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“A rescue umbrella”: New funding offers biz financial boost

As the coronavirus does its best to ensure venues remain shuttered for as long as possible, a range of organisations are stepping in to ease the financial pressures faced by live entertainment businesses worldwide.

In Europe’s largest live music market, Germany, the government has dedicated €50 billion to its creative and cultural industries. The financial aid consists of grants for small companies and the self-employed to cover overhead costs such as renting venues and studio space, and loans for business premises and leasing instalments.

A further €10bn will be provided to facilitate access to social security for self-employed workers for a six-month period, including unemployment insurance and expenses for housing.

Culture minister Monika Grütters calls the aid package a “rescue umbrella for the cultural, creative and media sector”. All cultural institutions in Germany remain closed until 19 April.

“The cultural sector, in particular, is characterised by a high proportion of self-employed people who now have problems with their livelihoods,” says Grütters. “These multilevel protection measures show that the Federal government is determined to do everything possible to counter the devastating consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic in the cultural and creative fields. We won’t let anyone down.”

The funding is part of a wider €750m aid package, approved by the German parliament on Friday, to protect the country’s economy from the effects of coronavirus.

“A high proportion of self-employed people now have problems with their livelihoods”

Other aid set to benefit the creative industries includes short-term work benefits, tax liquidity aids and €550 billion worth of loans, available from state business development bank KfW, with no upper limit set on credit offerings.

The government in Switzerland has also recently announced a targeted package for the cultural sector, totalling CHF280m (€264.6m). The funding has been welcomed by Swiss promoters’ association SMPA and the wider cultural and events sector.

The financial support comes after the Swiss government unveiled a CHF20bn (€18.8bn) emergency loan programme for companies affected by the coronavirus outbreak at the end of last week. After a quick initial uptake in loans, the government is already in talks to increase the available funds.

In the Netherlands, the government is working with industry representatives to potentially bring in legislation to allow event organisers to refund ticketholders with vouchers to spend on future events, rather than cash refunds.

Dutch promoters’ association VVEM recently sent a letter to the government estimating the damage done to the industry by Covid-19 could be as much as €1.5bn over the summer months, and asking for more concrete support with regards to finance and cooperation from local governments.

Rights societies have also been playing their part, with the German music licensing society (GEMA)’s €40m crisis fund for song writers and the UK’s PRS for Music offering grants of up to £1,000 to each of its members.

“We know we need to get money into the pockets of our members quickly and efficiently”

Recent support for the sector in Australia has come from Apra Amcos (Australasian Performing Right Association and Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society), which is bringing forward its live performance royalty payout from November to May.

Members will receive a full year’s worth of royalties using data from last year’s reports.

“The Covid-19 crisis has hit every segment of Australia and New Zealand’s music sector,” comments Apra Amcos chief executive, Dean Ormston.

“From our songwriter, composer and publisher members to the venues, events and festivals and the managers, crew and SMEs of the industry, the impact of necessary government regulations has been immediate and devastating.

“We know we need to get money into the pockets of our members quickly and efficiently.”

The news comes as Australia’s three biggest live companies, Live Nation Australasia, TEG and Frontier Touring/Chugg Entertainment, form a music promoters’ taskforce to call for government aid for small- and medium-sized businesses during the coronavirus shutdown.

“As industry leaders we want to ensure the survival of the many small and medium-sized businesses that support our industry, so that we can continue to make a significant contribution to the Australian economy when we eventually emerge from this crisis,” reads a letter from the taskforce.

“As industry leaders we want to ensure the survival of the many small and medium-sized businesses that support our industry”

Performing rights organisations in France have contributed to the National Centre for Music’s €11.5m emergency fund for the entertainment sector, with Sacem, Adami and Spedidam, each adding €500,000 to the centre’s initial €10m funding package.

Industry body Prodiss had previously deemed the government’s targeted funding for the music and performing arts sectors – which totals €15m – “completely divorced from reality”, although it welcomes the government’s wider €45bn aid package for businesses.

The French government has also dedicated €22 million to support the “intermittents du spectacle”, or freelancers working in the entertainment industry.

Funding for the UK’s cultural sectors has come from a range of places, including significant funding from Arts Council England, which has dedicated a £160 million package for cultural organisations, freelancers and individual artists, £5m from the Help Musicians’ coronavirus financial hardship fund, plus a £500,000 boost from the Royal Society of Musicians of Great Britain, and £1m from the Musicians’ Union’s coronavirus fund.

New Zealand music industry charity MusicHelps has launched MusicHelpsLive, an appeal to support those facing hardship due to the Covid-19 outbreak. The charity aims to raise NZ$2m (€1m) for workers in the live industry.

 


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“A setback but not the end”: Rights bodies lament Article 13 defeat

Collecting societies and performance rights organisations across Europe have reacted with disappointment to the rejection of the proposed EU Copyright Directive by MEPs earlier today.

In the run-up to today’s vote, music industry bodies and their counterparts in the tech sector were sharply divided on the merits of the new directive, especially its controversial Article 13: songwriters’ representatives say the legislation would ensure fair remuneration of creators when their works are used online, while internet freedom activists, including the web’s creator, Tim Berners Lee, have said it would transform the internet into a “tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users”.

Music biz, internet on collision course ahead of Article 13 vote

The directive’s critics are particularly concerned that Article 13 – which would compel “online content sharing service providers”, such as social networks or video-sharing sites like YouTube, to take “effective and proportionate” measures to combat the sharing of copyrighted works – would require the implementation of automated copyright checking systems, dubbed “censorship machines” or “upload filters”.

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) voted this morning 318–278 in favour of rejecting the bill in its current form, with a further plenary session debating its content set for September. “I regret that a majority of MEPs did not support the position which I and the legal affairs committee have been advocating,” says German MEP Axel Voss. But this is part of the democratic process. We will now return to the matter in September for further consideration and attempt to address people’s concerns while bringing our copyright rules up to date with the modern digital environment.”

Robert Ashcroft, chief executive of the UK’s PRS for Music, says lobbying by big tech companies – if you believe UK Music, €31m from Google alone – influenced the outcome of the vote. “It is perhaps unsurprising, considering the unprecedented level of lobbying and the comprehensive campaign of misinformation which has accompanied this vote, that MEPs want more time to consider the proposals,” says Ashcroft.

“The vote showed that many MEPs across the various European political parties understand the importance of fixing the transfer of value and of a well-functioning market for copyright. We appreciate their support and hope that as we move forward to the plenary debate in September, more MEPs will recognise the unique opportunity to secure the EU’s creative industries.

“We will not be discouraged by today’s decision, and will continue to mobilise the support of musicians and music lovers across the world”

“From the outset, our primary focus of this legislation has been concerned with whether or not the internet functions as a fair and efficient marketplace – and currently, for artists and authors, it doesn’t. They want their creative works to be heard, they embrace technology, but they want to be paid fairly. We will continue to fight for what we believe is their freedom and a fair use of their creative works.”

David El Sayegh, the secretary-general of PRS’s French counterpart, Sacem, comments: “This vote is a setback but it is not the end. Sacem remains dedicated to ensuring that creators are recognised and remunerated for the value of their work. We will not be discouraged by today’s decision and will continue to mobilise the support of musicians and music lovers across the world, in the hopes of reaching a fair agreement with these platforms that will safeguard the future of the music industry.

“We are confident that the European Parliament will eventually support a framework that fully acknowledges the rights of creators in the digital landscape of the 21st century.”

BPI, the association of UK record labels and organiser of the Brit Awards, says in a statement: “We respect the decision by MEPs to have a plenary discussion on the draft Copyright Directive. We will work with MEPs over the next weeks to explain how the proposed directive will benefit not just European creativity, but also internet users and the technology sector.”

Gesac (the European Grouping of Societies of Authors and Composers), which represents 31 collection societies, says the defeat marks a “missed opportunity to fix the current unfairness in the digital market once and for all”.

“The EU parliament has recognised that machine censorship of copyrighted material is not an easy and simple fix”

“This vote was never about censorship or freedom of speech. It was only about updating the copyright rules for the 21st century and ensuring that creators get a fair remuneration when their works are used in the digital space,” says Gesac president Anders Lassen. “[U]nfortunately, manipulative campaigns orchestrated by tech giants, based on scaremongering, prevailed on this occasion. We are confident that the European Parliament will finally approve what is right for the future of the EU’s economy, competitiveness and fundamental values against these global forces”.

While PRS and their allies have sought to paint the ‘no’ vote as a temporary stay on the legislation while MEPs consider their options, the directive’s opponents are, unsurprisingly, claiming victory in what privacy campaigner Jim Killock, executive director of Open Rights Group, calls “round one of the robo-copyright wars”.

“The EU parliament has recognised that machine censorship of copyrighted material is not an easy and simple fix. They’ve heard the massive opposition, including internet blackouts and 750,000 people petitioning them against these proposals.

“Everyone across Europe who wants this fixed will have to work hard to make sure that parliament comes up with a sensible way forward by September.”

Meanwhile, Julia Reda, an MEP for Pirate Party Germany, tweeted that anti-Article 13 campaigners’ “protests have worked”:

The next vote will take place from 10 to 13 September 2018.

This article will be updated.

 


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Music biz, internet on collision course ahead of Article 13 vote

Musicians, songwriters, collection societies and music industry associations are urging European parliamentarians to vote in favour of Article 13 tomorrow, as the gulf widens between supporters and critics who warn the controversial new EU Copyright Directive could “destroy the internet as we know it”.

French collection society/performance rights organisation Sacem today became the latest organisation to come out in favour of the Copyright Directive, saying its Article 13 – which would compel “online content sharing service providers”, such as social networks or video-sharing sites like YouTube, to take “effective and proportionate” measures to combat the sharing of copyrighted works – would end a culture in which digital platforms act as “free riders, pocketing the value of these creative works and failing to pass this value onto its creators”.

“Online content sharing service platforms have become an integral part of the musical ecosystem, acting as the main access point to enjoy and share music. However, these platforms currently benefit from the uploading and sharing of creative works but do not remunerate artists for the value of their work,” says Sacem secretary-general David El Sayegh.

“The value gap this generates is a real threat to the longer term viability of the creative industries worldwide,” he adds.

Sacem’s intervention – which comes the day after the Italian Wikipedia blocked users from viewing any of its pages, in protest at the legislation, which co-founder Jimmy Wales calls “a serious threat to our mission”– serves to illustrate the stark contrast between the rhetoric coming from the music industry and that of tech companies and internet culture more widely.

While artists such as Sir Paul McCartney claim the directive “would address the value gap and help assure a sustainable future for the music ecosystem and its creators”, critics claim Article 13 would transform the internet from an open platform for the sharing of information into “a tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users”.

“It isn’t censorship to allow artists the right to choose to be paid for their work”

Writing last month to European Parliament president Antonio Tajani MEP, more than 70 tech luminaries, including Wales and the creator of the world wide web, Tim Berners-Lee, said the proposals present an “imminent threat to the future of this global network [the internet]”.

Of particular concern is the text of Article 13, whose provision for “effective and proportionate” efforts to remove – and prevent the reappearance of – copyrighted content, say opponents, would require the implementation of automated copyright checking systems, dubbed “censorship machines” by critics.

“We support the consideration of measures that would improve the ability for creators to receive fair remuneration for the use of their works online,” reads the letter. “But we cannot support Article 13, which would mandate internet platforms to embed an automated infrastructure for monitoring and censorship deep into their networks.

“For the sake of the internet’s future, we urge you to vote for the deletion of this proposal.”

Internet freedom activists additionally claim Article 13 would effectively ban memes – the internet fads, often in the form of a humorous picture or video overlaid with text, that spread virally across the web – leading creators to repackage popular memes sans copyrighted material, to highlight what they see as the absurdity of the proposed legislation.

However, writing in MBW last week, Crispin Hunt, chair of the British Association of Composers, Songwriters and Authors, accused Article 13’s critics of “relying wholly on an ability to weave a narrative that has no relationship to fact”.

“Article 13 would mandate internet platforms to embed an automated infrastructure for monitoring and censorship”

“The reality is that Article 13 is hardly revolutionary,” says Hunt. “It is a modest proposal that returns some sense of fairness and responsibility to the manner in which internet platforms operate. We have had almost 20 years of experience under the existing regime, where platforms have almost no accountability to the public, and in which they are rewarded for wilful blindness and inaction.”

He concludes by urging European policymakers to “reject the incoherent anti-Article 13 lobbying” for “the sake of European culture, our democratic political institutions and our economic well-being”.

Umbrella body UK Music, meanwhile, yesterday fired an extraordinary broadside at Google for what it calls a “big-money” lobbying campaign aimed at scuppering Article 13 “because it would force the tech giant to pay much higher fees for the music it streams on YouTube”.

“Google has made vast sums of money behaving like a corporate vulture, feeding off the creators and investors who generate the music content shared by hundreds of millions on YouTube,” says chief executive Michael Dugher. “These EU copyright changes are aimed at ending an injustice that has seen Google’s YouTube and other big tech firms ripping off creators for far too long.”

According to UK Music, Google has spent a combined €31m on lobbying to that end, including through two European Parliament industry forums.

“These new figures expose the fact that Google is acting like a monolithic megacorp, trying to submerge the truth under a tsunami of misinformation and scare stories pedalled by its multi-million propaganda machine,” continues Dugher.

“Google has made vast sums of money behaving like a corporate vulture”

“Instead of mounting a cynical campaign, motivated entirely out of its self-interested desire to protect its huge profits, Google should be making a positive contribution to those who create and invest in the music. MEPs should ignore the big money lobbying from big tech and back fair rewards for creators.”

Unsurprisingly, each side accuses the other of peddling falsehoods: in a blog post yesterday, Robert Ashcroft, CEO of PRS for Music, criticised “the internet giants and the consumer organisations they fund” for “whipp[ing] up a social media storm of misinformation about the proposed changes in order to preserve their current advantage”; respected tech site Techdirt hit back by saying the collection society is spreading “intellectually dishonest bullshit”, with the aim of ensuring “every platform will just buy a licence [from PRS] and only allow uploads from artists it represents”.

“It isn’t censorship to allow artists the right to choose to be paid for their work,” counters Geoff Taylor, CEO of the Brit Awards. “The right to an income provides the basic artistic freedom for musicians to be what they have always been: rebels and revolutionaries, entrepreneurs, counter-cultural campaigners, our conscience and our inspiration.

“Memes will continue to flood our Instagram feeds over an internet that won’t break, any more than the last time the tech lobby cried wolf to oppose creators’ rights. Maybe it is time for the tech companies just to say what they mean: ‘We prefer to make billions of dollars out of music and other content without paying the people who make it.’”

MEPs will vote to fairly reward music creators/destroy the internet (delete as appropriate) at 12 noon UK/central European time tomorrow.

 


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Top PROs partner for blockchain database

Three of the world’s largest performance rights organisations (PROs) are to prototype a blockchain-based system for royalty collection, in the biggest boost to the technology so far from the global music industry.

The goal of the project, which is backed by France’s Sacem (Society of Authors, Composers and Publishers of Music), Britain’s PRS for Music and Ascap (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers), is to explore how blockchain could enable the music industry to “create and adopt a shared, decentralised database of musical work metadata”, potentially streamlining the licensing process and ensuring faster and more accurate payments to rightsholders.

IQ last month examined the potential benefits of blockchain to the live industry, outlining additional applications for the technology – which also powers cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin – in ticketing, live streaming and virtual reality.

“Blockchain and distributed ledger technologies are opening up a world of new opportunities for all industries to address long-standing challenges”

While the PROs’ new project is “still at an early stage”, the three say it is “proving to be an exciting reference point for future industry blockchain solutions.” Socan – the equivalent body in Canada – has already signed up to Benji Rogers’ dotBlockchain Music, with CEO Eric Baptiste saying he is “convinced that [with blockchain] it is possible to address payment and rights inefficiencies […] that have been a drag on the entire ecosystem for far too long”.

Jean-Noël Tronc, Sacem’s CEO, comments: “We are very excited about this joint initiative. Sacem’s vision is to ensure a diverse and sustainable future for music, where creators are rewarded efficiently for their work. We have a long history of constant innovation and this partnership represents the next stage in that story.”

“Establishing authoritative copyright data has long been a goal of PRS for Music, and is one of the biggest challenges the industry faces,” adds PRS’s Robert Ashcroft. “Blockchain and distributed ledger technologies are opening up a world of new opportunities for all industries to address long-standing challenges. […]

“We see huge opportunity for beneficial industry change and collaboration from this initiative.”

 


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Record number of festivals in France in 2015

Despite cuts in arts funding from cash-strapped local governments and a number of high-profile cancellations, there were a record number of festivals held in France in 2015.

Research by the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers (Société des auteurs, compositeurs et éditeurs de musique, SACEM), the National Centre for Chanson, Variétés and Jazz (Centre National de la Chanson, des Variétés et du jazz, CNV) and the Information and Resource Centre for Contemporary Music (Centre d’informations et de ressources pour les musiques actuelles, IRMA) presented at Printemps de Bourges festival on 14 April revealed that there were a total of 1,887 festivals of contemporary music organised in 1,225 municipalities, with the number growing to 2,438 if one includes classical and opera events.

“They are everywhere,” said Isabelle Fauvel, who led the study. “Even in rural France, you always live close to a festival.”

“Festivals are everywhere… Even in rural France, you always live close”

Key to the growth is the number of new events: 92 music festivals were cancelled last year, including Les Muzik’elles in Meaux, Les Voix du Gaou in Six-Fours-les-Plages and jazz festivals in Orleans and Dunkirk, but 109 new ones sprung up to take their place.

Rock, pop and dance music festivals are the most popular, ahead of jazz and blues, with the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region hosting the most (282), ahead of Île-de-France with 225 and Languedoc-Roussillon-Midi-Pyrénées with 212.

The entirely privately funded Vieilles Charrues – or Old Plough – festival, held in the Breton town of Carhaix, became in 2015 the first French festival to break the 250,000 barrier for attendees – up 15 per cent on 2014 – while attendance was also up for Rock en Seine (120,000) and Solidays (180,000). The top five jazz festivals, meanwhile, between them welcomed over 600,000 festivalgoers, with an impressive 15 per cent growth for Nice Jazz Festival and 10 per cent for Jazz sous les Pommiers (Jazz Under the Apple Trees) in Coutances.

Revenue from ticket sales for contemporary music festivals topped out at €155 million.