TikTok Teen Accounts Now Private by Default – New Privacy Measures

Photo Credit: Annie Spratt

TikTok teen accounts are now set to private by default in a new set of privacy measures.

The social media platform has come under fire for child predators exploiting its young audience. It’s a concern that spans back for years before TikTok merged with Musical.ly to become what it is today. After paying a record fine to the FTC to resolve COPPA violations, TikTok is now focusing more on child safety on its platform.

TikTok teen accounts under age 16 will have their accounts set to private. That means only approved followers can comment on videos created by the teen user. Users cannot download any videos created by these TikTok teen accounts, either. The company says these decisions will help younger users feel safer on the platform.

“We hope to inspire them to take an active role and make informed decisions,” Elaine Fox, Head of Privacy for TikTok, told Digital Music News. TikTok users aged 13 to 15 can approve friends for comments and choose whether their videos are public. Teen accounts are also removed from the viral nature of TikTok since they are not included in suggested results. TikTok teen users aged 16 to 17 can also stop users from downloading their videos, but they can turn off the feature.

TikTok is also changing the rules around duets for these younger accounts. Younger users can choose to only allow their approved friends to create duet videos.

TikTok duets are part of what makes the platform so viral in the first place. TikTok teen accounts under the age of 16 cannot have their videos as part of a duet at all. The social media app is making changes to its younger users’ privacy online after several reports of child predators grooming youngsters on the platform surfaced.

The company previously took measures to reduce interactions with its younger members. Those restrictions include preventing under-16 accounts from sending DMs and live streaming. Those accounts also can’t buy, sell, or receive virtual gifts on the platform.

Finally, TikTok launched parental controls to give parents more granular control over how their children use the platform.

The parental controls app involves linking children’s accounts with their parents. With kids spending more time online because of the pandemic, it’s become an important part of how parents protect their kids.

Many younger kids know these restrictions exist and lie about their age at sign up. Nothing is preventing a 15-year-old from creating a TikTok account and saying they’re 18 to bypass most of these restrictions, though.

BMG Acquires 300-Track Recorded Catalog of Mick Fleetwood

Mick Fleetwood performing live in 2018. Photo Credit: Raph_PH

BMG has acquired the more than 300-track recorded catalog of Fleetwood Mac cofounder and drummer Mick Fleetwood.

The Bertelsmann subsidiary announced its high-profile deal with Mick Fleetwood this morning, in a formal release that was emailed to Digital Music News. BMG’s recorded-catalog purchase encompasses Fleetwood Mac hits such as “Dreams” (which enjoyed a massive popularity boost among younger listeners last year), “Go Your Own Way,” and “Landslide,” to name just some.

More broadly, the agreement covers Mick Fleetwood’s interest in the recordings from all 17 of the albums that Fleetwood Mac has released to date, excepting the group’s 1968 debut effort, Fleetwood Mac, and its follow-up, Mr. Wonderful (which became available to fans later in 1968). The financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

In its longest paragraph, however, the release emphasizes the aforementioned “global viral success” that “Dreams” achieved on TikTok in 2020, after an Idaho man filmed himself skateboarding and drinking cran-raspberry juice to the 43-year-old track. “Dreams” generated a staggering 3.2 billion global streams between September 24th and November 19th of last year, the text indicates.

Factoring solely for stateside music fans and calculating for all of 2020, “Dreams” recorded 182 million streams, about 126,000 downloads, and 2.8 billion TikTok views, driving Rumours album sales to 86,000 in the process, according to the release.

While the previously noted 3.2 billion global “Dreams” streams appear to reflect plays on streaming platforms as well as on TikTok, the 182 million U.S. streams attributable to the song in 2020 would have generated between $546,000 and $910,000 in Spotify royalties, based upon DMN’s much-cited breakdown of the streaming service’s per-stream royalty rate.

Addressing the Mick Fleetwood recorded-catalog deal in a statement, BMG CEO Hartwig Masuch noted that his 12-year-old company’s film division is set to handle the release of Mick Fleetwood & Friends.

“Mick Fleetwood is the bedrock of one of the greatest bands in rock, he has a unique talent to bring together musicians of all genres and of course he is one of rock’s greatest drummers. BMG is proud to represent his greatest work and excited about the forthcoming launch of Mick Fleetwood & Friends,” said Masuch.

Mick Fleetwood & Friends – a “tribute event to legendary guitarist Peter Green and the early years of Fleetwood Mac” – is scheduled to arrive in theaters in March.

Primary Wave last month acquired a majority stake in the publishing catalog of longtime Fleetwood Mac vocalist and songwriter Stevie Nicks – reportedly for around $100 million. Additionally, former Fleetwood Mac guitarist Lindsey Buckingham (who joined the group with Nicks) sold his 259-song publishing catalog to Hipgnosis nine days ago.

In other recent song-rights deals, Shakira yesterday sold her own publishing catalog to Hipgnosis, while Round Hill Music secured the back catalog of veteran songwriter Jim Vallance earlier this week.

Tidal Revenues Grew 13% In 2019, While Losses Exceeded $50 Million

Project Panther Bidco Limited, the parent company of Jay-Z’s Aspiro and Tidal, has released its 2019 earnings report.

Digital Music News obtained an exclusive copy of the nearly 40-page-long document, which covers the financials of Project Panther Bidco (as well as its Oslo-headquartered Aspiro Group subsidiary and, in turn, Tidal) through December 31st, 2019.

Tidal experienced a year-over-year revenue uptick of $19.27 million in 2019, the report indicates, with earnings having come in at $166.91 million against $147.64 million in 2018. Of this $166.91 million, $165.82 million is attributable to Tidal user subscriptions, with the remaining $1 million or so having derived from “sponsorship.”

UK-based users produced modestly larger subscription revenues than in 2018, at $8.07 million, to $58.26 million for rest of world (which generated $52.45 million in 2018) and $100.58 million from stateside subscribers.

Cost of sales swelled to more than $117.48 million (a year-over-year increase of $14.57 million), while administrative expenses jumped $23.27 million, to roughly $104.71 million. Consequently, Tidal’s total loss for 2019 (after factoring for a $3.5 million “currency translation difference”) finished at approximately $52.2 million.

On the assets and liabilities front, current assets stayed largely the same in 2019, at $22.89 million – though current “trade and other payables” liabilities hiked to $155.22 million, compared to about $104.82 million in 2018. Thus, Tidal’s net current liabilities through 2019 totaled $132.86 million. As something of an aside, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Aspiro/Tidal operations “has not been significant,” and the entities “expect this to remain the case,” a director-signed note (dated December 30th, 2020) relays.

Tidal employees’ cumulative wages and salaries in 2019 approached $19 million, while the number of directors and key management decreased from seven in 2018 to five, and total “operations and administration” team members grew from a monthly average of 231 to 238. Calculating based upon workers and wages, employees took home an average salary of $79,831. (This figure is, of course, approximate – including because “key management” most likely earned substantially above the mean.)

Finally, the company owed $10.8 million to Project Panther Ltd, the “sole shareholder of Project Panther Bidco Limited,” at 2019’s conclusion. The text lists Tidal Uganda as a subsidiary (its address in Kampala is a PO box, however) towards the earnings report’s end, in addition to Tidal Brazil in Rio de Janeiro.

Back in August of 2020, a few months after it came to light that Norwegian authorities were officially investigating the Jay-Z-owned streaming service for data fraud, Tidal dropped $7 million on Sensorium VR “tokens,” which will serve as the official in-game currency of Sensorium’s upcoming Galaxy Hub. More recently, reports emerged last month that Jack Dorsey’s Square is considering acquiring Tidal.

Spotify Removes Pete Evans’ Podcast for “Dangerous, False, Deceptive, Misleading Content About COVID-19”

Photo Credit: Deborah Hutton / CC by 3.0

Conspiracy podcast host Pete Evans has had his shows abruptly removed from Spotify.

Evans announced the removal on his Instagram earlier this morning. He said he believed the channel was removed due to censorship, though Spotify says it’s because of misinformation. Either way, the shows are gone from Spotify’s platform.

“Could it have something to do with the many brave doctors and scientists that we interview that are warning people about these poisons that are disguised as medicine?” Evans asks in his Instagram post. “You don’t have to think too hard to understand what this whole censorship is about.”

Spotify says the Pete Evans podcast was removed for violating its company policy.

“Spotify prohibits content on the platform which promotes dangerous false, deceptive, or misleading content about COVID-19 that may cause offline harm and/or pose a direct threat to public health,” says Spotify’s statement to Digital Music News. “When content that violates this standard is identified, it is removed from the platform.”

Pete Evans is a controversial figure. His Facebook page was shut down for spreading information that could lead to “imminent physical harm.” He also lost a contract with Channel Seven in Australia due to his views. He was also dumped by Pan Macmillan Australia, his book publisher.

Pete Evans is a provocateur in the same way that Alex Jones is in America.

Those platforms are now indicating they’re tired of helping these ideas spread. Pete Evans’ social media accounts have been a hotbed for misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic and the result of the 2020 US election.

While Spotify has completely de-platformed Pete Evans, others remain. Joe Rogan has had several controversial figures on his podcast over the years. Some of those episodes didn’t debut on Spotify immediately, but have since been added.

In a leaked email, it was revealed that Spotify execs say they’re not banning anyone. “We are not going to ban specific individuals from being guests on other people’s shows, as the episode/show complies with our content policies,” the leaked memo says.

That means theoretically; Joe Rogan could invite Pete Evans on his show to talk about the issue. As long as there’s no misinformation about COVID-19 or the election being spread, there’s little Spotify will do about it.

That’s the difference between censorship and stopping the spread of misinformation. Misinformation has been one of the greatest causes of the COVID-19 pandemic spread so far. Spotify has long taken a stance to do what they can to stop that misinformation from spreading.

Capitol Studios Shutters Its Mastering and Restoration Divisions

The 13-story Capitol Records Tower, which houses Capitol Studios, in Hollywood. Photo Credit: Downtowngal

Universal Music Group’s Capitol Studios is officially shutting down its mastering and restoration divisions.

Word of the 65-year-old studio’s mastering- and restoration-division shutdowns began circulating on social media yesterday afternoon, and a Universal Music official subsequently confirmed the development in a statement. Additionally, Capitol Studios indicates on its website that mastering services are “temporarily unavailable.”

Multiple employees in the Capitol Studios mastering department, which had four team members, will reportedly be let go as part of the closures – though at the time of this piece’s publishing, UMG hadn’t confirmed the precise extent of the layoffs. Paula Salvatore, who celebrated her 30th anniversary as Capitol Studios’ senior director last month, is also reportedly set to exit as director and assume a different (and as-yet-undefined) role within the company.

That said, Salvatore didn’t comment publicly on the matter in time for publishing, and evidence suggests that the internal shakeup might have been abrupt. Less than one month ago, Salvatore celebrated her aforementioned 30th anniversary by participating in a nearly 20-minute-long virtual tour of Capitol Studios, including an in-depth look at the more than 1,500-square-foot Studio A.

In the clip, former Conan music booker (and co-vice president at Capitol Studios, along with Salvatore) Roey Hershkovitz asked veteran engineer and record producer Al Schmitt what makes him want to continue returning to Capitol Studios.

“Number one is Paula,” responded the 90-year-old Al Schmitt, who took home his first Grammy in 1963, at the fifth annual awards show. “We love Paula, and she always seems to make things work for us. And she figures things out that you never think are gonna get figured out. And she does it.”

It’s unclear whether Hershkovitz will continue on as Capitol Studios’ sole vice president; his Twitter profile is set to private, and his last Instagram post (unrelated to the Capitol shuffle) was published five days ago.

While it doesn’t mention Hershkovitz, the previously noted statement from a UMG rep specifies that demand is the chief contributor to Capitol Studios’ closed-down mastering and restoration divisions, which will be converted into additional recording studios.

“At Capitol Studios, while demand for recording studios remains high, there has been an overall decline in requests for mastering services – to the point where we have decided to close Capitol’s mastering facility and focus on other areas of the recording process that are in higher demand by artists, including using the space to build additional recording suites,” the widely circulated message reads.

On social media, many fans and industry professionals are expressing their disappointment with the mastering operation’s closure.

“Sad to see Capitol mastering go. For those who don’t know, it’s in the basement next to all the legendary recording rooms where Sinatra, Oasis, Bob Dylan, Beach Boys, Beck all tracked,” wrote one individual.

However, others have indicated that the change could be positive, given the widespread availability of mastering options.

“I feel with so many mastering software [sic] that are available to a lot of artist and smaller independent mastering companies, this might be a smart move,” penned another Twitter user.

Twitch Growth Explodes 83% In 2020 – Facebook Games Not Far Behind

Photo Credit: Mika Baumeister

Twitch growth exploded in 2020, with Facebook Games not too far behind.

As the COVID-19 pandemic raged throughout 2020, most people turned to digital entertainment. That trend helped push Twitch to record growth numbers, with viewership growing even faster.

Time spent watching gaming content on Twitch increased by 50% between March and April 2020. But that trend didn’t stop growing throughout the rest of the year. In fact, gamers tuned in to watch over 1.7 billion hours of content on Twitch. A marketing firm previously estimated that Twitch would reach 37.5 million viewers this year.

With revised numbers behind the Twitch growth, that estimate now sits at 41.5 million viewers.

That’s a 26.2% increase from the 32.9 million viewers reached in 2019. Gaming still makes up the bread and butter of Twitch content, but non-gaming content has grown too. With many live events canceled, struggling artists took to the platform to earn a living online. SoundCloud even partnered with Twitch to allow artists a fast-track Twitch partnership, so they can begin monetizing their streamed content.

The Music and Performing Arts category on Twitch nearly quadrupled its growth in 2020.

The category is up 385%, comparing April 2019 to April 2020. The Just Chatting category is also up by 138% over the same period. That showcases just how vital Twitch has become a communications tool for many viewers and streamers. The Music and Performing Arts category’s increased usage has struck a nerve with many music labels, though.

Twitch does not have any licensing agreements in place with major labels. Yet, its streamers were used to creating Spotify playlists alongside their game streaming activities. This year, Twitch began cracking down on unauthorized music streaming, playing DMCA whack-a-mole with any streamers who violated its policies.

On October 20th, thousands of Twitch streamers received copyright complaints about past videos. “We have processed these notifications and are issuing you a one-time warning to give you the chance to learn about copyright law and the tools available to manage the content on your channel,” the Twitch email to offending streamers read.

Twitch has for years tolerated copyright infringement on the platform. But when the music industry asked Twitch to do something about it, it hasn’t.

That’s because of the ‘safe harbor’ provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). That provision says Twitch itself isn’t liable for copyright infringement if it responds to notices of infringement from copyright holders. That’s also why so much content disappeared from Twitch this year, despite record growth in 2020.

 

Gov. Cuomo Says Concerts Could Return Next Month With ‘Rapid Testing’

Photo Credit: Pat Arnow / CC by 2.0

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has commented on the return of live concerts, saying rapid testing is critical.

This past weekend, Dr. Anthony Fauci — the top infectious disease expert in the U.S. — painted a far different picture. Fauci believes theaters and concerts may return sometime this fall after 70% of the population receives a COVID-19 vaccine. But in a press conference earlier today, Cuomo envisioned a faster return with rapid testing protocols in place.

The high-level disconnect is sadly typical during this pandemic, though the possibility of faster re-openings is undoubtedly encouraging. Cuomo says large-scale rapid testing will be crucial to getting outdoor events back to normal. The governor used the recent Buffalo Bills game as an example, with 6,700 spectators in attendance. Despite lauding those efforts, Cuomo’s plans for putting rapid testing in place were not detailed.

Cuomo did reveal that his plan involves a partnership with the real estate industry to open rapid testing sites. “Almost no one has been hurt more by COVID than our artists,” Cuomo comments on concerts being closed during this past year. “We cannot wait until summer to turn the lights back on.”

Cuomo’s government has attempted to prohibit musicians from performing at ticketed events, though artists legally fought back for that right. But that victory remains moot with large blocks of the state and New York City on lockdown and many indoor venues facing imminent shutdown.

Still, some outdoor events are already planned for February, with the help of several organizations. As reported by the Gothamist:

“The state’s New York Arts Revival will be a public/private partnership with a mission of bringing the arts back through pop-up performances and events, set to begin in early February and featuring the likes of Wynton Marsalis, Amy Schumer, and Chris Rock.”

“Outdoor sites in the city and across the state, including in state parks and properties like the Park Avenue Armory, St. Ann’s Warehouse, and the Queens Theater will be a part of the effort, which will culminate with two landmark events – the opening of Little Island at Pier 55, and the 20th anniversary of Tribeca Film Festival in June.”

New York State will also begin testing pilot events in larger indoor spaces, which may serve as a model for re-opening. Dr. Fauci says the industry should look to a German study for determining risks while re-opening. That study concluded that the risk of re-opening indoor events is very low with improvements to air ventilation systems.

Scientists in that study gave attendees face masks, fluorescent hand gel to track their movements, and transmitters to see how people moved through the crowds. Sounds promising, though Dr. Fauci reiterated that around 70-85% of the population will need the COVID-19 vaccine for herd immunity to begin to take effect.

Federal Court Finds Jimi Hendrix Relatives Guilty of Trademark Infringement

Jimi Hendrix in 1967 (public domain)

A New York federal court has found two relatives of Jimi Hendrix, Leon Hendrix and his daughter Tina Hendrix, guilty of trademark infringement.

Digital Music News obtained an exclusive copy of the corresponding legal filing, which Judge Paul A. Engelmayer just recently signed. (Separately, Judge Engelmayer in April of 2020 approved Tekashi 6ix9ine’s early release, before sentencing the rapper’s kidnapper to 24 years behind bars in November.) Experience Hendrix and Authentic Hendrix, “the owners of copyrights and trademarks associated with the late singer and songwriter Jimi Hendrix,” initiated the underlying courtroom confrontation in March of 2017.

In the lawsuit, Experience Hendrix accused the 72-year-old Leon Hendrix, his business partner Andrew Pitsicalis, and “related corporate entities” of trademark infringement, copyright infringement, false advertising, and more. For context, Jimi Hendrix, who was by 1969 the world’s highest-paid performer, didn’t have a will when he passed away in 1970. His father, Al, received his savings and assets.

The elder Hendrix passed in 2002, leaving control of the estate to Jimi’s stepsister, Janie Hendrix, in his will and disinheriting Leon, who later filed a much-publicized lawsuit. (In 2004, a judge ruled that Leon was entitled solely to the gold record that his father had left him in the will.) Janie Hendrix is also the founder of Experience Hendrix.

As part of the more recent lawsuit between Experience Hendrix and Leon Hendrix, the court in late October of 2019 “entered a permanent injunction for plaintiffs against Pitsicalis’s and Leon Hendrix’s corporate entities.” Then, in July of 2020, a different judge determined that Experience Hendrix was entitled to damages for the defendants’ “brazen disregard” of the IP rights, which included closing agreements for Jimi Hendrix-branded electronics, foods, and even cannabis, to name just some.

The court entered a more than $400,000 judgement last July, as well as a second, overarching “permanent injunction in favor of Experience Hendrix.” (Just two days before the decision was made official, Sony Music’s Thread Shop formally announced “an online Jimi Hendrix store” with Experience Hendrix and Authentic Hendrix.)

In October of 2020, however, the plaintiffs filed a motion for civil contempt over purported violations of the permanent injunction committed by Leon Hendrix, Tina Hendrix, and the Hendrix Music Academy (HMA) that they operate. The court ruled in late November that these parties had been properly served; Tina received the notice via email and responded on her behalf and on behalf of the HMA, though she, “as a non-lawyer, cannot represent a corporation.”

While Tina Hendrix and the HMA weren’t named in Experience Hendrix’s original complaint, “they are covered by multiple provisions of the permanent injunction” because of their relation to Leon (Tina is a governor and registered agent of the HMA).

Moreover, the legal text discloses four instances of “noncompliance” concerning then permanent injunction: Leon’s promoting the sale of a purported Jimi Hendrix guitar at an auction house; his and Tina’s hosting a “Jimi Hendrix 50th Anniversary Memorial Peace & Love March for Equity” in September of 2020, complete with Jimi Hendrix merch sales, to raise money for the HMA; selling a Jimi Hendrix t-shirt to secure funds for the HMA; and soliciting donations using Jimi Hendrix’s name.

Lastly, the court has ordered Leon, Tina, and the HMA to “immediately” cease and desist all prohibited conduct, change the HMA’s name to show that it’s not affiliated with Jimi Hendrix, cease using the HMA’s current web address, destroy all HMA merch featuring Hendrix’s likeness, and provide a list of all the revenue it’s generated from donations and product sales.

Because Tina and the HMA weren’t named in the initial suit, once again, the court has put them “on notice that future violations of this order…will be met with substantial sanctions.” Inversely, Leon Hendrix must pay the legal fees that the plaintiffs incurred when enforcing the permanent injunction, in addition to “a penalty of $100 per day to plaintiffs” in the event that he doesn’t meet the above-outlined requirements.

How (AND WHEN) to Schedule Your Next Music Release

The following post for musicians and labels comes from CD Baby, a proud partner of DMN.

“When should I set my release date?”

The most common question I’m asked goes something like this: When should I release my next album or single if I want to run a pre-save campaign and pitch a song to Spotify in time?

I could answer with a simple calendar date, but that’s not really what they’re asking.

There are a lot of moving pieces and contingent steps when any artist or label puts out new music. What they really want is a timeline:

    • Do THIS by THEN in order to qualify for THAT
    • Do THIS by THEN in order to qualify for THAT
    • etc.

Last year my personal DMs got flooded with this kind of question from strangers and friends alike. Seriously, in one week almost two dozen people hit me up with the same question. That’s when I thought, “CD Baby should just build a tool that helps artists customize their music release plans. Otherwise I’ll be cut-and-pasting until the end of eternity!”

So we did. It’s called Your Release Plan Generator and it’s FREE to use.

You plug in your target release date and we’ll provide you with a personalized schedule of distribution deadlines, music promotion benchmarks, and more (whether you use CD Baby for distribution or not).

Things to do before you release new music

[In Your Release Plan Generator, each of the items below is explored in further detail, and you’ll be given a deadline by which each step should be completed in order to take advantage of the steps that follow.]

Prepare to tell the story of your music, including:

    • Gathering your promo assets (artist photos, bio, etc.)
    • Crafting your pitch or press release
    • Scheduling a release celebration

Prepare to distribute your new music, including:

    • Mastering
    • Finalizing artwork
    • Entering your metadata
    • Delivering music to DSPs

Prepare to promote your music, including:

    • Exploring music promotion tools
    • Setting up a Spotify pre-save
    • Claiming or updating your platform profiles
    • Pitching music to Spotify editorial (and Release Radar)
    • Creating a smartlink

That’s just SOME of the stuff to consider BEFORE your actual release date.

Your Release Plan Generator also gives you an action-plan for things to do as soon as your music becomes available, as well as follow-up promotion to help you:

    • reach new listeners beyond your existing fans
    • build on your momentum
    • stay on the radar of both your warm audience and the cold, calculating algorithms

Start with a target release date and reverse engineer your timeline

If you rush your release you will miss certain things.

For instance, without an ample onramp, you won’t be able to pitch your music to Spotify.

To qualify for that one opportunity, you need to know when your upcoming music will appear in your Spotify for Artists dashboard…

… which means you need to know when your distributor will send it to Spotify…

… which means you need to know when to sign it up for distribution.

You can see how artists start to stress about timelines.

That is why it’s best to begin with your target date and plan backwards. If you notice that a too-soon release date makes you ineligible for certain opportunities, consider pushing the launch further out. When using Your Release Plan Generator, you can switch the release date at any time to view alternate launch schedules.

Strategy versus speed

With all this talk of planning, it’s worth mentioning: Not EVERY release needs to be carefully considered. 

Digital music production and distribution give you the freedom to make something today and share it tonight. Sometimes that’s the right path for certain songs, platforms, and audiences. And CD Baby is happy to deliver music to our partner platforms quickly.

But if it’s an IMPORTANT release, we encourage you to give yourself enough time to do it right, strategize, and check every item off the list.

Plan your next music release for success

Want a customized timeline for your next single or album launch? Your Release Plan Generator is fun and FREE to use!

Shakira Becomes the Latest to Sell Her Publishing Rights to Hipgnosis

Shakira performing live in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo Credit: Andres.Arranz

UK-based song-investment fund Hipgnosis has continued its catalog-acquisition spree by closing a deal with “Hips Don’t Lie” singer and songwriter Shakira.

Hipgnosis unveiled the high-profile purchase – one of several that it’s finalized to this point in 2021 – today, in a formal announcement message that was shared with Digital Music News. The transaction covers 100 percent of the publishing rights across the 145-track catalog of Shakira, who’s sold over 80 million records since releasing her debut album, Magia, in 1991.

The Columbia-born artist rose to prominence with her third studio album and first international effort, Pies Descalzos, in 1995, however. Shakira and Luis Fernando Ochoa cowrote each of the latter work’s 11 tracks, and Shakira has penned all the songs on her eight subsequent studio albums (excepting one cover track on 2010’s Sale el Sol and two tracks on 2014’s Shakira).

Though the financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed in the release, Hipgnosis reportedly pays well above market value for catalogs, as part of its ambitious long-term vision for music IP. Addressing the acquisition in a statement, Hipgnosis founder (and former Elton John and Iron Maiden manager) Merck Mercuriadis noted Shakira’s global appeal and extensive songwriting experience.

“One step at a time, this incredible woman from Colombia has evolved into one of the most famous and influential people in the world,” Mercuriadis said in part. “What no one should ever take for granted is that she is one of the most serious and successful songwriters of the last 25 years, having written or co-written virtually every song she has ever recorded.”

And in a statement of her own, Shakira touted the professional significance of her songwriting achievements. “Being a songwriter is an accomplishment that I consider equal to and perhaps even greater than being a singer and an artist,” the 43-year-old relayed in part.

“At 8 years old—long before I sang—I wrote to make sense of the world. Each song is a reflection of the person I was at the time that I wrote it, but once a song is out in the world, it belongs not only to me but to those who appreciate it as well,” continued the three-time Grammy winner (and six-time nominee) Shakira.

Through the first 13 days of 2021, Hipgnosis has also announced deals with Neil Young (covering 50 percent of the creator’s 1,180-track catalog), veteran producer Jimmy Iovine (encompassing his entire 259-song catalog and royalties from 8 Mile and Get Rich or Die Tryin’), and longtime Fleetwood Mac guitarist Lindsey Buckingham (for his 161-song catalog as well as a 50 percent publishing interest in his future works).

Separately, the three-year-old entity’s website now indicates that access is not permitted for individuals navigating to the site from countries including the United States, Canada, and Australia. And investment banking firm Stifel recently downgraded Hipgnosis stock (SONG on the London Stock Exchange) to “neutral.”

Federal Court Upholds $1 Billion Copyright Infringement Ruling Against Cox Communications

A federal court has ordered mega-ISP Cox Communications to pay the entire $1 billion copyright infringement penalty that a jury levied against it in December of 2019, as part of its years-long courtroom confrontation with the RIAA and the Big Three labels.

The underlying lawsuit between Atlanta, Georgia-headquartered Cox Communications and the RIAA initiated in late July of 2018, when the major labels formally alleged that Cox had reaped substantial profits from “massive copyright infringement committed by thousands of its subscribers.”

A jury in late December of 2019 agreed with the plaintiffs, finding Cox Communications guilty of both vicarious and contributory infringement on some 10,017 works – and attaching a $99,830.29 fee to each of the alleged violations, bringing the grand damages total to just over $1 billion. (The amount was rounded down to $1 billion even on the “total damages” line.) Then, in early June of 2019, U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady dismissed the majority of Cox’s challenges against the stunning verdict, but indicated that the disclosed total of 10,017 allegedly infringed works may have been “premature.”

Consequently, Judge O’Grady granted Cox Communications time to provide an updated list, accounting specifically for claims that “certain works at issue were derivative of others.” The court would proceed to use this list (along with that provided by the plaintiffs) to determine the precise number of copyright infringement instances and, in turn, the total damages owed.

Now, two new legal documents, shared with Digital Music News this afternoon, reveal that Judge O’Grady has upheld the $99,830.29 in damages for each of the allegedly infringed works – or a rounded-down total of $1 billion.

In a six-page-long order (dated today, January 12th), Judge O’Grady explained that whether the plaintiffs, including Sony Music, Universal Music, and Warner Music, “are entitled to statutory damages for derivative works is a question of law, and one that has been answered in the negative by case law persuasive to the Court.”

In other words, statutory damages (in this case, almost $100,000 for each of the aforementioned 10,017 works) shouldn’t be calculated for derivative works. Nevertheless, Cox must still pay the full $1 billion, for all 10,017 works, because it “did not present evidence of the supposed relationship between the sound recordings and musical compositions at trial.” Rather, the entity did so in an August of 2019 motion for summary judgement.

“Sony successfully argued” when opposing this motion for summary judgement that the possibly derivative works across the two lists introduced by the plaintiffs “presented factual questions that a jury was required to answer.” After the court denied the motion, “trial then proceeded and Cox put forth no testimony regarding the duplicative works.

“The court also incorrectly assumed that the calculation of the number of duplicative works would be a ministerial act using evidence in the trial record” – though Sony Music “correctly and forcefully” argued that the “complex” breakdown “is not ministerial.”

Towards the order’s conclusion, Judge O’Grady wrote: “Cox’s failure to present evidence to the jury that it had infringed on only 7,579 works resulted in the jury’s determination that Cox had infringed on 10,017 works. … Clearly, the number of derivative works in play in this case was a question for the jury. The jury answered that question with the information available, and Cox did not provide the information to the jury that it has provided to the Court in its post-brief trial.”

In a concise second order, also dated January 12th, Judge O’Grady confirmed the full ruling against the defendants, “in the amount of One Billion Dollars ($1,000,000,000.00).”

More Than 5,000 Independent Artists Demand Reinstatement of Their Music on Spotify

Six days back, Digital Music News was first to report that Spotify had removed hundreds of thousands of indie tracks over alleged “artificial stream” violations. Now, more than 5,000 indie artists have signed a petition (entitled “Restore Our Music”) demanding that the platform reinstate the songs.

A musician reached out to DMN last week with word of the unprecedented takedowns, and this message spurred a flurry of reports on the ugly situation. Firsthand emails, an analysis from music industry attorney Wallace Collins, a detailed breakdown from DistroKid, and social media posts penned by frustrated creators, suggest that the all-encompassing song-removal effort has impacted some 750,000 tracks.

Spotify appeared to explain the move in the “promotion” FAQ section of its Spotify for Artists resource, stating in an answer to one inquiry: “Third party promotional services that advertise streams in return for payment violate our terms & conditions, and using them could result in your music being removed from Spotify.”

And DistroKid – in which Spotify has a “passive minority investment” – debuted a counter-notification form that its artists can utilize to appeal their tracks’ removal. Plus, the music distributor’s CEO, Philip Kaplan, emphasized that “these takedowns were distributor-agnostic and affected music from all distributors (not just DistroKid)” – which makes sense, given that DistroKid is easily one of today’s largest music distributors.

Nevertheless, more than a few artists are relaying that while they haven’t used a fake-stream service, Spotify still removed their tracks. Many of these individuals also signed the aforementioned petition, demanding that Spotify “restore our music.” About one week ago, Buffalo-based artist Dylan Toole released the petition, which had garnered north of 5,100 signatures at the time of this piece’s publishing.

“I have never used ‘fake streams’ with my singles and every one of them has been removed,” commented a petition signer, “even ones which hardly get any plays, like 5 plays a month if I’m lucky. My music is all gone!”

“They took my music down because they accused me of fake streams. Never used any fake streams in my life,” commented another musician when explaining his reason for signing the petition.

Also worth noting is that while some indie music remains offline on Spotify for alleged artificial streams, a portion of the impacted tracks are becoming available to fans once again.

Dylan Toole’s Cold Hearted Love Story was listed solely under the “artist’s pick” section last week, but has since been relisted under “albums.” Moreover, fans can currently stream any of the album’s nine tracks; just four of these songs were live six days ago.

On the other side of the coin, Manchester-based Heavy Salad provided a less-than-encouraging update on their situation this morning, via a tweet. “We are now in Week2 of our counterclaim against @SpotifyCares @Spotify for alleged fraud. We have had no correspondence from either @Spotify or @DistroKid.”

Heavy Salad’s Spotify page still shows zero albums, and while the group previously had nine singles on the platform, the total has since dipped to seven.

More as this develops.

Neil Young Says Capitol Hill Rioters Deserve Empathy — ‘We Don’t Need This Hate’

Photo Credit: Neil Young Instagram

Neil Young says the Capitol Hill rioters deserve empathy for being betrayed and mislead, while calling for ‘discussion and solutions’ instead of hatred.

Young recently posted a message on his website, calling for unity among the division. “Sadness and compassion hit me last night as I watched fellow Americans telling their stories,” Young writes on his website. “A young lady in tears spoke of being maced in the Capital [sic].”

“She was crying because she had been attacked, and all she was doing was trying to have her voice heard in this Revolution. She was one of the thousands who have been carrying the feelings of being persecuted for their beliefs, their feeling that American power just didn’t care.”

“This to me is beyond my own feelings that our president has betrayed people, exaggerated and amplified the truth to foment hatred,” Young continues. “Resentment of the Democratic party among the insurrectionists at the Capitol was rampant. We don’t need this hate. We need discussion and solutions. Respect for one another’s beliefs. Not hatred.”

Also shared in the message is the double-standard BLM rioters faced against police. “I was devastated to see the double standard,” Young says. “The way people were treated in the BLM demonstrations recently, compared to the other day. There is no place here for White Supremacy. People need each other to be truly free. Hatred will never find Freedom.”

“I still have my strong beliefs,” Neil Young comments. He was a vocal opponent against Donald Trump for most of his presidency.

Young even went so far as to sue Trump to stop him from using his music at campaign rallies and other events. “That has not changed. But now I feel empathy for the people who have been so manipulated and had their beliefs used as political weapons. I may be among them,” he says.

“I wish internet news was two-sided. Both sides represented on the same programs. Social media, at the hands of powerful people – influencers, amplifying lies and untruths, is crippling our belief system, turning us against one another. We are not enemies. We must find a way home.”

Neil Young’s message of unity may surprise anyone paying attention. He’s been at the forefront of pointing out Trump’s hypocrisy ever since becoming a dual American-Canadian citizen.

Young’s calls for peace and empathy for rioters are being met with harsh resistance on social media, though. Many people feel the insurrectionists who attacked the Capitol, and endangered lawmakers should be punished to the law’s full extent.

Abbey Road Studios Documentary Is Moving Forward — Mary McCartney to Direct

Photo Credit: Pixabay

A new Abbey Road Studios documentary is coming from director Mary McCartney.

The new documentary is a joint venture between Universal Music Group-backed Mercury Studios and Ventureland. The tentative title for the documentary is If These Walls Could Sing. This is the first time the legendary studio will be featured in a documentary as a centerpiece.

The Abbey Road Studios documentary is billed as the untold story – with an all-star cast of interviews.

The studio is located in St. John’s Wood in North West London, and first opened in 1931. The studio has earned a reputation for its groundbreaking recording technology, which was first used for classical recordings. The Beatles recorded 190 of their 210 songs at the studio.

The documentary is being produced by John Battsek. The development of the documentary is overseen by Universal Music U.K.’s Marc Robinson and Mercury Studios CEO Alice Webb. Webb is also serving as executive producer for the project.

Mary McCartney says some of her earliest memories come from time spent at Abbey Road. Mary is the daughter of Paul and Linda McCartney. “I’ve long wanted to tell the story of this historic place, and I couldn’t be collaborating with a better team than John and Mercury Studios to make this creative ambition a reality,” she adds.

“Mercury Studios could not be partnering with a more visionary and passionate team than Mary McCartney and John Battsek to tell Abbey Road Studios’ incredible story on film for the first time,” CEO Alice Webb says. “We are passionate about showcasing the work of pioneering filmmakers of the highest quality – which is why we are delighted Mary is bringing her creative vision to this project.”

Isabel Garvey, Managing Director of Abbey Road Studios, says the title is perfect. “If these walls could sing. I have lost count of how many times I’ve heard that said at Abbey Road Studios over the years. I can’t wait for some of these stories to finally come to life in what will become a timeless documentary,” Garvey adds.

A concrete release date for the new Abbey Road Studios documentary has not been revealed.

But the legendary studio is celebrating its 90th year in operation this year. Producers are no doubt hoping to have it ready for those celebrations this November.

The famous studio opened under the name EMI Recording Studios by the Gramaphone Company (back in 1931). It wasn’t until 1970 that the studio was renamed after The Beatles’ 11th studio album.

Jamey Johnson, Randy Houser Launch Socially-Distanced ‘Country Cadillac Tour’ In Southern States

Jamey Johnson, who will tour several southern states with Randy Houser as part of the Country Cadillac Tour, performing live. Photo Credit: geopungo

Artists and “longtime friends” Jamey Johnson and Randy Houser have announced a 13-date “Country Cadillac Tour,” which will take them across Texas, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.

Jamey Johnson and Randy Houser are set to kick off their Country Cadillac Tour on Friday, February 5th, at Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth, Texas. This and each of the 12 other acoustic shows – two gigs in Mobile, Atlanta, Myrtle Beach, New Braunfels, as well as once-off performances in Orlando and Huntsville – “will be socially distanced and include other safety protocols,” Live Nation specified in a formal release.

“More shows are being announced due to popular demand,” the Ticketmaster parent company also noted of the Country Cadillac Tour, which is currently slated to wrap in Birmingham on April 17th. In addition to delivering joint sets, Jamey Johnson and Randy Houser will “swap stories, jokes and songs,” the text indicates, in what will be their first time sharing the stage since Farm Aid 2019.

Country Cadillac Tour tickets are scheduled to go on sale this Friday, January 15th, at 10 AM local time (following the release of presale passes at 10 AM local time on January 13th). Mississippi native and “How Country Feels” artist Randy Houser stated on social media that “limited seats will be available” to the socially distanced happenings. Alabama-born Jamey Johnson also promoted the tour in a tweet.

Contrasting Johnson and Houser’s coming concert series, The 1975 today canceled their 2021 tour stops, including a July gig at London’s Finsbury Park, due to COVID-19 concerns. These varying approaches to resuming performances (including those that are socially distanced, an array of drive-in concerts among them) appear poised to continue making headlines in the coming weeks and months, as artists decide when (and whether) they feel comfortable entertaining audiences once again.

With the COVID-19 vaccine rollout proceeding, most promoters and live event professionals appear to be banking on concerts’ gradual return in 2021, ahead of a full-scale comeback towards summer. And needless to say, a multitude of venues, musicians, and behind-the-scenes professionals stand to benefit financially from the reemergence of live music.

Margin Walker Presents, the largest independent concert promoter in Texas, was forced to close its doors about one month back, due to “the uncertainty and lack of resources” in the live event space. The North American concert sphere suffered multibillion-dollar losses in 2020, according to Pollstar’s yearend analysis, and LIVE relayed in a report that the British live music industry will have lost nearly 170,000 jobs by 2020’s end.

Blocboy Jb – Bandit Lyrics

[Intro]
HitKidd what it do boy

[Chorus]
I’m a bandit, walkin’ with two stacks (Woah)
Put ’em together make a sandwich (Sandwich)
I ain’t gotta do the hit, my nigga I command it (Boom)
Once I point my finger at a nigga they do damage (Grra)
We catchin’ bodies police can’t stand it (Never)

[Verse]
We caught one body, two bodies (Two bodies)
Three bodies, four bodies (Four bodies)
Five bodies, six bodies (Six bodies)
That’s a lot of bodies (Yeah)
Up that Draco, to that bitch, had to take away his knowledge
You went the college, I got gun knowledge, let’s see who the smartest
I been with it since a year old
Put a hole up in his back, it turn a nigga to a zero
Russell Westbrook in this bitch
Zero dollars in my pocket, I said let’s go hit a lick
She freaky in the party, told that bitch come suck this dick

Bitch you know I’m with the shits
I be clutchin’ on my fans when they tryna take a pic
Check my watch, this one right here look like it tryna take a piss
I’m number one, I can’t be number two
‘Cause I ain’t sittin’ down, bitch I ain’t tryna take a shit

[Chorus]
I’m a bandit, walkin’ with two stacks (Woah)
Put ’em together make a sandwich (Sandwich)
I ain’t gotta do the hit, my nigga I command it (Boom)
Once I point my finger at a nigga they do damage (Grra)
We catchin’ bodies police can’t stand it (Never)

[Chorus]
I’m a bandit, walkin’ with two stacks (Woah)
Put ’em together make a sandwich (Sandwich)
I ain’t gotta do the hit, my nigga I command it (Boom)
Once I point my finger at a nigga they do damage (Grra)
We catchin’ bodies police can’t stand it (Never)

Jelly Roll – Save Me Lyrics

[Verse 1]
Somebody save me, me from myself
I've spent so long living in hell
They say my lifestyle is bad for my health
It's the only thing that seems to help

[Pre-Chorus]
All of this drinkin' and smokin' is hopeless but feel like it's all that I need
Somethin' inside of me's broken, I hold on to anything that sets me free

[Chorus]
I'm a lost cause, baby don't waste your time on me
I'm so damaged beyond repair
Life has shattered my hopes and my dreams
I'm a lost cause, baby don't waste your time on me
I'm so damaged beyond repair
Life has shattered my hopes and my dreams

[Verse 2]
What if the night sky was missin' the moon?

There were no shootin' stars, to use wishin' on you
And all of my sorrows, I'd just wash them down
It's the only peace, I've ever found

[Pre-Chorus]
All of this drinkin' and smokin' is hopeless but feel like it's all that I need
Somethin' inside of me's broken, I hang on to anything that sets me free
[Chorus]
I'm a lost cause, baby don't waste your time on me
I'm so damaged beyond repair
Life has shattered my hopes and my dreams
I'm a lost cause, baby don't waste your time on me
I'm so damaged beyond repair
Life has shattered my hopes and my dreams

Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical Donates $2MM to Struggling Stage Actors

Photo Credit: Twitter

The Ratatouille: TikTok Musical generated a massive $2 million donation to benefit struggling actors.

The TikTok musical premiered on Friday on the TodayTix platform, with over 200,000 tickets sold. Another encore performance happened on Sunday night, with more than 150,000 viewers watching that time. Between the two platforms, around 350,000 people tuned in for Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical.

“When Greg Nobile first approached us with the idea to produce a benefit event surrounding Ratatouille, never did we imagine that it would blossom into such an amazing outpouring of love and support for The Actors Fund,” says Thomas Schumacher, President & Producer of Disney Theatrical Productions. Disney gave the producers of the Ratatouille TikTok musical their blessing.

“What we all saw New Year’s day was a celebration of art and craft that was as charming as it was moving. It’s thrilling to see how the theatre-makers on TikTok and the Broadway community came together to provide aid to so many in need during this unprecedented time. Congratulations to our friends at Seaview, all of the artists involved, and our tireless colleagues at The Actors Fund.”

The Ratatouille: TikTok musical was created in less than a month. The $2 million donation benefits struggling performers impacted by the pandemic.

The full cast of the Ratatouille TikTok musical included:

  • Wayne Brady – Django
  • Tituss Burgess – Remy
  • Kevin Chamberlin – Gusteau
  • André De Shields – Ego
  • Andrew Barth Feldman – Linguini
  • Adam Lambert – Emile
  • Priscilla Lopez – Mabel
  • Ashley Park – Colette
  • Owen Tabaka – Young Ego
  • Mary Testa – Skinner

Ensemble

  • Cori Jaskier
  • Talia Suskauer
  • Nikisha Williams
  • JJ Niemann
  • John Michael Lyles
  • Raymond J. Lee
  • Joy Woods

The musical is a one-time performance that featured content created by the TikTok community. The collective work has earned the engagement of more than 200 million fans around the globe. The Broadway Sinfonietta orchestra performed each piece. The musical was adapted for the virtual benefit by Michael Breslin and Patrick Foley. It was choreographed by Ellenore Scott and directed by Lucy Moss.

While the Ratatouille musical was a one-off event, it may be the beginning of a trend. With over 350,000 people tuning in to benefit struggling actors, online musicals may become more prominent.

That’s especially true if live events and concerts can’t get back to normal until the fall. Dr. Fauci says 70% of the population needs to be vaccinated before live events return to normal. Audience members may be required to wear masks for the foreseeable future to help stop the spread, too.

Dr. Fauci on Live Events Return – 70% of Population Needs Vaccine First

Photo Credit: Blueraspberry / CC by 4.0

Dr. Fauci says around 70% of the population will need to receive the vaccine before live events return.

At a virtual conference hosted by the Association of Performing Arts Professionals, the top infectious disease expert detailed what a return of live events may look like.

“If everything goes right, this will occur sometime in the fall of 2021,” Dr. Fauci told attendees. “So that by the time we get to the early to mid-fall, you can have people feeling safe performing onstage as well as people in the audience.”

The APAP conference was moved online this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic has taken a massive toll on the performing arts, as outlined by the advocacy group Americans for the Arts. Financial losses in the United States alone are estimated to be more than $14.8 billion.

That’s because more than a third of non-profit arts and culture organizations have laid off their staff. A tenth of those organizations aren’t sure they will survive to see the end of the pandemic.

Dr. Fauci said theaters and concert halls with proper ventilation and air filters might not need so many restrictions after the vaccine.

However, he says audience members wearing masks will continue to be the norm. “I think you can then start getting back to almost full capacity seating,” Fauci says, if proper precautions are followed.

Some performers and artists are upset about how restrictions are doled out. Some restaurants, bars, and places of worship remain open, while theaters and concert halls are closed. Dr. Fauci says the ventilation in these settings impacts those restrictions.

Specifically, Fauci refers to a German study of indoor concerts staged by scientists back in August. The study suggests that indoor events have a “low to very low” impact on the spread of the virus, as long as organizers follow strict requirements in regards to ventilation and airflow, hygiene protocols like wearing masks, and observe limited capacity.

Dr. Fauci says more studies like this are needed to help determine the impact of live concerts on virus spread. “What the performing arts need to do is to do a little bit more of what the Germans are doing,” Fauci told attendees.

He also recommended live events follow some of the protocols established by U.S. airlines. Some airlines require passengers to provide a negative test result before they could fly. The performing arts industry could require audience members to submit a negative test before attending a live event.

The 1975 Cancels All 2021 Tour Dates — Offers Fans Full Refunds

The 1975 have canceled their 2021 tour dates – and offered fans full refunds – due to COVID-19 concerns.

The Manchester-based pop group took to social media this morning to announce the cancellations, which cover “all scheduled touring for 2021,” including the four-piece act’s July 10th show at Finsbury Park. Fans who purchased tickets to the latter can receive refund information “at your point of purchase,” The 1975 indicated in their message.

“These are incredibly difficult times for a lot of people,” The 1975 wrote, “and until we can be sure that we will be able to play shows in a way that is safe for our fans and crew, we have decided the best course of action is to cancel our touring so that, where possible, everyone can get their tickets refunded sooner rather than later.”

In closing, the 19-year-old band specified that they’re currently crafting a follow-up to their fourth studio album, the 22-track Notes on a Conditional Form, which became available to fans in late May of 2020. Additionally, The 1975 relayed that they’re looking “forward to seeing you all at a show as soon as it is safe to do so.”

That the group cleared their entire 2021 touring schedule underscores the far-reaching questions surrounding the timetable associated with traditional concerts’ and music festivals’ full-scale return – especially as COVID-19 vaccinations continue to ramp up. On the festival front, Coachella 2021 is set to kick off on Friday, April 9th, while EDC Las Vegas 2021 – which sold out in one day – is scheduled to initiate on May 21st. Plus, Insomniac has booked the (also sold-out) Day Trip Festival for early July, and Bonnaroo is expected to take place in September.

Live Nation reiterated in its Q3 2020 earnings report that it anticipates concerts will return “at scale in the summer of 2021.” Moreover, in another testament to fans’ desire to resume enjoying live music, more than 80 percent of ticketholders opted to hold onto their passes in anticipation of shows’ rescheduled dates, the company relayed.

In a recent interview entitled “Public Health and the Re-opening of the Performing Arts,” delivered as part of the APAP|NYC+ 2021 Conference, longtime National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) director Anthony Fauci disclosed his outlook for crowd-based entertainment’s comeback.

“The timeline [for a live-event comeback] won’t change if what I would hope happens in fact happens. And that is that we need to vaccinate between 70 and 85 percent of the population to get a level of herd immunity where the virus is such a low level in society that it’s virtually no threat to anyone,” said the 80-year-old physician and immunologist.

In the nearer term, however, Danny Wimmer Presents’ President of Live Entertainment, Joe Litvag, said in Pollstar’s yearend analysis that his company expects an incremental comeback to take place across most of 2021 – beginning with younger fans’ enjoying shows once again.

“DWP’s opinion right now is that most of 2021 will be in a constant transition phase of re-opening, and that segments of the industry, particularly those that appeal to the younger demographics will gain confidence quickly and will build faster than the those [sic] that appeal to older demographics,” said the former AEG Presents exec Litvag. “But things will progress month by month next year, and [by] spring 2022 we think the industry will be back and fully integrated into the new normal.”

SiriusXM Warns of $1 Billion ‘Impairment Charge’ on Pandora Due to Increased Royalty Rates

Photo Credit: Pandora

SiriusXM has warned investors of a $1 billion “impairment charge” on Pandora due to increased royalty rates.

SiriusXM informed the public of the imminent “impairment charge” in a recent release, ahead of its Q4 2020 earnings call, which is scheduled for Wednesday, February 2nd. (Spotify is set to unveil its own fourth-quarter performance specifics the following day.) After highlighting the earning and subscribership benchmarks it reached through 2020’s final three months, the satellite-radio company featured comments from CEO Jennifer Witz (who took over for Jim Meyer in the new year) and segued directly into the possible impairment charge.

“The company expects to conclude that an impairment is necessary related to the Pandora reporting unit. … The expected impairment is a result of the anticipated operating performance of Pandora, primarily its royalty cost structure,” and “could be approximately $1.0 billion,” the text indicated.

SiriusXM stock (SIRI) dipped following the announcement of the expected $1 billion impairment charge and, despite a small subsequent uptick, has yet to reach its previous value. SIRI shares were worth $6.37 apiece on 2020’s final day and finished today at $5.94 each – their lowest closing value since Friday, January 8th, and prior to that, November of 2020.

CEO Jennifer Witz struck an optimistic tone in her statement, noting SiriusXM’s ($325 million) purchase of San Francisco-based podcasting platform Stitcher last summer as well as the company’s locking down a new deal with 66-year-old radio jock Howard Stern. Building upon the points and the strong fourth-quarter results, Witz said: “I am confident that SiriusXM has a long runway of growth ahead of us in 2021 and beyond.”

On the subscriber front, the release stated that SiriusXM added over 900,000 net self-pay subscribers, bringing its total to 30.9 million at 2020’s end. The company “expects to meet or exceed its most recent 2020 guidance for revenue” and anticipates that it will record net subscriber additions of 800,000, revenue of roughly $8.35 billion, and free cash flow of approximately $1.6 billion, in 2021.

SiriusXM and the National Basketball Association (NBA) announced late last week that they’d closed an expanded multiyear agreement encompassing “live audio broadcasts for every NBA game,” provided that SiriusXM subscribers also have the SiriusXM Premier Streaming Package.

This NBA deal arrived on the heels of SiriusXM’s becoming “the exclusive audio broadcaster” of the 2021 Masters Tournament, including play-by-play commentary across each of the event’s four tournament-play days. The 2021 Masters are slated to kick off on April 8th, from Augusta, Georgia’s Augusta National Golf Club.

Hipgnosis Downgraded by Stifel Analyst on Valuation Methodologies, Cashflow Concerns

St. Louis- and London-headquartered investment banking firm Stifel has downgraded the stock rating of UK-based song investment fund Hipgnosis due to cashflow concerns and its valuation methodologies.

Max Haycock, an analyst at Stifel’s London division, recently downgraded the rating of Hipgnosis (traded as SONG on the London Stock Exchange) to “neutral,” specifying first that he and his team “feel uncomfortable with Hipgnosis’ valuation procedure” – particularly because the music industry is “opaque.”

Haycock used an analogy to summarize his uncertainty with this key portion of the three-year-old entity’s operations, given its decidedly aggressive (and expensive) moves on the catalog-acquisition front. “An individual purchases a house from a willing seller in a standard sales process for £500k. That individual then goes to an estate agent and asks them to value their new house, and they receive an estimated valuation of £550k. The ‘gain’ of £50k is then immediately booked by the purchaser who goes to their bank and asks for more capital to buy another house.

“However, given Hipgnosis is a buy-and-hold investor and does not expect to sell catalogs, there will not be any confirmation of the DCF [discounted cash flow] valuation. Hence, if the independent valuations are too aggressive, there will be a long lead time to allow the market to ‘catch up’ as and when cash royalties are received i.e. the long term valuation could be different to today’s purchase price,” proceeded Stifel London’s Haycock.

As Stifel professionals previously noted (as far back as late 2019), this point could encourage an operational style that prioritizes high-profile deals involving big-name creators. Separately, Haycock pointed to additional concerns – which also appear to be independent of Hipgnosis’ recent site modifications to limit the solicitation of investors in the United States, Canada, Australia, South Africa, and Japan – pertaining to cashflow.

“The issues noted above are further compounded by the structure of the music royalty industry, as a song streamed today may not lead to a cash payment for at least six months and possibly longer,” wrote Haycock. “On this basis we can assume that approximately £20m of the £50m accrued income [outlined by Hipgnosis in a late-September of 2020 financial disclosure] will not be billed and collected for up to 12 months, and in some cases longer.”

Global investment company KKR announced this morning that it had acquired “a majority stake” in the nearly 500-track catalog of OneRepublic lead singer Ryan Tedder. Plus, Round Hill Music revealed its purchase of veteran Canadian songwriter Jim Vallance’s extensive catalog today.

Music Attorney Joel Katz Exits Greenberg Traurig “By Mutual Understanding”

Music attorney Joel Katz has exited Greenberg Traurig “by mutual understanding,” the 54-year-old law firm has confirmed.

Greenberg Traurig, which has about 40 offices around the globe, recently acknowledged the departure of Joel Katz in a statement. Katz, who was accused by former Recording Academy head Deborah Dugan of sexual harassment, was the founding chairman of the law firm’s global entertainment and media practices division.

Greenberg Traurig denied Dugan’s claims (specifically concerning Katz’s allegedly attempting to kiss her at a dinner party), and the Recording Academy launched an investigation last February.

While the exact circumstances of Katz’s Greenberg Traurig resignation remain unclear, it also bears mentioning that the Grammys paid $4.5 million in legal fees in 2019 – including $2.5 million to two law firms, Greenberg Traurig and Proskauer Rose – according to a Form 990 that became publicly available last month.

A report from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (the Atlanta metropolitan area’s largest daily newspaper and a subsidiary of Cox Enterprises) indicates that Joel Katz informed Greenberg Traurig of his resignation on December 31st. (This same source relays that Katz is a two-time inductee into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame and, in a further testament to his Peach State presence, has a portion of the Northside Parkway named after him.)

The attorney is “on holiday” presently, per a representative, and hadn’t personally commented on the departure at the time of this piece’s writing. And in his aforementioned statement on the matter, Greenberg Traurig executive chairman Richard A. Rosenbaum touted the continued strength of the global entertainment division — but didn’t provide a specific reason for the exit of Katz, who was born in Queens and relocated to Atlanta more than four decades ago.

“Our global entertainment practice remains strong, diverse and among the largest, most dynamic and highest rated in the world,” said Rosenbaum, “led by Chair Bobby Rosenbloum in Atlanta, assisted by Vice Chairs Barbara Meili in New York and Dan Black in Los Angeles, as well as Jay Cooper, the founder of our Los Angeles Entertainment Practice, leading music industry lawyers Jess Rosen in Atlanta and Paul Schindler in New York, and many others. We thank Mr. Katz for his contributions over the years and have no further comment at this time.”

The Recording Academy didn’t address Joel Katz’s Greenberg Traurig departure – or elaborate upon its investigation into his alleged misconduct, which became public via a leaked memo – in time for publishing. Five days back, the Academy postponed the 63rd Grammys until Sunday, March 14th, due to COVID-19 concerns.

OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder Just Sold His Music Copyrights to KKR

Photo Credit: Arne Müseler / CC by 2.0

OneRepublic lead singer Ryan Tedder has sold a majority stake of his recorded music and publishing rights to KKR.

Tedder has a 500-song catalog that includes several major OneRepublic hits. That catalog also includes other platinum hits he’s written for stars like Beyonce and Adele. KKR has not detailed how much it paid for the catalog or the percent stakes involved. Reuters reports that the Ryan Tedder catalog of music is valued at $200 million, making it a pretty large acquisition for KKR and Tedder.

“The music industry is undergoing an incredible period of transformation,” Tedder said. “Streaming and all forms of digital content are not only providing new avenues for how we consume music, but also for how artists can reach new audiences in a much more immersive way. KKR really stood out to us from every metric that mattered, and it truly impressed upon my team and me their commitment to music as a true focus and passion moving forward.”

Investment firm KKR is no stranger to music-copyright ownership.

In late 2020, KKR bought an 80% stake in Stevie Nicks’ songwriting copyrights. Her music catalog is valued at roughly $100 million. Of course, KKR isn’t the only investment firm interested in obtaining stakes in many valuable music catalogs.

Bob Dylan sold over 600 songs to Vivendi SE’s Universal Music Group in a deal estimated to be worth between $300 million and $400 million. And Hipgnosis Songs Fund is continuing its massive acquisition of rights. Jimmy IovineLindsey Buckingham, and Neil Young are just the latest artists to sell part or all of their catalog to Hipgnosis. Neil Young’s publishing deal with Hipgnosis is estimated to be worth between $40 million and $50 million for a 50% stake.

Ryan Tedder sold part of his publishing rights, excluding OneRepublic, to Downtown Music Holdings in 2016.

Downtown Music Holdings will continue to own and administer those copyrights. Interscope Records (under UMG) also owns master recording copyrights to OneRepublic’s recorded music. KKR will participate in Mr. Tedder’s royalty income from that music, as well as producer royalties from any other recorded assets.

KKR has been investing heavily in the music industry since 2009. It purchased Gibson, which recently acquired amp maker Mesa/Boogie. It also has stakes in TikTok’s parent company ByteDance, BMG, and Alpha Theta, formerly known as Pioneer DJ. KKR says it is actively pursuing other investments across the music and entertainment industry, especially intellectual property.

TikTok Bans Trump Before Trump Can Ban TikTok

Photo Credit: History in HD

TikTok has now banned Trump videos and speeches that preceded the riot at the U.S. Capitol.

TikTok says the content has no home on the platform. It is removing videos of Trump’s speeches to his supporters before the riot began. It is also removing all content related to the #stormthecapitol and #patriotparty hashtags.

TikTok says Trump’s claims of election fraud violate the platform’s misinformation policy. TikTok says misinformation is content that is inaccurate or false. The platform says it encourages discourse and respectful conversations, but what it judges to be outright lies.

Ironically, TikTok has now banned Trump, citing hateful content and misinformation about the U.S. election. During 2020, the ByteDance-owned was preparing for a Trump-ordered shutdown based on national security concerns.

Counter speech against the Trump videos is still allowed on the platform. Videos that dispute Trump’s claims of election rigging will also still be allowed. TikTok says these commentary videos are important – unless those comments support the Capitol riots or claim election fraud.

TikTok says it will allow some videos of violence that took place at the Capitol to remain. Content from a news organization or videos that condemn the violence is still allowed. TikTok is also applying its recently launched opt-in viewing screens on newsworthy content that may show violence.

These blurred screens are applied over videos that viewers may find graphic or distressing. The user can then choose to navigate away from the content without viewing or tap to view it anyway. It’s similar to how Facebook handles the moderation of graphic content on its platform.

TikTok was quick to remove videos of Ashli Babbitt’s shooting, a woman who died at the Capitol riots. Individual videos from people who were near her continued to stay on the platform as direct video footage of the incident. Those videos remained up for most of the day on January 6th but were quickly removed. It’s unclear if the original owner or TikTok removed them.

TikTok says it is also stepping up its policy against hateful and inciteful content. It will remove videos that glorify violence or promote it against certain people. TikTok says these videos will be removed through a combination of automated moderation and user reporting.

TikTok is also proactively blocking any hashtags related to glorifying violence. Anyone searching for those blocked hashtags is now redirected to TikTok’s Community Guidelines, which outlines why such content is banned from the platform. TikTok says it will not share a full list of banned hashtags to protect its safeguards against such content.

Other blocked hashtags include #stopthesteal and #QAnon.

Dr. Dre Hospital Update — Still In ICU One Week After Brain Aneurysm

Photo Credit: Jason Persse / CC by 2.0

Dre is still in intensive care at a hospital in Los Angeles a week after suffering a brain aneurysm.

The 55-year-old rapper isn’t out of the woods yet, as he’s still in the ICU. He was rushed to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after suffering the aneurysm on January 4th. He previously told his Instagram followers that he was doing great and receiving excellent medical care.

An anonymous source told TMZ that Dr. Dre is still in the hospital after a week.

Doctors are continuing to run tests and keeping him at the hospital in case he suffers a second aneurysm. It’s unclear whether the rapper has undergone any surgery or what caused the brain bleed in the first place. Dr. Dre’s doctors believe the rapper is likely to recover, despite the long hospital stay.

“He’s going to be totally fine. He’s expected to come out of it completely,” one source shared with the Daily News.

Dr. Dre – born Andre Young – is in the middle of a contentious divorce with his ex-wife Nicole Young. He is in the middle of legal proceedings, where Young is seeking $2 million per month. A preliminary hearing last week gave Young $2 million to cover her expenses over the next few months.

That is believed to be the beginning of a down payment on eventual spousal support. Young filed for divorce from Dr. Dre back in June, after 24 years of marriage. She cited irreconcilable differences, and the couple has two adult children together.

Dre says he’s been paying all of Young’s expenses since she announced the split, around $300,000 a month. Nicole says Dr. Dre tore up a prenuptial agreement signed by the couple after their 1996 marriage – though Dr. Dre denies that. Dre also claims that Nicole embezzled a total of $385,029 from one of his companies.

Sources connected to Dr. Dre believe Nicole will have to tighten her belt after the divorce.

The court-approved schedule establishing spousal support entitles Nicole to between $81,002 and $138,622 a month. But that’s the beginning of a messy process that will wind its way through the courts for months (or even years). Dre’s health hasn’t stopped the proceedings, either; temporary spousal support was granted while he recovers in the hospital.

Sony’s First 360 Reality Audio Speakers Are Releasing This Year

Photo Credit: Sony UK

The first Sony speakers with 360 Reality Audio will debut this year – here are the details.

Sony revealed the new speakers at the all-digital CES 2021 show, which usually occurs in Las Vegas. Sony unveiled the 360 Reality Audio format two years ago  with a pair of headphones; now, it’s debuting a smart speaker. The speaker also features an Immersive Audio Enhancement algorithm to transform stereo tracks into a simulated 360 audio experience.

The Sony SRS-RA3000 will feature Bluetooth, WiFi, Spotify Connect, and Google Cast capabilities. The unit can be paired with both the Google Home and Amazon Alexa apps for seamless smart home integration. The speaker also supports voice commands from either Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa.

Sony is building some interoperability with its other devices, too. Both Sony 360 reality audio speaker models can wirelessly connect to Sony Bravia TVs. The Sony Music Center app also offers an equalizer, volume controls, and more. The speakers are capable of adjusting their volume automatically to bring consistency to streaming music even if the tracks vary.

The Sony RA5000 can be calibrated to offer “optimum audio performance.” Sony says the internal microphone and audio algorithms can help the speaker sound its best in your location. Holding down the Immersive Audio Enhancement button starts the automatic sound calibration.

The speaker is also humidity-resistant, making it a good companion device for kitchens or bathrooms. Both devices feature a 15-minute timeout feature to preserve battery life if the speaker isn’t being used.

So far, only Sony UK has officially announced the new speaker. Sony says both models will be appearing in the United States later this year. The Sony RA5000 will cost £500/€599 while the RA3000 will debut at £280/€359. Both speakers are intended to compete with the Amazon Echo Studio.

360 Reality Audio is designed to reproduce the experience of being at a live music concert.

Sony achieves it by placing the listener in a virtual concert venue, positioning all of the instruments in a soundstage around the listener. The result is an airy, open performance that feels different from studio and live concert recordings.

Sony plans to release a new video service with 360 Reality Audio, too. The feature is available on Sony’s Artist Connection app for iOS and Android. The debut performance will feature Zara Larsson later tonight at 5 pm ET on January 11. Sony says other major music labels and service providers will begin streaming new video content later this year in the new audio format.

Round Hill Music Acquires the Back Catalog of Veteran Songwriter Jim Vallance

Round Hill Music has acquired the back catalog of veteran Canadian songwriter Jim Vallance.

Round Hill Music, which raised almost $300 million in November of 2020 to purchase additional music IP, unveiled the back-catalog buyout this morning, in a formal release. The Chilliwack, British Columbia, native Jim Vallance has penned hundreds of songs across his decades-long music career, including Aerosmith’s “Ragdoll” (1988), Bryan Adams’ “Summer of ‘69” (1985), and Alice Cooper’s “Die for You,” to name just some. (Nikki Sixx, who co-wrote “Die for You,” sold his own catalog to Hipgnosis in September of 2020.)

In total, Vallance has written 13 Aerosmith tracks, three Alice Cooper efforts, and eight Joan Jett songs, besides works performed by Paul Anka, Kiss, Lil Wayne, Ted Nugent, and Tina Turner. Additionally, Jim Vallance has long been the “songwriting partner” of Canadian Music Hall of Fame inductee Bryan Adams, and the two have co-written tracks such as “Heaven” (1985), “It’s Only Love” (1985), and “This Time” (1983), among many others.

Addressing the catalog acquisition (the financial terms of which weren’t disclosed) in a statement, Round Hill Music founder and CEO Josh Gruss said: “Jim Vallance is a master songwriter whose amazing body of work, which has been written for and recorded by some of the world’s greatest artists speaks for itself. We are honoured that Jim has chosen Round Hill to become the custodians of these great songs.”

UK-based song-investment company Hipgnosis continues to make headlines for its high-profile catalog acquisitions, including all manner of deals in 2020 as well as the 259-song catalog of Beats by Dre cofounder Jimmy Iovine, a 50 percent stake in the 1,180-track catalog of Neil Young, and the 161-song catalog of former Fleetwood Mac lead guitarist Lindsey Buckingham to this point in 2021.

However, other companies are also moving to bet on the long-term earning potential of music IP. As mentioned, Round Hill Music raised $291 million in November to acquire “blue chip and classic songs that have gained significant popularity,” following the rollout of a more than $280 million IPO.

And MRC owner Eldridge Industries acquired The Killers’ publishing catalog (excepting 2020’s Imploding the Mirage) that same month, in what was its first such deal. Plus, December saw Primary Wave buy a majority stake in longtime Fleetwood Mac vocalist and songwriter Stevie Nicks’ publishing catalog, as part of a broader deal that was reportedly worth north of $100 million.

Finally, 79-year-old Bob Dylan sold his entire catalog to Universal Music Publishing Group (reportedly in exchange for an over $300 million payment) in early December.

Audible Magic Acquires MediaNet from SOCAN

SOCAN’s Toronto HQ

 

Content-identification company Audible Magic has acquired B2B digital-music platform MediaNet from the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN).

SOCAN and Los Gatos, California-headquartered Audible Magic announced the deal this morning, in a general release. For background, SOCAN acquired Seattle-based MediaNet back in 2016, 16 years after it was founded (as “MusicNet”) by “the major labels and RealNetworks,” the latter of which is also based out of Seattle.

The former Napster owner RealNetworks, along with fellow MusicNet/MediaNet cofounders Time Warner (the parent of Warner Music when MusicNet was founded) and Bertelsmann, sold their stakes in 2005. According to Crunchbase, the sale was worth a total of $25 million.

Though the financial terms of Audible Magic’s MediaNet buyout are “confidential,” the release notes that the 22-year-old purchasing company “can now provide digital platforms a comprehensive range of services to enable and manage the use of music.” Included in this all-encompassing range of social-media-targeted services are “bespoke licensing from hundreds of labels and publishers, media files for more than 92 million tracks, full rights management, and royalty and payment administration.”

These assets, in turn, will allow social companies that emphasize user-generated media to “more easily exploit the opportunity for both music in UGC and premium content.” The release also cites a recent study from a tech-analysis company, which determined that there’s a potential $6 billion upside associated with “the appropriate use of audio and video for streaming of music in UGC alone.”

Lastly, SOCAN and Audible Magic indicated in the announcement message that they have formed a “strategic partnership,” under which the Canadian PRO will utilize Audible Magic assets in an effort to “improve operational accuracy and reporting to publishers and songwriters.”

Addressing the MediaNet sale in a statement, SOCAN interim CEO Jennifer Brown said: “The acquisition of the MediaNet services by Audible Magic creates long-term benefits for SOCAN’s members and clients. Audible Magic is a knowledgeable and skilled company and we’re looking forward to working together to improve the accuracy of reporting to publishers and songwriters.”

And in a statement of his own, Audible Magic cofounder, president, and CEO Vance Ikezoye pointed to the long-term potential of “incremental revenues” for the music industry. “Rightsholders and platforms will both benefit from our combined solution and will reduce the time and complexity of managing and paying for the use of music,” said the former Hewlett-Packard higher-up. “We see significant upside in enabling incremental revenues for the music ecosystem.”

Last month, Facebook – which officially unveiled licensed music videos in late July of 2020 – inked a major licensing agreement with Bollywood record label Tips Music. And TikTok in November of 2020 ended its licensing dispute with ICE, including member organizations PRS for Music, GEMA, STIM, IMRO, Concord, and others, by closing a new agreement.

Ariel Pink Dropped by Label After Attending Pro-Trump Rally In Washington, D.C.

Indie label Mexican Summer officially announcing its decision to drop Ariel Pink.

Ariel Pink has officially been dropped by his label, Mexican Summer, for attending a pro-Trump rally in Washington, D.C. on January 6th.

Ariel Pink didn’t storm the U.S. Capitol alongside other protesters, though the indie rocker has lost his label deal for attending the pro-Trump rally that preceded the violence. The indie musician, whose real name is Ariel Rosenberg, has been sharply criticized for attending the rally, which protested the recent 2020 presidential election results.

Rosenberg’s participation in the protest appears to have been entirely peaceful, though the resulting violence at the Capitol prompted his label Mexican Summer to drop the artist. “Due to recent events, Mexican Summer and its staff have decided to end our working relationship with Ariel Rosenberg AKA Ariel Pink moving forward,” the label offered in a brief Twitter statement.

Pink’s participation in the event isn’t exactly surprising given his ardent support for Donald Trump. After battling criticism for attending the rally, the artist simply responded that he wanted to “peacefully show his support for President Trump,” while clarifying that he was asleep in his hotel during the storming of the U.S. Capitol.

“I attended the rally on the White House lawn and went back to the hotel and took a nap. Case closed,” Pink flatly stated.

For Mexican Summer, Ariel Pink’s politics — and participation in the protest — are hardly a surprise. Rosenberg has been strongly pro-Trump for years, and has made strong statements against climate change, COVID-19 vaccinations, and Democrats in general. The storming of the U.S. Capitol, however, with or without Ariel Pink’s participation, seemed to be the last straw.

The send-off is unlikely to stunt Pink’s career, however. The artist currently enjoys more than 100 million streams on Spotify and considerable fan support. Those fans and listeners apparently weren’t turned off by Pink’s politics before this point, so it’s likely the indie musician will retain his following going forward. Rosenberg might be able to shift to another label, or simply release his music by himself (and retain a far higher royalty cut).

Expectedly, reactions to the termination were mixed among fans. Many applauded the move by the label, though a large number of Twitter responses questioned whether Mexican Summer was merely dropping the artist for his political views. Taking that a step further, some fans questioned whether the label had legal grounds to end the partnership.

“I was always wondering what does dropping an artist from a label on grounds like this look from a legal standpoint,” one fan wrote. “I mean, what does a label write in a notice on contract termination?”