotiate direct with individual radio companies, but those have failed as well, with, apparently, two exceptions.
Although the RMLC filed first, GMR's litigation isn't actually a response to that lawsuit, but instead a separate action dealing with its grievances with the radio sector.
Should either case get to court it will be an interesting test of the obligations of US songwriters when it comes to licensing radio in non-conventional ways. The collective approach simplifies things for licensees as well as rights owners, despite the competition law concerns, so the radio industry doesn't want to force things in such a way that songwriters and music publishers abandon collective licensing entirely. Though, if they did, the RMLC would no doubt start lobbying for a compulsory licence for radio, given such a compulsory licence already exists for online and satellite radio on the recordings side.
Ghost Ship warehouse manager speaks after fire kills 36
Noticeably uncomfortable and shaken, Almena said that he had set up the Ghost Ship warehouse in a bid to create a place where artists could afford to live and work, and that the parties at the building had been started to help fund that.
Asked if he should be held accountable for last week's tragic events, Almena said: "What am I going to say to that? Should I be held accountable? I can barely stand here right now. I laid my body down there every night. We laid our bodies down there. We laid our children down there. We made music, we created art. We opened our home".
There are reports that the building had already been investigated over safety concerns, and that modifications and electrical repairs had been carried out there without permits. Although Almena said that the building "was to city standards, supposedly".
As previously reported, fire broke out at the venue on Friday night during a show headlined by electronic act Golden Donna. A fire department spokesperson has said they believe that 36 will be the total death toll, though a search of the building was not complete at that stage.
Amendment to policing bill aims to force consideration of "cultural benefits" into the event licensing process
Current gig licensing rules put the focus on the potential negative impact of an event, including crime and disorder, public safety and public nuisance. None of that would change, but licensing officials would be obliged to consider the positive cultural impact of staging an event as well.
Clement-Jones will propose the amendment following a year-long investigation in the House Of Lords into the effectiveness of the Licensing Act 2003, legislation the Liberal peer has already reformed with his Live Music Act back in 2012. As part of the new review, Live Nation COO Paul Latham, who is also chair of the UK Live Music Group, was joined by Alex Mann of the Musicians' Union and Mark Davyd of the Music Venue Trust to give evidence in Parliament yesterday.
All three men are backing Clement-Jones's proposed amendment. Latham said: "As leading venue operators across the UK we strive to bring a 'best in class' operation to all our venues and that includes mutual learnings throughout our venue portfolio. At all times we try to work progressively with the respective local authorities to share our learnings. Unfortunately not all local authorities are like-minded and their interpretations of the Licensing Act are not always helpful, or consistent, which is frustrating and creates obstacles for venue operators at all levels".
Davyd added: "Licensing is just one of many areas of the legal framework around grassroots music venues that is contributing to their rapid decline. In the case of licensing, Music Venue Trust is not asking that a special case be made for grassroots venues. Rather, we believe a further push to support the intent of the Licensing Act 2003 - and the subsequent Live Music Act 2012 - is required so these culturally and socially important spaces achieve parity in the manner in which the licensing framework handles and supports them. We want to see grassroots music venues acknowledged and respected alongside theatres and arts centres as spaces that are vital to the health, wealth and happiness of the UK".
And Mann said: "Since the introduction of the Licensing Act in 2003 the MU has maintained that live music should not be licensed and remains committed to ensuring that if licensing conditions are to be placed upon venues, then they are for the good, not the detriment of the venue. Our members rely heavily on venues being able to remain open in order to provide places to perform and develop their craft, not to mention the crucial role that live music plays within our communities and cultural heritage. The Licensing Act's existing objectives specifically made regulation of live music a public order issue, so we feel that a better balance is needed here, which acknowledges and reflects the cultural impact of live music".
Apple Music passes 20 million subscribers
The figure remains someway behind Spotify's 40 million paying subscribers - with that company also enjoying rapid growth of late - but reaching the 20 million milestone in eighteen months is nevertheless pretty impressive. Still, it could be argued that, with prompts to sign up to Apple's streaming service built into every Apple device, this growth could, and possibly should, have been faster.
However, if growth has been slower than hoped, that's down to a still relatively slow rate of adoption of streaming music in general, says Apple's Eddy Cue. "Of course we want more and we want it to go faster - we're hungry", he tells Billboard. "[But] we can't forget that, as an industry, we still have very few music subscribers. There are billions of people listening to music and we haven't even [collectively] hit 100 million [paying] subscribers. There's a lot of growth opportunity".
One thing Apple has been criticised for in the last year is its reliance of album exclusives to try to motivate users to sign up. Though, despite Universal Music being down on the practice, Cue says that this strategy will continue for the time being.
"I don't think exclusives or promotions are anything new", he tells the BBC. "They were done in the record business, they were done on iTunes, now they're being done on streaming. The exclusives are relatively short term - it's not something that stays on any one platform. But being able to do unique things with artists is a good thing and I think that'll continue".
With news that vinyl revenues surpassed those of downloads for the first time last week - confirming that the iTunes-led download business continues to tank - Apple also released some other stats about its streaming operation, including that 60% of subscribers had not bought anything from the iTunes download store in the last twelve months. Although rather than this being evidence of streams cannibalising downloads, Cue said that many of those customers were part of a "whole new audience", who were not previously iTunes users.
YouTube paid over $1 billion to the music industry this year
In convenient timing, YouTube chose yesterday afternoon to announce that it had paid over a billion dollars to the bloody music industry in the last twelve months. This is in addition to the $3 billion YouTube has long claimed to have paid over to music companies since 2007. Because, see, YouTube is supporting the music community, and ad-funded free streaming is something everyone should embrace. Translation: Shut up with your moaning, music industry.
YouTube's Chief Business Officer Robert Kyncl wrote yesterday afternoon: "Last year was a bright one for music - after several tough years of declining revenues, the industry started growing again, spurred in a large part by the growth of music streaming subscriptions. This year, the industry has even more reasons to be optimistic. Even as music subscriptions have been growing faster than any other subscription type, advertising is another powerful driver of revenue".
He went on: "In fact, in the last twelve months, YouTube has paid out over $1 billion to the music industry from advertising alone, demonstrating that multiple experiences and models are succeeding alongside each other. And this is just the beginning. As more advertising dollars shift from TV, radio and print to online services, the music industry will generate even more revenue from ads".
He concluded: "In the future, the music business has an opportunity to look a lot like television, where subscriptions and advertising contribute roughly equal amounts of revenue, bolstered by digital and physical sales. To achieve this, there is a lot of work that must be done by YouTube and the industry as a whole, but we are excited to see the momentum. At a time when there's never been more competition for attention, fans can't get enough good music. It is clear that this creative industry has two strong engines of growth - subscriptions and advertising - and we are honoured to be a part of it".
Yay momentum! YouTube, of course, remains enemy number one in parts of the music industry, despite everyone recognising it's a valuable marketing channel, especially for new artists. And many labels and publishers are down on all free streaming services.
The key issue with YouTube is that while it shares ad income with music rights owners, it won't commit to pay minimum guarantees based on users and usage, unlike the audio streaming services. Therefore what the music industry earns from YouTube is based on ad sales not consumption, income going up as more ads are sold, not more videos streamed.
YouTube gets away with that more preferential deal because the aforementioned safe harbours strengthens its negotiating hand. Hence the music industry wants the safe harbours reformed, to weaken YouTube's hand at the negotiating table, to get the minimum guarantees.
Though Kyncl is right that - while paid-for streaming is driving most of the growth at the moment - free streams will be a necessary part of the digital music business in the long term, meaning rights owners need to find a way of making ad-funded work, which inevitably means accepting lower per-play income from some mass-market services.
Kyncl, of course, reckons that YouTube can be part of the solution here, just providing the music industry doesn't fuck everything up by pulling its safe harbour protection. Though labels and publishers probably won't be convinced by that.
Buy hey, interesting that Kyncl isn't suggesting subscription-based YouTube Red is the solution, isn't it? All hail the free streams.
Showaddywaddy still the "hardest working artist" in the UK
And who are the hardest workers when it comes to good old fashioned British gigging? Well, mainly old-timers again. Presumably the young-uns are too busy snapchatting and Pokemon Go-ing to actually get on stage and sing their songs. Or maybe they're mainly playing abroad.
Anyway, here's the list, with last year's positions in brackets.
1. Showaddywaddy (1)
David Bowie statue to be erected in Aylesbury, following successful crowdfunding campaign
In a statement, organiser David Stopps said: "We are very grateful to everybody. It's been a Biblical 40 days. The bottom line now is that the statue will happen".
The statue of Bowie will be erected in Aylesbury Market Square, referenced in the opening line of his track 'Five Years'. Bowie also debuted songs from his 'Hunky Dory' and 'Ziggy Stardust' albums in the town.
Beyonce leads in 2017 Grammy nominations
Adele is out there representing us Brits reasonably well. She's up for Album Of The Year, Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Best Pop Vocal Album. Underworld are in the Best Dance/Electronic Album category, while David Bowie, PJ Harvey and Radiohead are fighting it out for Best Alternative Music Album, and Coldplay are up against Jamie XX for Best Music Video. There might be other Brits shortlisted too, but I'm not about to start Googling every nominee on the off chance.
Instead, here's Recording Academy boss Neil Portnow with a quote: "Just as we see emerging musicians experimenting, we're also seeing established artists resisting what's expected of them and, instead, embracing the creative freedom they've been afforded through their success, blurring the lines between music's mainstream and artistic edge".
Nice one Neil. Thanks. The ceremony will take place on 12 Feb. In the unlikely event you want to look through all of the nominees yourself, you'll find them here.
Max Wolfgang, Dua Lipa, 6lack, more
Other notable announcements and developments today...
• Songwriter Max Wolfgang has signed a new worldwide publishing deal with Universal Music Publishing. Recently, Wolfgang has worked with the likes of John Legend, Rudimental, Martin Garrix, Tom Chaplin and Major Lazer.
• Dua Lipa has released the video for new single 'Be The One'.
• 6lack has released the video for 'Ex Calling' from his debut album 'Free 6lack'.
• Why? have announced that they will release their new album, 'Moh Lhean', on 3 Mar. Here's a taster.
• Kristin Kontrol has released a new song 'Baby Are You In?' Recorded during sessions for her debut album 'X-Communicate', she says: "I really regret not including it on the album".
• The reformed Guns N Roses line-up will play shows in the UK and Ireland next summer. The tour will start at Slane Castle in Dublin on 27 May, with a show at the London Stadium on 16 Jun. But you probably already knew that.
• The Stone Roses have added two shows at the First Direct Arena in Leeds to their summer 2017 tour. They'll play the venue on 20-21 Jun.
• Thievery Corporation have announced that they will play the Roundhouse in London on 5 Mar. Their new album, 'The Temple Of I & I' will be released on 10 Feb.
• The Lemon Twigs will be back in the UK in March and April next year for more shows, including a performance at Koko in London on 29 Mar.
Kylie Minogue to open pop-up Christmas shop in London
Right, yeah, it's actually one of those pop-up shop things that the kids love so much. It'll be opened to coincide with her upcoming festive Royal Albert Hall shows on 9-10 Dec. Fans will be able to queue up at the shop to buy merch, "stylish homewares" and Christmas decorations. There will also be costumes from previous Kylie shows on display.
"I've wanted to do a pop-up store for some time and when the Royal Albert Hall said they would like to host it for me I thought it would be a really fun addition to 'A Kylie Christmas'", says Minogue. "We've loved putting the range together and I hope the fans enjoy it".
Lucy Noble, Director Of Events at the Royal Albert Hall adds: "We're THRILLED that Kylie is creating her first ever pop-up shop to celebrate her performances here, giving fans the chance to get hold of exclusive Kylie merchandise. We have an unrivalled history of events, and have hosted Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein and The Beatles, but this is the first time we've ever hosted a pop-up shop!"
I can't believe Winston Churchill never had a pop-up shop. What a missed opportunity. Ah well, if you want to have a look at this shop, you'll find it at Door 6 of the Royal Albert Hall on 9-10 Dec. No ticket for the shows is required to spend money in there.
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