Kendrick Lamar, Bowie, Iman and the Art of Conversation

My social media feed over the past few days has been dominated by Kendrick Lamar and his “untitled unmastered” EP, which was also unannounced.

Releasing unfinished demos is nothing new, but what made this collection stand out was the manner in which it provided a glimpse into the creative process of Kendrick Lamar. The New Yorker went as far as saying it “reads as evidence of a Post-­Impressionist sort of self-awareness”.

Perhaps untitled unmastered goes some way to help redefine what makes great art in the modern world. It draws his audience closer to the creative process and becomes a part of the conversation with his audience and amongst his audience and that conversation is an art form itself.

Kendrick2Kendrick1

This is something the post-YouTube generation have recognised intuitively. They are not about three or four promo videos uploaded in sync with an album cycle every eighteen months or so. They are about a constant steam of moments and experiences some polished, some not but all part of an ongoing dialogue with their audience.

This is in stark contrast to the way in which commercial music has become over the past twenty years or so. Through the 1990s and early 2000s it was about co-writing, remixing, polishing, positioning, scheduling and media training. Even as social media has achieved unstoppable momentum, many artists found it hard to grasp the concept of spontaneous imperfection.  So too have managers and label executives, as everyone tries to balance existing conventions with new possibilities.

For too long they have lived in a world where their art is defined by sporadic releases and performances rather than an ongoing conversation with their audience. Conversations are imperfect, there are umms and ahhhs, but through that dialogue comes a closer connection between those conversing.

Ironically, it was an artist from a previous generation, David Bowie, who best exemplified this notion of art through conversation. Bowie always had a truly holistic way of expressing himself, even his own death formed part of his art.

Not only that but the manner in which his widow, Iman, picked up that conversation through social media was especially poignant. She continued the dialogue with such honesty and integrity. It was real. It was heartfelt. It resonated so very profoundly.

Bowie1Bowie2

Perhaps not all artists are comfortable with exposing their feelings to that extent. Perhaps this was a singularly unique occurrence where an artist’s grieving widow is also a public figure in her own right. Nevertheless, it beautifully illustrates the concept of conversation as art.

Some may say both were contrived to some degree. Kendrick Lamar certainly curated which unfinished tracks he wanted to release. Iman was certainly controlled and dignified in how she expressed herself and there were limits. There was privacy, especially surrounding Bowie’s funeral.

Artists can still set their own boundaries even if their creative expression becomes more fluid and exposed to scrutiny. Cynics may fear a constant stream of noise, but for the true artist it is a chance to redefine themselves through honesty, integrity, consistency and the art of conversation.

@andyedwardsbiz

Talking Blockchain at The Great Escape Convention

Taken from The Great Escape website:

More details have been announced today about CMU Insights @ The Great Escape 2016, the conference that sits at the heart of the TGE Convention. Taking place at Dukes @ Komedia on the Thursday and Friday of the festival, this is a totally different kind of music conference, putting the spotlight on four key themes: data + transparency; CDs + merch; YouTube + video; and diversity + health.

Each strand is packed with timely talks and conversations, with training elements, original research, case studies and lively debate. Today we reveal details about some of the speakers set to appear in two of our CMU Insights strands: ‘Transparency! Data! Blockchain! Let’s make buzzwords happen!‘ and ‘What if YouTube actually is the future?’

Making buzzwords happen
‘Transparency’ has been the big buzzword in the music community this year, while another buzzy term – the ‘blockchain’ – has been increasingly held up as the technology that could make digital music more transparent and more efficient. Leading the debate around the blockchain has been PledgeMusic founder Benji Rogers, who will keynote at The Great Escape this May to outline his vision of how new technologies could power a prolific music database that could in turn make digital payments quicker and fairer.

He will be joined by digital music experts Sammy Andrews and Andy Edwards, both also vocal proponents of the need for more transparency and the role technology can play. They will map out what needs to happen to fix the issues around music data and digital royalties, and then debate the issues with a panel of managers, lawyers, publishers and label chiefs, who will discuss the role different stakeholders must play, and why they should bother.

Ensuring everyone is fully up to speed with the jargon, CMU’s Chris Cooke will provide a Beginners Guide To The Blockchain, while earlier in the day he will be joined by music lawyer Nigel Dewar-Gibb of Lewis Silkin to explain how digital data and revenue currently works its way through the system, identifying where the blockages lie, and identifying what questions need to be asked of digital services, labels, publishers and the collecting societies.

The power of music video online
Hosted by digital entrepreneur and Tracks2 co-founder Brittney Bean, our video-focused strand will explore both the licensing challenges and the commercial potential of YouTube, explain why music video is now about more than the ‘music video’, and identify what kinds of video content really work online, on YouTube and well beyond.

Vevo’s Tom Connaughton will delve into how artists, labels and promoters can create video content that really engages and excites fans, whilst Rebecca Lammers of Laika Network, Claire Mas of Communion Music Group, and Chloé Julien of BandSquare will demonstrate how the music industry can really maximise the value of video online.

Are Power Lists A Bit Uncool?

This article first appeared in Record of the Day Magazine.

Billboard’s Power 100 has come in for severe criticism this week owing to the predominantly white male make-up of the names on the list. One commentator went so far as calling the list a “sausagefest”. Less than 10% of the list were female and over 90% of the names were white.

These are pretty appalling statistics for an industry that promotes a spectrum of music with black and female performers very often achieving a disproportionate level of success. The diversity issue in general is being hotly debated already by greater minds than mine, but what puzzles me most of all is why we continue to bother with these “power” lists at all? They seem totally anachronistic and out of touch with the modern world in which we operate.

A list of people doing cool stuff seems OK to me. We all want to know the people who are making things happen and breaking through. Perhaps we seek inspiration and ideas to inform our own perspective. That’s fine.

It is the word “power” that is troubling and distorts the make-up of these lists into a tick-box quasi-corporate exercise. It is a word deeply rooted in the culture of show business, a business historically driven by Svengalis and gatekeepers who sought to control talent, media and the market, whether it was movies or music or any other branch of the entertainment industry.

Power lists do not seem to exist to the same degree in other industries. I Googled “Silicon Valley Power 100” and got a renewable energy company in Santa Clara. Wired have a top 100, but prefer to call theirs “influencers”.

I have witnessed a number of these Power 100 people in action and can appreciate what they can achieve in a specific set of circumstances at a specific time. Another way of saying it is these people “make things happen” and you do not necessarily need “power” to make things happen and certainly not in the modern world.

Conversely, no amount of collective “power” from all the Power 100 lists over the past twenty years was able to stop an eighteen year old kid from writing a computer programme that would upend the entire music business. Shawn Fanning did not have any power, but a whole bunch of people downloaded that programme and others like it and the music business changed forever. The whole thing was consumer driven.

What I would love to see and what no music business power list has ever done is this: “Number 1) The Consumer” and then 99 blank spaces, because that is the reality facing the modern music business. This is what should focus our minds.

The music industry is moving in the right direction, but we are still weighed down by this notion of power. UMG may have more power than Beggars Banquet to negotiate terms with a streaming service, but neither company has the power to persuade consumers to adopt such a service. Far more people still use YouTube than any subscription based service whether the industry likes it or not and as Martin Mills pointed out earlier this week, the whole industry has to come together in a fair and transparent manner if there is any hope of addressing the safe harbour/ value gap issue.

Against this backdrop, power lists just seem hopelessly dated. Which is no reflection on the individuals whose names appear on these lists, they are all interesting and engaging people when you have the opportunity to meet them.

Spend time with Marc Geiger and he doesn’t tell you how powerful he is, although he is a powerful personality. He’ll bang on about how great his team are. The WME team are truly awesome and not just the music department, the brands team are incredible. They all weave together brilliantly and there are no weak links. Best of all are the WME assistants: they are the best foot soldiers in the entire entertainment industry bar none – well that is one show business tradition that is still relevant in today’s world, the WME Assistant. Geiger leads and inspires but he cannot do it all himself and neither does anyone else on that list, or elsewhere.

I have yet to meet a music business executive who can do it all, although some are perceived with a Wizard of Oz type mystique. A red carpet schmoozer may be hopeless with contracts and finances. Personally, I’m the other way around. I’m uncomfortable with the red carpet stuff, but if you owe my artist client money I will hunt you down until you pay. At least there were some teams on the Billboard list, acknowledging genuine collaboration.

Ultimately, no one is the Wizard of Oz. We are all people behind a curtain. Finding, developing, nurturing, collaborating, connecting, engaging, expanding and hopefully at the end of all that there is an outcome that people will remember.

Scooter Braun, also on the list, puts this beautifully, albeit in a slightly different context. His most impressive interview of late centred around some advice he received from David Geffen who insisted he read the poem Ithaka, “which is about the journey. It’s always about the journey. And he said something to me I’ll never forget. He said: ‘Hundred years from now, no one’s gonna remember me, and sure as hell no one’s gonna remember you.’ And I realized, he’s right. No one’s gonna remember me. But they’ll feel my impact, and that’s good enough for me.”

@andyedwardsbiz

Who Will Build The Music Industry’s Global Rights Database?

AE

The following MBW blog comes from Andy Edwards (pictured), Board Director of the UK’s Music Managers Forum (MMF).

The failure of the Global Repertoire Database (GRD) has left many people scratching their heads, wondering how such a huge problem can ever be solved.

Optimists such as Benji Rogers and the Berklee College of Music team point to Blockchain technology as the way forward.

Blockchain has huge potential, but there is still the question of how such a solution is organized, financed and administered.

The original GRD working group was put together by the EU and involved a wide variety of participants including Apple, Amazon, Google, various Collective Management Organizations (CMOs) and music publishers.

Given the GRD had the potential to benefit so many, it was disappointing that the cost of developing the GRD was ultimately met by so few: a handful of CMOs.

With an insufficient number of CMOs willing to back the project the GRD stalled, by which time costs had reached £8 million, with no tangible outcome.

“WITH AN INSUFFICIENT NUMBER OF CMOS WILLING TO BACK THE PROJECT, THE GRD STALLED – BY WHICH TIME COSTS HAD REACHED £8M.”

The recent lawsuits against Spotify highlight the responsibility tech companies face. The onus is on digital service providers to clear all the necessary music rights. The fact Spotify is planning to build its own publishing administration system is welcome but raises the question: if all DSP’s licensing music – Apple and Google included – face the same problem, why silo the solution(s)?

Collective problems are never simple or easy to solve and any solution won’t please everyone. The challenge is not dissimilar to those faced more broadly within the tech community.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) are two examples. Both organizations are far from perfect, but they managed to move reasonably quickly and establish an ecosystem.

The common standards set by the tech industry helped enable the greatest accumulation of knowledge and wealth in the history of mankind.  That is some feat and well worth closer inspection. Here are a few key take-outs:

  1. They did something. W3C was founded by Tim Berners-Lee in 1994, only five years after he first invented the world wide web. ICANN was conceived and founded in 1998, a green paper was issued in February that year and ICANN was incorporated by September that year.
  2. Neither organisation had everyone on board initially, nor were they completely global or democratic, but they were non-for profit and intended to be independent with some level of governance and oversight from the outset.
  3. Governments played a key role in their inception: the European Commission with W3C, the US Department of Commerce with ICANN.
  4. Academic institutions also played a part: MIT in W3C and Information Sciences Institute at USC in launching ICANN.
  5. Both organisations scaled over time. W3C members now include businesses, non-profit, universities and individuals. ICANN has a number of advisory committees and observers as varied as the European Space Agency, the League of Arab States and the World Bank.
  6. Both have faced criticism. In the case of ICANN, the role of the US government has come in for continued scrutiny and whichever path is followed no one will be completely satisfied. But at least ICANN exists and continues its important role that has evolved over time.
  7. Finally, there was something pioneering and entrepreneurial about both institutions. While the GRD is not a profit-making exercise in itself, perhaps some entrepreneurial spirit to kick-start its existence is needed.

Continuing with the start-up analogy:

  • Who will be the GRD’s co-founders?
  • Who will provide the seed capital?
  • How will it develop its offering?
  • How will it scale?
  • What will the roadmap look like for participants and for funding rounds?
  • What are the rules, governance and oversight?

Fundamentally this is about solving problems and setting common standards. It is not about power and control, which obsesses too many stakeholders and ultimately constrains everyone.

Establish common standards through a GRD and creativity and wealth will scale new heights for the benefit of everyone.

This article also appears on Music Business Worldwide

Why Sharing Equity Is A Big Deal

The announcement last week that Warner Music will share the proceeds of its equity stakes in digital music services with its artists, quickly followed by a similar announcement from Sony Music is hugely significant. The artist community has been in the dark about these equity positions for years and it has taken a great deal of persistence to reach this point. Universal Music is the only major not to formally state its position on equity but one would hope it is only a matter of time before it does so.

A number of commentators most notably Mark Mulligan and Tim Ingham have made the point that the net value of these equity stakes to the artist may not be that significant and that the real battle lies elsewhere. Mark suggests that streaming is not a license or a sale and that the correct remuneration for artists’ lies somewhere between the 50% rate for a license and the (roughly) 15% an artist might receive for a sale. The midway point between those two figures is roughly double what most artists currently get paid on streaming income. His point is this argument is worth more than the fight over equity.

 

EQUITY – THE BACKSTORY

Coming back to equity, it is worth remembering the reason major labels took equity in start-up music services in the first place. During the first dot.com boom, founders were exiting at huge valuations either by sale or IPO, very often without generating any revenue. It made sense to grab as much equity as possible as part of the music licensing negotiation and Jay Samit and other label digital executives at the time quickly set a precedent that has continued to this day.

In the case of Spotify, it was reported at the time by Techcrunch that the majors and Merlin collectively received a 17.3% shareholding on the Series A funding round and paid an aggregate €8,808 for that shareholding. It is worth pointing out that Techcrunch questioned this number at the time believing the amount paid was ten times that amount had the music companies matched what other Series A investors actually paid for their shareholdings. Clearly the majors did not do that and these were peppercorn payments as part of a broader licensing negotiation.

What also needs to be understood is the extent to which those original shareholdings have been diluted through subsequent funding rounds, of which there have been eleven. Further clarity is needed on this.

Where equity is a more valuable element for artists are companies such as Soundcloud in its present circumstances. Soundcloud is striking deals with music companies, but it has a long way to go to generate the sort of revenue numbers Spotify is already achieving. Accordingly, if Soundcloud is acquired, which is a strong possibility, then equity will form a greater part of the total value accounted back to the artist relative to advances and earnings.

 

ALIGNMENT OF INTERESTS – is what it is about

Equity is still hugely important for artists. Start-ups will come and go and each takes their own path. In certain circumstances, the equity piece will derive the greatest value, in other cases not. What is most important – and which Stephen Cooper of Warner Music stresses – is that the interests of the label and the artist are aligned whatever the outcome. This is an important step in the right direction and is greatly welcomed.

@andyedwardsbiz

The Skills Day

This article first appeared on the Kingston Wheelers website. For the past four years I have organised a Skills Day for the club, although Mark Dempster officially organised in 2015 and I just did the MC’ing on the day in addition to bringing in pro riders Yanto Barker and Alice Barnes. The idea is to give as many people as possible the experience of riding in a big group at race speed – its useful for riders participating in Ride London for the first time as it is for those seeking to participate in road racing.  Thanks to Jo Thompson for the write up.

 

On Saturday 21st November the annual club Skills Day took place at Hillingdon Cycle Track. This year we were delighted to welcome pro riders Yanto Barker and Alice Barnes to come and share their knowledge with the club and practice group riding drills. The day was split up into three parts, with an intro and group riding sessions, then back inside for a Q&A with Yanto and Alice hosted by Andy Edwards, finished off with two races – a five lap race followed by a 10 lap handicap.

Jo Thompson recounts the day:

A chilly day, 5c and 20mph winds. Arriving at Hillingdon for my first time I was a bit apprehensive. About 50 bikes of assorted sizes, colours were already parked up, hanging from their saddles on the bike racks. I found a space for mine and then entered the small building to the warmth, Wheelers everywhere, sitting chatting, eating cake already and drinking hot drinks.

Andy talked, we listened. My eyes noticed a young lady sitting in GB kit…. And a another Man in a sponsored jersey who looked familiar. Andy introduced them, Alice Barnes and Yanto Barker and the penny dropped. This is going to be an awesome day.

We were told we were going out in groups, so we put our lids on and all the women gathered together. We were then split into two groups. I went in the group with Alice leading us and Andy covered the rear of our group. We started off at a steady pace practising ‘through and off’. Not as easy as I thought, especially with a 20mph wind hitting me when I was on the front. Alice gave us instructions and hints to help.

Andy made sure we were continually moving and keeping a close gap. We practised this for a few laps and then stopped for a brief chat. Yanto joined us, so we split into another two groups. We practised ‘through and off’ at a faster pace, which at some points seemed to be easier but others harder as the circuit would split you with either a hill or a bend.

After a few laps, Yanto took the lead and then steadily took us up a notch again, moving on and faster we stayed with him in a line, each keeping the wheel in front close. This was fun, we working quite hard and I could really feel when I was catching the head wind or making a gap on a bend or hill, so I started to find my own lines out of the bends and over the hills, this made it easier over all for me. Yanto was really encouraging and supportive.

After this we all gathered in the building for something to eat and drink. Andy then, asked Wheelers – Mark, Harry and Declan their take on racing and some of their events (a bit of banter followed). We then heard from Yanto Barker and Alice Barnes, out of sitting there listening to Elite riders telling their stories and sharing their advice, the main thing that struck me was their down to earthly-ness.

Next up, back on our bikes for some Races… Clockwise this time. The dark starting to loom we pedalled down to the start line. The temperature was really starting to drop and we were itching to set off. I didn’t really know what to expect with this race thing. Scratch apparently. We all head off in a big group and as the group gets faster, you try to keep up. So off we set, trying to warm up. Straight away people started to pass me and the group surged forward. I was definitely not ready for this but tucked down low and grabbed someone’s wheel.

Onwards we headed, into headwinds, up slopes around bends, the pace started to quicken and more and more effort was being demanded. I pushed hard and started to move up and past a few riders, there was a split happening and I didn’t want to be in the back. Laps passed and my lungs were starting to burn, I still wasn’t warmed up enough, grabbing wheels I hung on for as long as I could but the group ahead started to surge more and we started to splinter. I lost a wheel and got the headwind…. I tried and tried but there was no way back. I carried on pushing to catch for a couple more laps which I now realise was completely useless and a show of inexperience.

A short rest and we were off again. I wasn’t too happy as my legs were feeling heavy.

We split into groups and given handicaps. 10 laps. (muttered swearing commenced from me) A bit like cat and mouse, the back group (fastest) had to catch the first group (ladies) – I won’t say slowest as I think we gave them a run for their money.

Alice Barnes lead us off, Sarah behind her and me at the rear. At least I was warmed up now. Alice lead a good pace and we sat closely together, the headwind had seemed to have picked up but the tailwind sections was almost worth it. Averaging around 21mph we kept on… at some point Yanto joined us. He took the lead and gave Alice some relief. Still pushing on Yanto said that they weren’t gaining on us. I couldn’t believe this but it gave me a push to keep on it.

Pushing harder with each lap, I just stuck as much as I could to Sarah’s wheel. I took the corners and slopes in my own line. Last corner of lap 5 – I turn to look behind me, a lone rider is gaining on us – I shouted to tell Yanto. Lap 6 – I look to my right and there is a group gaining on us. On another part of the circuit. A sudden kick of adrenaline and competitiveness showed itself. Yanto kept checking on us and we kept together.

At some point early into Lap 6, the lone rider was with us, I think Sarah was tired and I moved in front but we’d started to drop. I grabbed the lone rider’s wheel and Alice shouted at me to keep on.

He let me on his wheel and we surged forward, the next thing I knew someone went past, fast. Then another, and then I as in a group again, though not ladies. Alice was still with me pushing me on. The lone rider shouted for me to get on a wheel which was really uplifting. Alice suddenly gave me a massive saddle push from behind and I felt overwhelmed to keep pushing. My lungs were burning and my legs dying. I tried to get out of the saddle and push but nothing. Alice gave me another massive saddle push but I was done. I had to slacken off. She told me we had done really well and we kept them off for nearly 7 laps. Not bad.

Alice stayed with me for the rest of the lap and we cooled down over lap 8. A truly lovely young lady.

Once over the line we stopped to watch the sprint. Declan and Yanto fighting it out…

Overall an awesome day I really felt part of and will be back for more.

Rod Ellingworth in Conversation

The article first appeared on the Kingston Wheelers website. Thanks Harry!

On Wednesday 11th November we had the pleasure of an evening with Rod Ellingworth, Head of Performance Operations at Team Sky. The evening at Hampton Court Golf Club was organised by Andy Edwards and hosted in partnership with Sigma Sport and London Dynamo. It was great to see members from all the clubs together, a rare sight outside of Surrey League races.

Andy gave us an intro to the evening, with some background into his cycling career and how he and Rod first discussed the idea of an interview at the National Road Race Championships last year in Abergavenny. Andy had a go at mixing it alongside World Tour pros at the Nationals and he remarked on how close the connection is between grassroots and elite cycling, with amateurs and pros often mixing it up on the same stage or social circles, not something you find in other sports such as football or F1.

Rod is from a cycling family, with his father a founding member of Clayton Velo and his brother sponsoring the local cycling club. Rod’s early racing career was funded through the local council, receiving £100 for race expenses.

Looking back at his own racing career, Rod recalled how he used to complete a training diary which he’d photocopy and send to his coach Alan Sturgess. For training he’d go on club rides, ride the track and do a 10 mile TT most weekends, along with Tuesday night circuit training.

Rod on… having the right mindset

Rod believes having the right mindset is really important for young racers. He first saw Mark Cavendish ride at the Manchester Velodrome, when a rider came down in front of him causing him to crash hard. Rod said most people would have called it a day, but Cav got back on the bike and tried to ride on. When Rod came on board as a coach he wanted to ensure his young riders were being pushed to the limit, as that would make sure they could compete with the best in the world. The Olympic Madison race averages 54km/h so he had his track riders training at 65km/h behind derny bikes.

Rod on… winter training

Rod is a big believer in using the turbo during winter to ensure you are still train peak power. He also highlighted that you should keep riding in the drops during winter (“get laid across the bike”), to ensure it’s not a shock to the system when you get back on the race bike in spring. On winter club runs riders should maximise opportunities for training through chain gangs and sprinting for town signs.

Rod on… the National Road Race Championship in 2015

This year the Team Sky riders (Kennaugh, Stannard and Rowe) and Mark Cavendish absolutely battered themselves to get away from the main field. Some of the world tour riders have a complex about getting beaten by continental riders, so there’s a tendency to overdo it in national races. Rod thought the effort showed at the Tour de France a week later.

Rod on… Geraint Thomas

G will have free reign in 2016, with a focus on winning the Tour of Flanders. Chris Froome will still be the main rider for the Tour, but Rod thinks G is capable of winning the Flanders/Tour double in the future. His excellent season this year has been partly due to weight loss. In an age of specialisation (grand tour or classics riders) G is one of the best all-rounders in the peloton.

Rod on… the future of British Cycling

Rod highlighted the importance of grassroots racing as a means for young racers to get the right experience. As races are getting harder to part on, cycling clubs must ensure they continue to host and support local races, with everyone doing their bit to marshal and make them happen.

 

Transparently Obvious

TRANSPARENTLY OBVIOUS: THE MUSIC BUSINESS HAS TO CHANGE

AE

The following MBW blog comes from Andy Edwards (pictured), Board Director of the UK’s Music Managers Forum (MMF)

Rethink Music, the report published by the Berklee College of Music and which puts the spotlight on transparency, has provoked a great deal of comment over the past few weeks.

I contributed to the report and have observed it all with interest.

Much attention surrounded the major label artist who only received their royalty statement in paper form. The example is a little extreme, but not uncommon.

One major label told me I could not have an Excel version of a PDF statement “as a matter of policy” and that I had to buy converter software and do it myself: not so simple as the PDF was not formatted correctly and it took forever.

In contrast, another major label emailed me an Excel within twenty minutes. It is a small thing, but some organizations seem to go out of their way to be unhelpful.

Responding to Rethink Music, the IFPI makes some valid points about investment and return.

Yes, many artists make a better margin on digital compared to physical, but so do labels.

One quibble: the IFPI’s “artist payments” figure includes advances (which are now also recouped against a share of ancillary income), but the IFPI compares it to “sales revenue” which according to their own figures does not include ancillaries; only digital, physical, performance rights and sync.

If this is so, I would question whether this is a like-for-like comparison?

“THE MUSIC INDUSTRY’S BUSINESS PRACTICES ARE OUTDATED, DISJOINTED AND UNALIGNED.”

The IFPI response completely avoids the matter of transparency, the most crucial matter of all and one that we must resolve.

We must have full transparency on all deals and calculations. Of course confidentiality is to be respected; but managers, lawyers and accountants also have an additional fiduciary duty of care to their artists, so they must act properly and that includes confidentiality.

Rights owners have no such responsibility and perhaps they should. Bottom line: there are no excuses for non-disclosure.

No matter what happens in the UK and Europe however, the balance of power within major labels and publishers lies in the USA.

It was, therefore, disappointing to read in the New York Post that: “Some music label executives [said] they are now questioning their support for Berklee’s internship program”.

Old school threats and bullying instead of addressing the matter at hand, this is not a good look. If anyone feels left out or disagrees, they should engage openly with the Berklee team.

Those interviewed by The Post also attempted to rubbish Rethink Music as a ‘“long advertisement for music publisher Kobalt,” which recently took in Google Ventures as a shareholder’, but the Berklee team clearly discloses Kobalt’s support.

As for Google Ventures, well it makes for a good story but anyone with any sophistication will understand the VCs who invested in Kobalt will have little, if any, regard for the position of YouTube, etc.

They just want to make good investments that create value for their fund. It is worth noting the comments of Bill Maris, who led the investment:

I discovered how messed up the music business is. Is it even a business? In what other industry can you provide a product, get no information on who bought it, how many times it sold, and then a year later get a cheque with no explanation?”

Maris has invested $2 billion into 300 companies from tech to life sciences.

“WE MUST HAVE FULL TRANSPARENCY ON ALL DEALS AND CALCULATIONS.”

This is not about bashing major labels for the hell of it.

On a day-to-day level, many of us in the management world like and respect the individual label executives with whom we work; but a substantial overhaul of business practices at a corporate level is essential and not just in labels; PROs and publishers also need to change.

The music business is no longer a self-contained cottage industry; it is deeply intertwined in a much bigger and more complex world where the consumer is the real power player.

Yet the music business is failing to achieve its full potential because it is tied up in knots: its business practices are outdated, disjointed and unaligned.

The Taylor Swift/ indie label/ Apple Music showdown illustrates what can be achieved when we unite as an industry with the artist front and centre.

If we continue to dodge transparency then the lack of trust between creators, their representatives and the major music corporations will continue to erode the opportunity that digital technology provides us.

It is that simple.

 

This article first appeared on Music Business Worldwide.

Racing The Nationals

This article first appeared on VeloUK.

Old Enough to Know Better? Andy Edwards of Sigma Sport recalls taking on the challenge of riding the British Road Race Championships

Andy writes … One thing I love about cycling is its democratic and meritocratic feel. Anyone can participate and if you are any good, you will get to the top of the sport if you are talented enough, work hard and have a bit of luck. Perhaps it is why, more than any other Olympic sport, participation is going through the roof.

Only in cycling can a Tour de France favourite (Wiggins) turn up to the Bickerstaffe chain gang with the local lads, as he did in March 2012, or Alex Dowsett ride his local club 10. UK based UCI teams will frequently participate at National B level, which are mostly amateur events, and some amateurs can give the pros a good run. The link between top level and grass roots remains strong and it something that is very unique to cycling.

AndyEdwards

Andy Edwards (left) in the Wally Gimber. Photo: Dave Hayward.

There are plenty of routes into the sport, whether you start as a Youth or Junior or as a 4th cat. The Youth and Junior ranks are without doubt the toughest place to start as you are competing with the stars of tomorrow. The fastest road race I ever did was the 1987 Dawtric GP Peter Buckley, at 27.3 mph for 72 miles, not bad for a bunch of kids on steel frames with toe clips & straps and shifters on the down tube!

Wherever you start, I personally try to encourage those coming up through the sport to mix things up and try racing at a higher level. A 3rd cat doing a 2/3 race for the first time will notice the difference, as will a 2nd cat riding their first Nat B. It goes beyond merely chasing points: it’s about understanding and adapting to a higher level of racing. Once you have managed to get the hang of Nat B racing, try a Premier Calendar. It is not just the speed, it’s about the rhythm of the race, the tactics, the style, the technical skills required to participate.

Once you get the hang of one level, try the next one up – that’s my mantra. Keep pushing and don’t be a complacent big fish in a small pond.

Everyone has to start somewhere and the younger guys coming through the sport need to keep challenging themselves. It was great to see riders like Lawrence Carpenter, Elliott Porter and Dante Carpenter (3rd U23) getting up there in the race; all of them I have raced with at local level over the past few years.

Even though I am long past the age of dreaming about a pro career, there is still an excitement about racing with top-level guys. Since returning to racing in 2010 after a 22 year absence, I’ve mixed up all levels of racing and never feel intimidated by the names on the start sheet, even if I do get a battering.

National RR Champs
Entering the Elite Men’s National Road Race Championships in Abergavenny was probably about as far as I am able to push things. With the Tour starting in Yorkshire this year, coupled with early rumours of Froome, Cavendish and Wiggins being on the start line, it was an opportunity too good to resist for a 43 year old full-time music business executive intent on indulging his mid-life crisis!

As we now know, Froome didn’t enter and Cavendish and Wiggins were both DNS, but a host of World Tour stars and top-level British based pros would be there so there was still a lot to look forward to. As I joked to a friend, it was cheaper than entering the sportive!

My expectations were pretty low. After a decent early season, my form was incredibly patchy owing to a hectic work schedule. All I really wanted to do was stay with the head of the race as far as Celtic Manor, 18 miles in, and then just get round the remainder of the 71 mile opening loop.

ManorBergBridge

Peloton lined out coming into Celtic Manor

As you would expect, the speed was pretty intense from the moment the flag dropped. A rolling road closure may seem a safer option to just riding to the while line, but it has its own unique challenges. Even at 35-40 mph, a 160 rider field will take up the whole road – gutter to gutter. You have to give the motorbikes room to come past, squeeze in to navigate parked cars, narrow bridges and road furniture through town centres along the way. It is not uncommon to see lads using pavements and lay-bys to move up, although that’s frowned upon.

For any amateur contemplating this sort of race for the first time, I’d say take it step by step and know your place. Alex Dowsett needed to push past me on the left, as did Kristian House. I wasn’t going to get in the way of either of those guys, so gave them plenty of room. Adam Yates was yo-yoing around to my right. We all had the same issue of navigating our way around the bunch and spotting moments to move up. The pace was very fast, but I was in no danger of getting dropped, but I did need to be alert and much more so than in a Nat B level race.

I could just about enjoy the roar of the crowds as we passed through a town centre, a novelty for an amateur; but otherwise I was fully focused on the race around me.

It helps if you know the route and read your handbook, however. Not sure how many guys did (!) as the turn into Celtic Manor was chaotic and I made up at least 10 positions by having the right line and gear selection to navigate the 180-degree turn on to the single track road.

ManorBergPete

Full gas up the climb with champion to be Peter Kennaugh leading the way and the peloton spread out down the hill.

That was when the race really began. The run in to the base of the climb was a very narrow twisty road, we were all lined out in one line and going full-gas through one ninety-degree corner after another. One guy told me afterwards he did 400+Watts for 3 mins before the climb even started.

And unlike in amateur races, when you get over the top of the climb they keep the gas on so if you are dropped there is usually no going back.

Poor Geriant Thomas unshipped his chain at the bottom of the climb and spent the rest of the race chasing, so I didn’t feel too bad about my own clunky change from big ring to small. I was a bit miffed that my chain wouldn’t sit on the 25 and had to make do with the 23, but I would have got dropped anyway and before too long I was in the company of Nick Noble (National Masters Champion and ex-GB rider) and Ashley Martin a 19 year old from Exeter. So the two oldest guys in the race and one of the youngest made up a three man TTT to get to the finishing circuit at a brisk, gentleman’s pace. We picked up a few other stragglers along the way and arrived at the finishing circuit with plenty of time to enjoy watching the climax of the race.

So a few thrills and a fabulous day out in the Monmouthshire countryside, I was a participant and a spectator amongst a world-class field made from home grown talent, which was such a buzz. A unique experience, thanks to Bill Owen and his team for organizing and to the NFTO guys who bailed me out of a few mechanical issues before the start!

Not sure if I will ride the Nationals again, but I would encourage others, once they have gained the right level of experience, to give it a go. It’s the chance of a lifetime.