Is there something they’re not telling us here? They don’t want to pay Four Tet more in royalties – but Domino Recordings DO want to pay someone to assist the staff who pay out the royalties…

Over the past week, I have noticed that the long-running legal dispute between electronic musician Four Tet and Domino Recordings. The spat is over the way Domino appear to have interpreted how much to pay out from streaming royalties working off contracts written before the technology existed.

Early last week, Domino made the decision to remove three of Four Tet’s old albums from streaming services entirely. The decision by the label has been dismissed by many quarters as childish, petty and vindictive – and this blog happens to entirely agree that this is exactly how it looks.

Domino have not replied to my emails asking what was behind their decision. So in the absence of this, I believe it was done for one of two reasons. One, Domino’s lawyers have decided this is some kind of leverage they can use against him – and it also stops the amount of royalties potentially due from piling up due to the interest the legal action is bringing.

Or two, the relationship between Four Tet and Domino is appallingly bad. If this is the case, a straightforward divorce might be the best thing they can do. Whatever the truth, I find it a little ironic they were recently recruiting for a Copyright and Royalties Assistant right now…

I’ll be watching this case closely. Because there could be precedents for others here…

Want to know why Amateur’s House backs the #BrennanBill? These four men are worth over £3½ BILLION between them, yet they preside over an industry where a third of musicians made nothing this year – things cannot go on like this…

If you read this blog regularly, you’ll have no doubt seen the above photo a few times. It features Daniel Ek, Rob Stringer, Stephen Cooper and Lucian Grainge. They are the CEOs of Spotify, Sony Music, Warner Music Group and Universal Music Group respectively.

And it’s no exaggeration to say these four men are incredibly wealthy. Whilst it’s hard to say for certain how much they’re worth, estimates from my research in this article vary between £3½ and 4 billion. If these men presided over a booming industry where people were paid fairly from top to bottom, their insane wealth is something this blog would be very relaxed about.

But the simple truth is they don’t. In the UK during the week, a charity called Help Musicians revealed their research had told them a third of musicians had still earned nothing after lockdown restrictions were lifted in the summer across Britain. Almost 90% earned less than £1000 a month and 22% wanted to quit altogether.

It’s a damning indictment of an industry which has failed abysmally to look after its people at a time when they needed it the most. The majors make over $1million each hour of the day from streaming – once you allow for currency conversion, it means they get the £1000 that the 90% of musicians make a month within around four seconds.

The truth is they can quite easily afford to pay out more money. Lucian Grainge, the baron boss at Universal, is set to make at least £150million this year. They benefit from legacy contracts which continue to pay out the same royalty rates as they did 40 years ago, despite the fact music is now largely digital than physical.

And whilst this situation persists and these men’s bank accounts get fat off the hard work of others, they’re still too stupid to realise they’re slowly killing the industry which made them filthy rich. Because if the next generation cannot make enough money from music to pay their bills, what incentive is there for anyone to enter the industry?

This is ultimately why I’m throwing my support behind the Copyright (Rights And Remuneration Of Musicians etc) Bill, to use its full name. Is it going to resolve all the problems musicians face? Certainly not. Is it one hell of a good start? Yes.

The record labels – mostly the majors, but some independents too – have been given long enough to resolve this problem. Seeing that they directly benefit from it, they’ve decided they don’t want to. And if this bill was to become law, they’d only have themselves to blame…

As MPs get ready to vote on Kevin Brennan’s renumerations bill next week, will they listen to the artists who want a fairer share – or major label lobbyists who don’t?

One story that’s been bubbling away in the background over the past year or so is the #BrokenRecord campaign. The mission behind this crusade sounds like a simple one – streaming doesn’t pay artists properly, and they want that remedied. This blog wholeheartedly supports such an idea.

This campaign has decided to go down the legal route – but not the traditional legal one of suing people. No, they want changes made to the law to ensure everyone involved in the making of music is compensated fairly by streaming services. In a week where Four Tet revealed Domino Records had removed his music from such services as a petty response to a legal dispute, it seems especially relevant.

The bill itself has now been published. MPs will be voting on it next Friday, December 3rd. Having read it, I found it a good attempt to resolve a lot of problems – but this analysis by Complete Music Update is better than anything I could write. And the Association of Independent Music dismissing it before the bill was even published was beyond foolish.

But there’s one group which have remained mysteriously silent over all this – and that’s the major labels. Whilst Baron Grainge might just be excused on the grounds he’s too busy counting his money, where everyone else is remains a source of absolute bafflement. They’re not usually shy about making their views known, so what’s happening?

Could it be the threat of an anti-competition inquiry which is leaving the labels unusually reticent? A source from within one of the majors tells me that they’re feeling “relaxed” about the bill. He explains “It’s a private members bill on a Friday. Most MPs will have long gone home for the weekend by then. Unless Boris and his pals get behind it, this won’t get very far.”.

And in response to an article in Music Business Worldwide on the subject, he simply said “Let’s just say we’re content for the BPI to take the flak on this one”…

They bring it on themselves, don’t they? Now Universal ban artists from re-recording their music for longer – whilst profiting as Taylor Swift does exactly the same thing!

There are few people more cynical in the world right now than Universal Music Group. This one is a whopper, even by their standards. In 2018, Republic Records – whom they own – signed Taylor Swift as an artist. The deal was done in a blaze of publicity and featured the explicit clause that she owned her own masters.

Since then, she’s re-recorded a number of her past songs – following a dispute over the ownership of her old recordings. An album called “Red” was re-recorded recently and released by Republic. It’s done extremely well on streaming and Universal are raking in the money. And at exactly the same time, they’ve tightened up their own contracts to stop their other artists from doing it.

I thought this was a joke when I first read it, but sure enough, it’s true. And this news came out on the week we found out UMG boss Lucian Grainge would be taking home ar least £150million this year. It looks like the increasingly greedy record baron could be getting similar amounts in future years – and all off the back of his artists work.

A source at the majors contacted me this week to complain that my criticism of UMG has been “unfair, one-sided and totally tabloid”. And he is, of course, completely wrong. With moves like this, which just make Universal look like a protectionist racket, they bring it entirely on themselves… 

Warner Music Group reached 249 million people last month on their own platforms – Spotify reached 381 million in that time… so is it time for Warner to say adios to Daniel Ek yet?

For the last few years, I’ve predicted that some kind of seismic shift is due in the music streaming world. The streaming sites don’t make any money, the artists don’t make any money. Only the majors seem to make any decent money out of this system.

For clues as to what could happen, I looked at the world of TV streaming. Two years ago, Disney made the decision to close down all their channels and withdraw all their programming from the streaming companies like Netflix. They then put everything on a new streaming service of their own, called Disney Plus.

And I’ve been wondering how long it would take for anything like this to happen with music streaming. So it’s with this in mind I read the following in Music Business Worldwide

“WMG has confirmed to MBW today that its owned media brands now cumulatively reach more than 249 million unique visitors each month. For context, it’s not far behind the global reach of Spotify, which was attracting 381 million monthly active users (MAUs) in Q3… and will likely generate over a billion dollars in advertising revenue this year.”

Which begs the question. Why does Warner Music Group need Spotify anymore? They could reach almost the same number of people as before whilst not having to hand over 30% of every stream to Spotify, or any of the other streaming sites. They’re in such a strong position that even a dip in traffic will still result in an increase in revenue.

I’m beginning to think in the next few years, we’re going to see the majors setting up their own streaming platforms. It makes perfect sense for them – they can sell merchandise and tickets for gigs at the same time. They also have total control of the algorithm, and no competition from the other big two.

Where does this leave Spotify? In the unenviable position of having to reinvent itself as the friend of independent labels whom it wouldn’t make sense to have their own streaming platform, that’s where. And seeing many of these same independents absolutely hate Spotify, good luck with that idea.

Mark my words – the majors could soon be heading off in their own direction. And to a real champion of independent labels who can find a solution for the rest, they too could find themselves with even more money than Lucian Grainge

Maybe they DO think they work for the Mafia after all! Those “dark forces” making threats to those talking about UMG boss Lucian Grainge’s pay have mob tendencies in their genes…

Yesterday morning, I wrote about the deeply suspicious behaviour of a number of “dark forces” within the music industry. They’re currently not very happy about people asking questions regarding the £150million that Universal Music Group’s boss Lucian Grainge is getting paid this year.

Quite why they’re feeling so triggered, to use that very modern expression, over this is telling. They’re behaving like apparatchiks who are keen to ingratitude themselves with the head of the mob by stamping down on any awkward questions about him. They must think they’re going Grainge’s bidding – bizarre logic, given my sources describe Grainge to me as a man not afraid to say what he thinks.

But let’s not be too hard on these people – at least for the next five minutes. Because they’re only doing what’s been happening within the music industry since its inception in the 1920s. From the earliest days of the music business, every aspect of the trade could be infiltrated by Mafia types.

Most musical equipment from vinyl, jukeboxes and for making the music in the first place was sold in cash. This made it extremely attractive for the Mafia, who found it easier to launder money and hide profits from the tax authorities. Venues associated with music, such as nightclubs, were also potential routes for the mob to pursue their nefarious activities.

Add in the fact vinyl is one of the easier things to counterfeit and you’ve potentially got even more profit there. It’s also worth bearing in mind a number of people previously in the business openly had links with the criminal world – Morris Levy, for example, had extensive links with the Genovese crime family.

Now, no one is suggesting that Lucian Grainge is running a crime syndicate here. The mere idea is daft – and somewhat undermined by the fact most business on record labels these days is digital, which makes it a lot easier to trace.

But when you see certain shadowy figures behind the scenes getting annoyed, just remember – it’s in the DNA of the industry they work in, even if things have changed over the years…

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…

“We’ll withdraw our entire catalogue if this happens!”: the petulant threat made by major label executive after someone suggested Spotify invest into their industry – just like Netflix do…

Word reaches me in my emails of a story which I’ve had to sit on for a little while. I’m not keen on this practice – not least because it means someone else could get hold of it in the meantime – but it seemed so crazy that I wanted to verify its accuracy first.

So here it is. A few weeks ago, an informal meeting took place at one of the major labels in London. The topic of discussion soon turned to the subject of how the label would respond to the British government’s report on streaming. And the consensus around the table appeared to be by doing as little as physically possible.

But that isn’t the worst part. One person at the table said he found it odd that Spotify didn’t invest back into the music industry, saying the likes of Netflix did. This is a reference to the fact Netflix and other streaming companies in the TV world produce their own content, whereas music streaming sites don’t. They’re effectively glorified receptacles.

And one executive present at the meeting responded saying “And thank f**k they don’t. That’s our job. The moment that f***ing slaphead [a naughty reference to Spotify CEO Daniel Ek] starts doing that is the day we’re out. We’d withdraw our entire catalogue if that ever happens – they’d be f***ing nothing without us.”.

The worst bit of all this? The executive in question is essentially correct. If Spotify Records was to ever become a thing, Spotify could make even more money but at the expense of majors who got them to where they are today…