Three private islands with change left over – what Lucian Grainge could buy with £150million… and now he’s got another idea on how to make even more!

Judge Judy had a long-running show of the same name which ran for 25 years. A few years ago, a legal case against the show brought the revelation that the judge – real name Judith Sheindlin – was paid $47million per year. Not bad for a job which only involves filming for 52 days per year.

The court was also told she could have earned another $20million on top by producing the show herself. When questioned at the time, Sheindlin responded characteristically by saying “How much can you eat?”. In other words, $47million – or $903,846 per day of filming – is deemed to be more than enough for Sheindlin to live on.

But Lucian Grainge appears to be even more greedy. He’ll be getting some £150million this year. Admittedly, this isn’t all in salary, but it promises to be a bumper year for him – he’s earning just over £410,000 per day. According to Payscale, the average Universal Music employee in the UK earns £36,000 per year. If Grainge works ten hours a day, he’ll have made £36k in around 53 minutes.

Oh to be a fly on the wall in Universal’s staff rooms right now. I can’t imagine they’d be exactly pleased knowing they’d take over ten years to earn what their boss got in just one day…

Yet despite having all this money, Grainge still isn’t happy. Something which is currently growing in the music industry is “name and likeness rights”. Acquiring these allow record labels to make use of an artist’s brand and likeness in order to sell merchandise or if their music is licensed on TV or wherever.

Sounds a bit mundane, doesn’t it? But if you combine owning these branding rights along with owning the rights to the music or merchandise you’re trying to sell in the process, that’s two money making opportunities. And in this age of 360 contracts, record labels find anything with multiple revenue streams hard to ignore.

You could already buy this private island three times over and have change to spare, Lucian. And if 2022 is anywhere near as prosperous, you could afford to add more to your prospective fleet of islands…

No cash to pay artists properly, but lots of money for new defence tech companies – Daniel Ek’s investment of €100million into AI business raises all manner of ethical questions…

This blog firmly believes that Spotify hates the artists and labels signed up to its platform. Their incessant attempts to reduce the amount of royalties they pay out, plus ongoing legal battles to stop themselves from having to pay more tell me all I need to know about this heartless company.

Last year, Spotify’s boss Daniel Ek announced he was going to invest €1billion of his own money. As he’s obviously entitled to do, having made it off the backs of musicians who don’t even earn enough from his site to pay their rent. But the bit which raised eyebrows everywhere was where he was going to spend it.

You see, he wasn’t going to splash his cash on musicians who desperately needed more help amidst a pandemic which had robbed them of numerous opportunities to earn their daily crust. No, he’d decided he wanted to splurge a billion on upcoming technology companies. That’s some way to thank the musicians who made you what you are today, Daniel…

Nothing much has happened since – until Ek mentioned he’d made his first investment of €100million into a company called Helsing AI. The purpose of the company appears to be to deal with things like cyber attacks, by collating information from numerous sources and assessing it in real-time. The idea is to allow quicker decisions to be made.

At which point, I can’t help but wonder if Ek has walked into the kind of future moral quandary even Helsing AI couldn’t help him with. First of all, this company says it helps “liberal democracies”. How do they assess what a liberal democracy actually is, and what happens if a less scrupulous regime wants to get on board – would they say no to working with them?

Secondly, the company claims the information could be used for what it defines as “kinetic” situations. What does this mean? Are they saying governments could use the data to make pre-emptive attacks on other states, and what kind of attacks could these be? Or are they saying it could be used in a war situation where you have troops on the ground? It’s not exactly clear.

And thirdly, artificial intelligence is precisely that – artificial. I’m no expert here, but I sense that artificial intelligence is one of those things that, as human beings, we don’t fully understand. Infact, because it’s what we define as artificial, it might even be possible we can’t entirely understand it.

It’s not just me saying it – Stephen Hawking said back in 2014 that “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race”. And Elon Musk has warned in the past that artificial intelligence is “our biggest existential threat”.

Doubtless, however, that Ek does not agree with such a take. Still, I can’t help but wonder what Spotify’s staff – who aren’t known for being shy and demure when it comes to expressing their views – think of his latest venture on the side.

And questions must surely be asked about who advises Ek. Whilst the final decision was clearly his, did no one at any point suggest it might not be a good idea for a man who made his money out of music – count the number of anti-war songs versus pro-war songs – to invest in a defence company.

Helsing AI appears to make very much of the fact they consider themselves an ethical company. Exactly how ethical they will be remains to be seen – but if I were Daniel Ek, let’s just say I’d be keeping a very close eye on this promise…

Do these people think they work for the mafia? Crispin Hunt, campaigner for #BrokenRecord, given sinister warning “dark forces are out to get me” after pointing out UMG boss Lucian Grainge’s obscene £150million pay for 2021…

Back in 2002, a butler to the British royal family, Paul Burrell, was charged with stealing a number of Princess Diana’s possessions. The case came to court, but was dropped a few days later after the Queen suddenly remembered she’d had a conversation with him on the very same subject – where he disclosed to her he wished to keep a number of those items, with her blessing.

A bidding war ensued between the tabloid newspapers for his story – and he chose to speak to the Daily Mirror for the sum of £300,000. Over several days worth of interviews with the paper, he disclosed exactly what he was said during that meeting with the Queen – where she reportedly warned him that “There are powers at work in this country about which we have no knowledge”.

Something very similar came to mind this weekend when I discovered Crispin Hunt – a prominent campaigner for #BrokenRecord, a reform movement within the music industry – had been told “dark forces are out to get me” because he dared speak out about the fact Lucian Grainge was being paid an obscene amount of money during 2021.

Another campaigner in the form of Rebecca Ferguson chipped in, mentioning she’d “been given the same warning”. And I see little reason to disbelieve them. The music industry is filled with shysters who operate behind the scenes. They think the whole thing is basically their own little mafia, and they see no issue with threatening anyone who might get in the way.

It’s because of things like this that I decided to start this blog. I’d been writing about music in addition to producing it for a number of years, but I believed this was hindering me and stopping me from speaking out about certain issues. Being inside the machine, even in my own very limited capacity, was inhibiting.

And now that I’ve stopped producing music – despite three requests recently from established producers for me to reconsider? I feel great. I can write whatever I want and whenever I want. This has annoyed some people no end – something which helps me sleep easier at night. It also renders the “dark forces” almost completely ineffective.

In the past, whenever I threatened to write about something someone would prefer I didn’t, I was repeatedly told these people would stop me from progressing any further within the dance music world. This used to bother me. Not anymore. I don’t want to progress in an industry where huge swathes lie in sewage-filled cesspools.

No, the truth is I’m a far better writer than I ever was as a producer – and I think I was pretty good at making music. And as I get reminded frequently, I rather enjoy making people feel uncomfortable by asking questions they’d rather were ignored…

So did ANNA succeed where Sasha failed? As the Brazilian techno DJ releases two new remixes of Orbital’s 1991 hit “Belfast”, the band send her a tweet of (very modest) endorsement…

Most people who get involved in the remix game have a story of someone who didn’t like the new version of their work. For example, New Order blocked the release of Danny Tenaglia’s remixes of “World (The Price Of Love)” by New Order in 1993. Tenaglia stated that “Warner’s dance department loved the remixes but New Order did not”.

Another instance is from 1991. David Morales was asked to remix “Something Got Me Started” by Simply Red. Despite being paid a five-figure sum by Atlantic, they never received an official release beyond a very limited test pressing. Rumours persist to this day that Mick Hucknall didn’t like them, so stopped their release.

A later example comes from 1999, when Sasha was asked to remix “Belfast” by Orbital. The man like Sasha used to play the song heavily during his earlier years – and admitted he was quite “reverential” of it. So he ended up taking his remix quite far from the original – much to the disdain of the band. The remix was repurposed as “Belfunk”, which came out later in the year.

Very little of Orbital’s stuff has been remixed officially – although a quick search of YouTube reveals plenty of bootleg offerings. But since the trend amongst the business techno lot at the moment is to rinse out old records with usually inferior new mixes – heaven forbid they make something new, eh? – a new version of “Belfast” was always on the cards.

Infact, two of them were. Brazilian techno DJ ANNA – real name Ana Miranda – has created a techno and ambient mixes of the song. And in response, they sent out this tweet…

It’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of her work, is it? Which just leaves me pondering if this yet another attempt to cash in on the current zeitgeist of cannibalising old records…

Want to make money out of music? Become an executive! Universal Music Group boss Lucian Grainge is set to rake in £150million this year – and he’s never written a single song…

Time was if you wanted to make money out of music, you’d need to have at least some musical knowledge and ability to help you get there. Such rules no longer apply – these days, instead of being a songwriter, performer or producer who actually does something, you essentially just need to know who or what to cling onto, so you can make money off their hard work.

And such is the case with Universal Music Group’s boss Lucian Grainge, pictured far right above. He has never written a single song in his life. His talents have always been in finding other people who could do what he couldn’t. Ever since his career in record labels startedout in the late 1970s as A&R at April Music, his trade has been either finding talented people or managing them.

Some might say this is a talent in itself. And they’re not entirely wrong. Ever since he was put in managerial positions, starting with Polydor Records in 1997, those labels have always been in a better shape when he left than when he arrived. He’s obviously doing something right.

But let’s be honest – the amount of money Grainge is paid is obscene. This year, he looks set to earn around £150million. At a time when artists are complaining that streaming simply doesn’t pay their bills, such pay just looks crass. The Intellectual Property Office in the UK previously worked out songwriters were paid roughly the same amount for their work in 2019.

In other words, Grainge’s pay for this year is about the same as all songwriters – and there are many thousands of them – in the UK are going to collectively receive.

If that doesn’t tell you how utterly warped, twisted and heavily slanted towards majors that streaming is, then frankly I’m not sure what will…

After Traxsource give garage its own category on the site, their rivals at Beatport are keen to remind us they have one too – and are plugging it heavily online…

A few weeks ago, the garage house crew were happy. Traxsource had finally given garage its own category on their site after a campaign which has been on and off for the past three years. And the infighting – for a while rife in the genre – appears to have eased off. Amazing what a bit of scrutiny does…

Anyway, this latest move has not gone unnoticed over at Beatport. I understand that the site has now started an advertising campaign across Facebook and Instagram to promote the fact they have their own garage category as well.

Infact, I’ve actually come across it whilst browsing Facebook. Here’s what readers see…

Garage first appeared as a genre on Beatport all the way back in 2017 – so I’m somewhat surprised they’re not making more of this fact in their adverts. Even more curious is the fact Beatport, which is owned by a big American conglomerate, managed this feat ahead of Traxsource, who frequently claim to have a closer relationship with its customers.

Whatever the truth, one thing is clear – there’s obviously money to be made in garage. Traxsource have decided they want a piece of this pie. And Beatport aren’t going to take it lying down…

Has Nervous Records got ambitions to become the American Defected? Label boss Mike Weiss rumoured to be considering turning label into events company – and Simon Dunmore is the inspiration…

Something I’ve never understood about Nervous Records – other than the 1970s advertising they inexplicably cling to – is why they don’t make more of their events. It appears to be quite a sporadic, localised side of the business. But there are rumours reaching me this could be about to change.

A source tells me that “Mike [Weiss, the boss at Nervous] has been thinking about expanding the events side of the label. He’s been thinking about it for a while, but something always seemed to get in the way. But when he went to England during the summer, he met Simon Dunmore from Defected. And he made the changes Mike is thinking of doing, and they’re now a massive company.”

“Events are massive right now and they will be for years. But Nervous only seems to do them in New York and Miami. First on the list is taking the show on the road – he’s even mentioned Las Vegas. After that, he definitely wants to take it to England. Mike can’t get enough of the Brits – he thinks their attitude to house music is amazing.”

So what’s stopped Nervous from doing this before? I asked an industry insider who knows Nervous well – and he told me “The pandemic, not really knowing how to take a show on the road in that way, and the fact they never needed to. Nervous still makes good money, partly because of the catalogue. But Mike thinks it’s time Nervous had a bigger slice of the pie – and events could be the way to get it”.

So if you start seeing flyers and posters for Nervous Records On Tour next year, you can thank Mr Simon Dunmore…

Congratulations to Sony Music on making $1billion out of streaming in three months – now is there any chance you can tell us how much of that is going to the artists who made your success possible?

This blog is occasionally accused of being curmudgeonly about the success of major music labels. And like most accusations, it’s one that isn’t based in fact. If record labels are releasing high quality music and that’s being rewarded with lots of streams, downloads and sales, I am incredibly comfortable with them making lots of money.

But you already know there’s a “but” coming here, don’t you? So, here goes. Sony announced late last week they’d earned $1billion out of streaming between July 1st and September 30th this year. Which isn’t a bad comeback for a record label which, like all the other majors, was in serious trouble many years ago.

So how much of that money will be going to the artists who made Sony’s success possible? How much will the songwriters, the session musicians, the mastering engineers and anyone else involved be getting out of that $1billion? Let’s not forget – as the major labels constantly seem to – that these labels, not to mention the streaming platforms, would be nothing without their artists.

No one seems to be able to tell me. Obviously, I don’t expect a totally precise number, but a rough ballpark figure would be a good start. But no one has one. And despite having emailed Sony Music a few days ago, they haven’t bothered to try having a go at answering the question either.

Isn’t it strange that the only people not making money in the music world these days are those who actually produce it?