Music Biz Headlines, Nov. 19, 2020

Polaris winner Backxwash (pictured) discusses witchcraft, controversy swirls around funding for Grimes, and a legal setback for Celine Dion. Also in the headlines are Wentworth Music, Sylvia Massy, Harry Styles, Big Hit, Taylor Swift, YouTube, UTA, Bandcamp, Shazam, Dolly Parton, Prince, Morrissey, Todd Snider, Dave Alvin, and Lil Wayne.

Music Biz Headlines, Nov. 19, 2020

By FYI Staff


Polaris-winner Backxwash’s metal-laced rap explores witchcraft, gender, mental health

There’s an aspect of Polaris Music Prize winner Backxwash’s metal-laced raps that you won’t find in too many other places: witchcraft. Ashanti Mutinta, whose first full-length album God Has Nothing to Do With This Leave Him Out of It won the Prize last month, says witchcraft plays an important role in the subject matter of the album and earlier EPs. – Nick Krewen, Toronto Star

Grimes (whose baby daddy is one of the richest men in the world) finds herself in an artist funding controversy.

The Polaris-prize nominated electro-indie artist originally from Montreal is signed to an indie label called Crystal Math Music, which is based in Quebec. Back in March, the label was granted $90K by FACTOR. Twitter’s problem is that Grimes’ baby daddy is Elon Musk, one of the richest people in the world (net worth: US$91 billion). Her own net worth is around US$3 million. And she lives full-time in California these days. – Alan Cross, A Journal of Musical Things


California Labor Commissioner rules against Celine Dion in legal battle with ICM over unpaid commission

The California Labor Commissioner has upheld the contract between talent agency ICM Partners and former client Dion following a dispute over unpaid commission after ICM and the singer parted ways last year. ICM Partners sued the singer to receive the alleged unpaid funds, and ICM announced on Wednesday that the Labor Commissioner ruled in the company’s favor. – Jordan Moreau, Variety

Wentworth Music in Kelowna named one of world’s top 100 music stores

A Kelowna business has been named one of the top 100 music stores in the world. Wentworth Music made the list compiled by the National Association of Music Merchants. Judges evaluated hundreds of submissions across various categories. – Kelowna Now

Producers Lounge connects music creators with industry veterans

Producers Lounge Connect 2020 is an interactive live-streamed event taking place on Saturday (November 21) from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Headlining guests include Ebonie Smith, whose credits include albums by Janelle Monáe, Cardi B, and Sturgill Simpson; and Sylvia Massy. If ever there was a producer who could be described as a rock star in her own right, it’s Massy.  – John Lucas


Harry Styles puts on a dress and conservatives strip down to naked outrage

On the December cover of Vogue, Harry Styles is wearing a Gucci blazer and dress. Granted, it’s not what I’d throw on while dashing to Sobeys to fetch bread and milk. But Styles is a pop star and, as we’ve known since the late 1960s, pop stars abide by their own sartorial standards. – Vinay Menon, Toronto Start


Despite the pandemic, Big Hit generated revenues of $436M in the first nine months of 2020

Big Hit Entertainment, the company behind K-Pop superstars BTS, has published its preliminary results for Q3 2020. The financials are Big Hit’s first to be released since making its blockbuster stock market debut in Korea last month. The company’s total valuation at the end of its first day of trading on October 15 hit 8.7 trillion South Korea won ($7.6bn), making founder and CEO Bang Si-hyuk – with his 36.6% ($2.8bn) stake – the sixth richest person in Korea. –  Murray Stassen, MBW

UK music industry will halve in size due to Covid, says report

Growth of 11% in 2019 predicted to reverse this year with collapse of live sector. – Mark Sweney, The Guardian

Over 2bn YouTube users are now playing music videos every month

What's the biggest music streaming platform on the planet? If you guessed YouTube, you're right. Mega right. The platform's Global Head of Music, Lyor Cohen, has today (November 17) confirmed via a blog post that more than 2 billion logged-in YouTube users are now playing music on the platform each month. To put that into context, it's more than six times the 320m Monthly Active Users (MAUs) who pressed play on a track on Spotify in Q3. – MBW


Scooter Braun sells Taylor Swift masters to investment fund for $300M

Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings has sold the master rights to Taylor Swift’s first six studio albums to an unnamed investment fund less than 18 months after it acquired them. That’s according to a Variety report, which pegs the sale price at north of $300m This effectively means that Braun and Ithaca acquired Big Machine Label Group – and everything that wasn’t a Taylor Swift record at that company – for a negligible fee. That’s because Ithaca acquired all of Big Machine (including those six Taylor Swift masters) for a sum believed to amount to $330m in June 2019. – MBW


Confirmed: Taylor Swift masters sold to Shamrock Capital – but she's re-recording them anyway

Swift herself has confirmed that Shamrock Capital is the mystery buyer to have acquired the master rights to Swift's first six albums from Scooter Braun's Ithaca Holdings. Those rights were last year sold to Ithaca as part of its $330m acquisition of BMLG (Big Machine Label Group). Swift's masters have now been sold by Ithaca to Shamrock, for a price in the region of $300m. Tim Ingham, MBW

Bandcamp launches new live-streaming service for artists

Bandcamp Live will let artists easily host ticketed livestream performances. – Noah Yoo, Pitchfork

UTA sues insurance companies for withholding Covid-19 coverage, claims $150 million in losses

The talent agency names Federal and Vigilant insurance companies in breach of contract suit. – The Wrap

Shazam shares All-Time Top 100M, passes 200M active users

Hypebot reports: “Apple owned Shazam has shared its All Time Top 100 most Shazamed songs as it passes 200 million monthly active users.”  –Digital Media Wire

System of a Down raise $600,000 for aid in Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia

Band had recently released its first new music in 15 years to raise awareness about the war in the region. – Kory Grow, Rolling Stone

Twenty minutes – and a lifetime – with Dolly Parton

She said she’s doing well during the pandemic – staying busy writing and recording. “I’m not one to kind of sit around and do nothing,” she told me. She managed to create a new holiday album, A Holly Dolly Christmas – everyone working safely from their own studios. “We’re just being smart and getting it done.” –  Marsha Lederman, The Globe and Mail 

Musicians on musicians — in quarantine

Photographer Mary McCartney captured Taylor Swift and Paul McCartney together in London in early October for our December cover story. – Jason Fine,  Rolling Stone

The prince is dead: Long live Prince

Prince was the most talented musician of his generation. He could do it all: play every instrument, solo brilliantly on guitar, sing like a bird, write hits for the radio, write stunners for the critics, fuse genres like an alchemist and dance like a dervish. – Geoffrey Himes, Paste


Dolly Parton partly funded Moderna Covid vaccine research

The country music icon’s $1m donation supported the latest breakthrough by Moderna and several research papers. – Laura Snapes, The Guardian

Morrissey reports he has been dropped from his record label

The controversial singer attributes the decision to a new BMG executive who wants to diversify the label's roster. – Consequence of Sound

Nick Cave praises John Cooper Clarke: “A brilliant, brilliant man”

"Check out John Cooper Clarke and have your faith in humanity restored," says Cave of the Anglo poet. –  Sam Moore, NME

Lil Wayne charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon

Lil Wayne, who previously served eight months in Rikers Island on a felony weapons charge, is facing another trip to federal court. The rapper was charged Tuesday with possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon. – Christie D, LA Times

Dave Alvin salutes his friends and heroes

Dave Alvin is one of our best songwriters. He wrote almost all the original material for the Blasters’ brilliant first four albums between 1981 and 1985. He wrote “Long White Cadillac,” a top-40 country hit for Dwight Yoakam and “Marie, Marie,” a top-20 U.K. hit for Shakin’ Stevens. His second solo album (Blue Blvd. ) and his ninth (Ashgrove) are two of the best Americana albums of all time. And yet, for all of Alvin’s achievements as a songwriter, he continues to record songs by other writers. There’s a lesson here. – Geoffrey Himes, American Songwriter


Musical instrument retailer Guitar Center to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection

The move comes after the company negotiated a debt-cutting deal with key investors and lenders. The company, which has been struggling with excessive debt for years, said late Friday that it plans to stay in business. The Westlake Village, Calif.-based retailer said it's "pleased with its overall store footprint," which includes nearly 300 Guitar Center stores and more than 200 Music & Arts stores. – Nathan Bomey USA Today

‘Dusty Groove’ film sifts through the emotions of giving up your vinyl

Chicago music store owners buy stranger’s collections and hear their stories in the engrossing documentary. – Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times

Review: A punk drummer’s life upended in ‘Sound of Metal’

The film “Sound of Metal” starts with the uncomfortably loud noises of guitar feedback and ends two hours later with absolute silence. The trip through those extremes is a worthy one, if sometimes exasperating. British actor and rapper Riz Ahmed absolutely shines as Ruben Stone, an American punk-metal drummer whose life is upended when he abruptly loses his hearing while on tour. –  Mark Kennedy, The Associated Press

Todd Snider remembers Jerry Jeff Walker and Billy Joe Shaver

Last month, the country music community said goodbye to legendary Texan singer/songwriters  Jerry Jeff Walker and Billy Joe Shaver. Americana songwriter Todd Snider hopped on the phone with us to pay tribute to the legacies that Walker and Shaver left behind. A protege of both men — and a torch-bearer of the scenes they forged — Snider offered a unique insight into the lasting magic of their songcraft. – American Songwriter

Vanessa Heins


Music News

Alexisonfire Are Releasing a Live Album from Their Hometown Born & Raised Festival

The St. Catharines, Ontario band are bringing the festival back this summer, and they'll release LIVE Born & Raised 2022, St Catharines ON just in time for fans to hear it first.

After a two year hiatus, Alexisonfire are resurrecting their hometown festival Born & Raised on July 5 and 6 at Montebello Park in St. Catharines, Ontario. Just in time, they're releasing a live album from the last time they held the festival, in 2022.

The album, LIVE Born & Raised 2022, St Catharines ON, captures their career-spanning set from the inaugural edition of the festival. In front of their hometown fans, they played songs from throughout their more-than-two-decades long career.

keep readingShow less