Music Biz Headlines, Dec. 10, 2020

Bob Dylan’s publishing mega-deal grabs attention, the balladry of Donovan Woods (pictured) wins hearts, and Jill Barber’s live-stream sets the bar high. Others in the headlines include Michael Cavanagh, Canadian caroling, The Thread Shop, John Lennon, best albums lists, Barry Gibb, Sinéad O’Connor, Johnny Winter, The Pogues, Miley Cyrus, The Who, Chris Hillman, and Arhoolie Records.

Music Biz Headlines, Dec. 10, 2020

By Kerry Doole

Meet songwriter Donovan Woods, Canada’s latest – and unlikely – heartthrob musician

Woods and his sensitive, tuneful countryfolk balladry have stuck a chord with listeners who find wisdom in his words and pacification in his soft, husky voice. He just released his seventh album, Without People, and recently signed a creative deal with Nashville-based Concord Music Publishing. – Brad Wheeler, The Globe and Mail

Jill Barber's live performance in computer-generated nightclub could be a model for concerts in a Covid world

Virtual reality team recreates legendary, long-demolished nightclub for Jill Barber's live-streamed show. – Ian Hanomansing, CBC News

Canadian Michael Cavanagh wants to ‘hit the ground learning’ as Royal Swedish Opera’s new artistic director

Canadian director Michael Cavanagh has been appointed artistic director of the Royal Swedish Opera, in a five-year engagement beginning summer 2021. The Winnipeg native has been one of Canada’s most in-demand opera directors throughout his 20-year career. His roughly 150 productions have gone up in more than 30 opera houses worldwide. –Jenna Simeonov, The Globe and Mail 


Toronto music of the month: U.S. Girls, DijahSB and more

Some of our favourite singles and EPs of the month, plus our picks for Bandcamp Friday. –  Richard Trapunski and Kelsey Adams, NOW

Canadian caroling’: Five new seasonal releases for 2020

Among the new seasonal releases this year are a number of indie rock holiday collections. – Stuart Derdeyn, Postmedia

Canadian Hot 100 Labels and Imprints of 2020

Based on the success of their artists’ singles on the Canadian Hot 100, Billboard has ranked the record labels and imprints of 2020. Find two Top 10 lists below for those. As with last year’s ranking, the top label is Universal and most successful imprint is Republic. Celebrating 20 years in the business, Canadian record label La Tribu earns a Top 10 ranking. – Canadian Music Blog


Universal Music Publishing Group is getting control of Dylan’s songwriter income. What this means

The news that Bob Dylan has sold his full publishing catalogue to UMPG, in a deal estimated to be worth more than $300 million, is a big surprise in the career of one of music’s greatest songwriters. It’s likely one of the biggest deals of this kind ever made. But what does the sale mean, exactly, for Dylan’s songs? Here are the main takeaways from what’s been reported so far. – Simon Levinson, Rolling Stone


The Dylan catalogue, a 60-year-long odyssey, is sold

 Bob Dylan’s entire catalogue of songs, one of the great treasures in music history, has been acquired by Universal Music Publishing Group for an undisclosed sum. The catalogue is a body of work that may only be matched by the Beatles, whose songs were re-acquired by Paul McCartney in 2017 after changing hands several times, for its breadth and influence. The New York Times, which first reported the deal, said it was struck directly with Dylan. – AP

Critic’s Notebook: By selling his publishing catalogue, Bob Dylan serves himself right

Dylan is 79 years old. He’s outrageously rich and doesn’t need the jackpot he just struck to pay his mortgage. The sale for him is as much about estate planning as anything else. He’s got six children, and grandchildren too. – Brad Wheeler, The Globe and Mail

Wait, Bob Dylan owned ‘The Weight’? An explainer

In selling his own catalogue to Universal Music, Dylan also sold the publishing rights of the Band’s first album Music From Big Pink — thanks to a peculiar arrangement that goes back to 1967. – David Browne, Rolling Stone

Sony Music’s merchandising division The Thread Shop buys UK company Probity

The Thread Shop has agreed on a deal to buy UK-based independent music merchandising company Probity Europe LTD, which offers tour, retail, e-commerce, ticketing and licensing services worldwide. Probity’s roster of music artists includes  Van Morrison, Metallica, Noel Gallagher, Oasis, Paloma Faith, Rage Against, The Machine, Robert Plant and more. – MBW


'We are better people because of John Lennon’

A moving tribute to the slain Beatle from our January 22nd, 1981 issue. – Scott Spencer, Rolling Stone

The 50 best albums of 2020

Today, our countdown takes a moment’s pause for entrancing stillness, among its blasts of raw rap, political pop, and rough and rowdy rock. – Ben Beaumont-Thomas and Laura Snapes, The Guardian

The 50 Best Albums of 2020

Let’s face it: listening to new music wasn’t exactly easy this year. Amidst the neverending whirlwind of 2020, it was tempting to crawl into a cocoon of nostalgic favourites and never come out. But the best albums of 2020 proved that incredible new music will always make their way to our ears, even in the toughest of times. Our list features Fiona Apple, Bad Bunny, Lil Uzi Vert, Phoebe Bridgers, and more. – Pitchfork


The Bee Gees’ Barry Gibb: ‘There’s fame and there’s ultra-fame – it can destroy you

The band’s last surviving member talks about falling out with his brothers before they died, how his wife saved him from drugs – and why he had to ask Michael Jackson to leave his house. –Alexis Petridis,  The Guardian

Sinéad O’Connor announces memoir Rememberings

“This is my story, as I remember it. I had great fun writing it over the past few years.” –  Matthew Strauss, Pitchfork

The UAE's most-streamed artist for 2020 may surprise you

With the Spotify Wrapped list feature becoming the latest trend for everyone to share, it made us curious about the most streamed artists for 2020 overall. Can you guess who is in the top 10? – Emirates Woman

Down & Dirty doc highlights the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's inconceivable disregard for music legend Johnny Winter

I watched the Johnny Winter documentary, Down & Dirty, on Amazon Prime recently. It was a fine representation of the albino blues master’s remarkable career, especially his twilight years. But I also came away from it thoroughly irritated by my longheld belief that Winter has been seriously screwed over by the brainless twats at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. – Steve Newton, Georgia Straight

Fairytale of New York: The surprising story behind The Pogues’ Christmas anthem

Thirty-three years on, it’s perhaps the greatest Christmas song ever. Here’s how it was made. – Dorian Lynskey, Irish Times

'Roger and I are at the end of our lives': Pete Townshend says prior to release of new Who disc

“I look back to when I was young — between the ages of 18 and 25 — and I just don’t recognize that young man,” said Townshend, 74. “I mean in lots of ways I can’t understand how I managed to do such a huge amount of work. I can’t understand how much of it was so good. In fact, the best stuff was probably before I was 25.” – Jane Stevenson, Toronto Sun


Miley Cyrus having lots of 'FaceTime sex' during the pandemic

The unattached pop starlet, who split from singer Cody Simpson earlier this year, is embracing new ways to be intimate amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused widespread shutdowns across North America. “I do a lot of FaceTime sex – it’s the safest sex. I’m not getting Covid,” she said during an appearance on the Howard Stern Show last week. – Mark DaniellPostmedia

With gigs canceled and no relief, musicians form a nationwide union

This is what solidarity sounds like. – Liz Pelly,  In These Times

Chris Hillman’s musical life from Byrds to Burritos and more

Tom Petty once described him as one of rock music's most well-kept secrets, and Chris Hillman is fine with that. – John Rogers, AP

‘Crock of Gold’ film review: Shane MacGowan documentary is full of ravaged beauty

Julien Temple’s film about the Pogues singer is a heartbreaking, messy and inspiring experience. – Steve Pond, The Wrap 

If our band was fronted by a white girl, people would get it’: How the UK fails Black indie musicians

The recent furore over the lack of rock category at the Mobos highlighted how Black Brits with guitars get overlooked. Stephanie Phillips speaks to Nova Twins, Babeheaven and more about making space for alternative artists. – The Independent

'I'm a song catcher': 60 years of Arhoolie Records, the label for a lost America

Now 89, one-time refugee Chris Strachwitz presides over one of the greatest US labels, having removed the stigma from working-class music like blues and zydeco to give a voice to the ignored. – Garth Cartwright, The Guardian


Allison Russell at an interview with iHeartRadio for Billboard Canada Women in Music on June 19, 2024
Marc Thususka Photography

Allison Russell at an interview with iHeartRadio for Billboard Canada Women in Music on June 19, 2024


Allison Russell, Charlotte Cardin, DijahSB Shortlisted for 2024 Polaris Music Prize

The Beaches, rapper TOBi, indie experimentalist Cindy Lee, and previous winner Jeremy Dutcher are also amongst the ten artists in contention for the $50,000 prize, which recognizes the best Canadian album of the year based solely on artistic merit. See the whole list here.

Some of Canadian music's biggest breakthroughs of the last year are facing off for the prestigious Polaris Music Prize.

Charlotte Cardin for 99 Nights, The Beaches for Blame My Ex, Allison Russell for The Returner and Cindy Lee for Diamond Jubilee are among the ten artists shortlisted for the 2024 award, which recognizes the best Canadian album of the year.

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