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PledgeMusic Winding Up Hearing July 31 in London

July 30, 2019 Comments off

Pledge Windup

It appears that PledgeMusic has not planned on going into administration (like reorganization bankruptcy), at least not since June 13, 2019.  Therefore, any statements the company or its representatives have made since that date must be looked at anew.

Because the company had guided all of its potential creditors toward administration, everyone was looking the wrong direction.  I only discovered this petition today by searching The Gazette, which is the official paper of record of the UK government and is used pretty much exclusively for legal notices.

I had not done so previously because I assumed, like everyone else, that Pledge was going into administration.  Because that was what they said they were doing.

But–something in the far recesses said, “Did you check The Gazette?”  “No.  Why would I, they are going into administration.”  Long pause.  “And how do you know that exactly?”  “They…”  “Well, smart boy, what if they…you know…lied.”  “Guess I better check.”  “Guess you better.”

And sure enough, there it was.

The company had been clearly guiding us to believe they were going into administration which would have given artists, fans and vendors at least a chance to be heard on the rather bizarre behavior by the company’s board and officers.  For example, Benji Rogers said that directly in a widely read Medium post under the apparent authority of the company (if you can just cut through the sanctimony):

Benji Statement

But a couple days ago Pledge took the site down (why is much clearer now) and posted this absurd message:

pledge statement

Now if you were thinking “the most appropriate steps” meant administration based on all the other communications from the company and from Benji Rogers on the company’s behalf, no one would fault you for thinking “the most appropriate next steps” meant filing reorganization/administration after weeks of delay–NOT liquidating the company.

And you certainly couldn’t be blamed for not realizing that “the most appropriate next steps” meant “we already filed for liquidation weeks ago suckers!”

UPDATE:  The trade group UK Music sent a representative to the Pledge winding up hearing in London according to MusicWeek:

UK Music attended the hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice today (July 31).

In a letter to Business Minister Kelly Tolhurst, Kiehl said: “Many musicians across the UK relied on crowdfunding website PledgeMusic to deliver payments from patrons, to pay for album recordings and other costs. The winding up of this company represents an entirely unsatisfactory development for the many music fans and creators who have invested so much into projects through this scheme.

“I ask you to again consider the merits of a ministerial referral to the Competition and Markets Authority to investigate what went wrong with this case.

He added: “I would also like to ask you to consider taking up the case with the Financial Conduct Authority, which holds responsibility for regulating certain types of crowdfunding, to consider the activities of PledgeMusic and whether there have been any regulatory breaches.

“Furthermore, I would like to ask for a meeting with you to consider further possible Government interventions to ensure the issues which have arisen from PledgeMusic can never happen again.”

The Curious Timing of “Spotify Untold” the Corporate Bio Book

July 25, 2019 Comments off

You may have seen the book reviews of “Spotify Untold” (or in Swedish ““Spotify Inifrån”).  The book is currently only available in Swedish, but in a new marketing twist the authors are on a book tour in the US.  Must be nice.

The writers seemed to have missed the streaming gentrification part, which is of great consequence to artists and songwriters–but those groups are pretty clearly not their audience.

If their interview with Variety is any indicator, the story line of “Spotify Untold” revolves around (1) music is a commodity (with no discussion of Spotify’s role in the commoditization of what is now openly called “streaming friendly music” not unlike “radio friendly” music–both equally loathed by artists whose name does not begin with “Justin”; and (2) Daniel Ek is a heroic genius (despite the resemblance to Damian in his teen pictures they are also handing out–he thankfully shaves his head).

But most importantly (3) Ek was pursued by Steve Jobs, the evil giant whose company he just happens to have filed a competition complaint against who was aided by the equally evil Sony and Universal as they were all in on it to keep our hero from entering the fabled land of Wall Street.  Yes, a yarn straight out of Norse mythology; perhaps a little too much so.

Or the book is a corporatized version of Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey from The Hero With A Thousand Faces aka Star Wars).  You can plug Daniel Ek into the hero’s role pretty easily:
campbell heros journey

As reported in Variety:

Barely a page into the book “Spotify Untold,” Swedish authors Jonas Leijonhufvud (pictured at left) and Sven Carlsson paint an odd scene. The year is 2010 and Spotify co-founder and CEO Daniel Ek [the hero] is facing a succession of obstacles [the Threshold Guardians] gaining entry into the U.S. market [the region of supernatural wonder] — or, more specifically, infiltrating the tightly-networked and often nepotistic to a fault music industry. [Unwelcoming of the stranger from Asgard, so unlike Silicon Valley.]  As stress sets in [Challenges and Temptations], Ek becomes convinced that Apple’s Steve Jobs is calling his phone just to breathe deeply on the other end of the line, he purportedly confesses to a colleague [a Helper].

There’s a saying, “don’t speak ill of the dead.”  That’s probably a bit superstitious for the authors, but is good advice.  It’s unbecoming and Spotify should denounce it.  There’s also a saying, “don’t mock the afflicted,” so before you laugh hysterically at the story, realize that Steve Jobs caring enough about Daniel Ek to do such a thing (which assumes Steve knew Daniel Ek existed) was something that was very important to Daniel Ek

One thing I can tell you is that the Steve legend (a competing hero’s journey myth–a real one) has some choice tales of voice mails.  None of them involved heavy breathing, and Variety reports that the authors were not able to confirm this rather insulting and perverse allegation.

What they do say is:

To us, Ek’s claim is as a reflection of how paranoid and anxious he must have felt in 2010, when Spotify was being denied access to the U.S. market, in large part due to pressure from Apple. The major record companies seem to have been quite loyal to the iTunes Music Store, and to Jobs personally….Because Spotify was hindered by Steve Jobs [it’s called competition], it forced the company to sweeten its deals with the record companies [also called competition]….Spotify is challenging Apple on a legal level right now. We address Spotify’s constant struggle with Apple in our book. If Ek were to talk about such sensitive topics in book form, [Spotify would] do it in their own way with full control.

The first thing I thought of when reading the story of “Spotify Untold” was that very competition claim that Spotify is pursuing in Europe right now and pursued with the Obama competition authorities a few years ago.  And then of course there was the New York state competition claim that came out the same time as Apple Music launched in the US apparently led by Spotify’s very own Clintonista who was a political ally of Eric Schneiderman the former (ahem) New York Attorney General.  While the authors claim that they spoke to many Spotify executives but not Ek, the book still has curious timing as does the disclaimer that the book is not connected to Spotify directly.

And if you believe as I do that Daniel Ek actually hates the major labels (read the Spotify DPO filing an you’ll get the idea), it’s only natural that he would try to twist Sony and Universal into the story.  He just didn’t know that his negotiation experience was garden variety stuff and not unusual in any way.  They didn’t get stock in iTunes so they damn well would in everything that came after iTunes.

I would be very curious to know why the authors came away from their research thinking that the major labels were “quite loyal” to iTunes and to Steve Jobs.  While that may have been true of certain executives, the reason that the labels required licensees to sell in Windows Media DRM (i.e., the format nobody wanted) was because they wanted to compete with iTunes.  Even after they dropped that failed idea, the labels large and small did not want a single retailer dominating the digital market.

It’s also possible that the book is an answer to “Spotify Teardown” that came out earlier this year with a much less mythological and much more recognizable approach to a Spotify reality according to an NPR review:

[“Spotify Teardown”] argues that Spotify isn’t a media company per se – and…asserts that it’s structurally much closer to a Facebook or Google, particularly in its digital business model.  Indeed, Spotify was never really so much a music company as an Internet brand. “Spotify’s business model never benefited all musicians in the same manner but rather appeared — and still appears — highly skewed toward major stars and record labels, establishing a winner-takes-all market familiar from the traditional media industries.”

You won’t find that in a corporate bio.  That sounds like the streaming gentrification reality and definitely wasn’t written by anyone named Justin.  So while I don’t know what motivated the “Spotify Untold” authors, I do think that there’s a definite whiff of Astroturf in a book that tells a story that fits almost perfectly with the hero’s journey that Spotify would like to be telling competition authorities.  I think the authors are aware of this, hence their disclaimers.

And I’m still waiting for the last leg of Daniel Ek’s hero’s arc, the transformation and atonement.  Which is the part that makes the hero a hero.  As the authors tell us, “[Spotify] would probably rather tell their story themselves than have us do it for them, but I think they understand our role as journalists.”

I just bet they do.

If you think this is paranoid, watch this video from Sharyl Attkisson.  Let’s just say I don’t put anything past these guys.




“ACTA2” Trolls Publish Hit List on Pastebin of Artists who Supported Copyright Directive in Europe

June 28, 2019 Comments off


Crispin Pastebin

The “ACTA2” reference is a little inside baseball for the US audience–ACTA was a multilateral executive agreement (not a treaty) that would have strengthened copyright around the world.  Google opposed ACTA and drummed up astroturf opposition in Europe–which deserves a second look now that major newspapers have confirmed the extent of the Cambridge Analytica-style gaslighting campaign in Europe that Google and Facebook marshaled against the Copyright Directive.

“ACTA2” is a weak attempt to compare the Copyright Directive to ACTA (“ACTA2”, get it?) in hopes of mobilizing Europeans to reject their cultural monuments and embrace American multinational corporations who pry into their most private information and sell it to advertisers.  Oh, yeah.

Guest Post by @DMcGonigal: How will the creative industries fare in the new European Parliament?

June 4, 2019 Comments off

[We are thrilled to have a guest post by my friend Dominic McGonigal, Chair of the erudite C8 Associates think tank based in London and Brussels.]

The EU elections attracted the biggest turnout for quarter of a century, bucking the trend of declining interest in the EU among European voters. It was spurred by Brexiteers and their national equivalents, matched by internationalists who wanted to show their pro-European credentials.

But there was no clear manifesto on either side and the result is a curate’s egg.

The two largest parties are the European People’s Party (EPP) and the Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats (S&D), reflecting the power base in most EU Member States, centre right and centre left. They used to dominate the Parliament in what was known as the Grand Coalition. When they agreed on a piece of legislation, they had the combined votes to see it through. For the creative sector, that meant support for any proposal that both respected intellectual property rights and enhanced the rights of authors. Although in the last Parliament, even this was not enough as the S&D in particular was split as many of their MEPs bought into the ‘free internet’ ideology.

Now the EPP and S&D no longer have a majority between them. In practice, any legislation needed the support of other parties. Now, it definitely does.

Here are the provisional results by party.

It is also interesting to see how the parties divide along pro- and anti-EU lines. Much has been made of Nigel Farage taking 30 seats for the new Brexit Party (from 28 UKIP seats previously), but the nationalists did not gain as much as expected. You can see here that pro-EU parties have 72% of the chamber.

We have already seen the impact of the smaller parties. Last year, a party with just one member, the Pirate Party, managed to build up a blocking vote on the Copyright Directive, admittedly aided by the online muscle of one of the tech giants.

So, the other parties assume greater significance now, especially if they choose to focus on a particular topic.

Leading the charge of small parties with a loud voice is the Pirate Party. Ten years ago, the Pirate Party had two seats. In the last Parliament, they had just one. Now they have four seats – one German pirate and three Czechs.

The German pirate, Patrick Beyer, has already aligned with the Greens. The three Czech pirates may well follow although they have moved on from the single issue of internet freedom to embrace transparency in government and other similar policies.

In the last Parliament, a single pirate MEP, Julia Reda, persuaded all but two of the Green party, as well as many others, to support her in opposing increased remuneration for the creative sector in the Copyright Directive. With four pirate party MEPs pushing an anti-copyright agenda, they could build a stronger anti-copyright grouping, especially as the two Greens who supported the creative industries have both retired. We have lost some other influential supporters, through retirement or shifts in voting allegiances.

We still have some powerful advocates in Germany, France, Spain, Holland and the UK (at least until Brexit). But they will have a tougher battle creating a majority against the vocal protest votes led by any MEP that objects to the European approach to culture and the creative economy.

Dominic McGonigal

June 2019




Happy Monday: The MTP SPOTify Chart

June 3, 2019 Comments off

Spotify Chart 6-3-19

Happy Monday–here’s the Spotify chart update.  Spotify is in its second downside breakout of the consensus trading range ($145-$132).  Unless it retraces back over $132, it would appear that the next downside support level is $106 where the stock closed on 12/21/18 or thereabouts.

The company just had its second “death cross” in less than 6 months where the the 50 day moving average crosses the 100 day moving average to the downside.

It would appear that the $1 billion stock buyback that Spotify announced (because that’s a good thing to do with the investor’s money) hasn’t worked very well so far.  But pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

20 Questions for New Artists Sidebar: The Importance of Metadata

May 6, 2019 Comments off

[For the next few weeks, we’re going to post updated sections from the article “20 Questions for New Artists” that Amy Mitchell and I wrote a few years ago which has been posted various places.  This doesn’t constitute legal advice, or any intent to form the attorney-client relationship. (If you miss an installment, try searching this blog for “20 Questions for New Artists”.)  For new issues that should be included for new artists, we’ll be adding the “Sidebar”, and this is our first one on the important subject of “metadata’.]

“Metadata” is a generic term for “credits” or what is also called “label copy”.   It is–at a minimum–the song title, artist name and sound recording copyright owner for each track, but should also include the songwriters, side musicians and vocalists, the producer and, if applicable any remixers or mixers.  The “metadata” issue comes up every time you—or someone you authorize—upload your recordings or videos to a digital service, or your song information to ASCAP or BMI or your recording information to SoundExchange.  Any mistakes you make potentially stand in the way of your getting paid by those services or PROs.

We can’t emphasize enough how important it is that you are consistent in your metadata and that you make an extra effort to correct it if you see it is incorrect on any digital service.  These are burdens of time on artists and their managers, but correcting metadata is often at the bottom of the failure of a service to account to you for your royalty.

Any mistakes along the way can get magnified and may drag you into a Kafka-esque experience inside the room of mirrors in Dataland, where mistakes are always someone else’s fault, everyone is understaffed and the machines rule and are considered to be infallible.

Make sure you ask your distributor for their rules for metadata, often called a “style guide”.  In the meantime, you should read the iTunes Style Guide which is available from Apple at this link:

There’s a lot of information there, but it is important stuff to know.  Remember—your ability to get paid may depend on the tender mercies of a data input clerk working at minimum wage who you will never meet and who probably does not care as much as you do about getting your data input correctly.  You need to make it as easy as possible for them to do their job right.  However you may feel about poorly paid data entry clerks, empathy doesn’t pay your bills.



Copyright 2019 by Chris Castle and Amy Mitchell

Must Read: @RobertBLevine_: Karyn Temple Appointed United States Register of Copyrights @CopyrightOffice — Artist Rights Watch

March 28, 2019 Comments off

In a week of great news for copyright, Karyn Temple has been appointed Register of Copyrights (the head of the U.S. Copyright Office).

via Must Read: @RobertBLevine_: Karyn Temple Appointed United States Register of Copyrights @CopyrightOffice — Artist Rights Watch

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