Archive for category Music

What’s The Verdict: ‘Blurred Lines’ Trial Not Over?

What’s The Verdict: ‘Blurred Lines’ Trial Not Over?

It was just a little over a month ago that a jury ruled Blurred Lines was too similar to Got to Give it Up with a $7.4 million verdict paid out by Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams to the Marvin Gaye Estate. But not so fast. While Thicke and Williams’ lawyers are seeking a new trial, the Gaye family is seeking injunction on further distribution of the song.

This past Friday, Thicke and Williams’ lawyers filed a motion for a new trial based on three reasons: (1) error in jury instructions, (2) improper testimony from a  musicologist, and (3) insufficient evidence.  The defense also claims the jury’s verdict is inconsistent because T.I. was not found liable for copyright infringement, yet he was featured in the song.

Let’s break it down.

In order to determine infringement, copyright should be based purely on the sheet music for Got to Give It Up.  However, Robin Thicke made statements about how Gaye’s “groove” and “feel” influenced his song Blurred Lines.  The argument stands that because the jury heard this statement, which is not part of the printed sheet music, it is “prejudicial and irrelevant” information. Additionally, musicologist Judith Finell’s testimony on the similarities between the two recordings was also “extremely prejudicial.” In effect, the jury’s decision-making abilities were influenced by such biased information and thus did not constitute a fair trial.

Another issue being confronted is that the $7.4 million verdict paid out to the Gaye family is double the profit that was even made from the song.  The elements that were supposedly copied from Got to Give It Up amount to less than 5% of the Blurred Lines composition. This means that the money paid out should be dropped down to a whopping $680,000!

Following the motion for a new trial, the Gaye family also filed two of its own. The first: the Gaye family argues that Interscope, UMG, and other companies should be held accountable for copyright violations and are seeking declaratory relief.  The second: they seek an injunction to stop distribution of the song and if the injunction doesn’t happen, the family is asking for over 50% of all future revenues!  The latter is by far the best case scenario for the Gaye estate because it also means the pay out will be climbing much higher than $7.4 million.

Which way do you think the judge will go? Is a do-over warranted based on the above arguments? The judge will consider the above motions at a hearing scheduled on June 29, unless of course the two parties reach a settlement beforehand but I’m not so sure this will happen. Even if the judge does not grant a new trial, the case will head towards appeal.  This is going to get interesting!


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What’s The Verdict: Is Jay-Z’s Tidal Streaming Service in Trouble?

Jay-Z Speaks Out: Is Tidal Streaming Service in Trouble?

In response to minor backlash and rumors, Jay-Z sent out a series of messages via Twitter defending his latest business venture Tidal. Although the music streaming service launched under a month ago, there have been reports claiming that the service is “struggling.” The app has fallen out of Apple’s top 750 app charts after peaking at #83 on April 7th.  Additionally, other artists including Lorde have publicly criticized the company; not to mention the CEO was recently fired. Clearly, there have been some bumps in the road, but what company doesn’t have a few in the beginning? Jay-Z has come to the defense of Tidal via social media using the hashtag #TidalFacts. One statement put forth says: “The iTunes Store wasn’t built in a day. It took Spotify 9 years to be successful.”  Despite reports that the service is failing, Jay-Z says that Tidal has over 770,000 subscribers and is reminding everyone that “Tidal is doing just fine.” In other words, they are right were they are supposed to be. Many of the subscribers are within their first month, which means that it’s possible some will unsubscribe once that 30 day trial is up. I wonder how much that number will drop in the next couple weeks.

I find Jay-Z’s response to be quite interesting considering that he hardly ever tweets! Since joining Twitter back in 2008, he’s only tweeted 231 times and does not follow a single person.  The marketing campaign for Tidal has featured lots of social media promotion, so it was no surprise that #TidalFacts began trending amongst affiliated artists as well as fans. Jay-Z both defended his company and reiterated what separates Tidal from competitors, which is its value on music as an art and artists being fairly compensated. Check out his stream of consciousness here!

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Changes in Music Consumption

Since Billboard introduced a new formula to determine rankings on the Hot 100 singles chart earlier this year, it immediately made an enormous impact in the music business. Regardless of the backlashes this change received from labels, or the approval from other parties, this change has been a positive influence for many artists; particularly new and unknown artists.

Billboard has always been validated as the source to go to for determining top selling music. Their rankings are often where people look at to find out what is popular, and are also how people determine what music to purchase. The formula that generates the rankings, created by Nielsen SounsScan, has traditionally included physical CD sales, digital downloads, radio airplay as well as online radio streaming. But YouTube video streaming data has now been incorporated into this formula, changing the major players that are on top of that list. For instance, for an unknown artists such as Baauer, this updated formula immediately pushed his song “Harlem Shake” to the number one spot due to thousands of YouTube videos generated on this viral song. Similarly, “Gangnam Style” by Korean sensation Psy, which went viral on YouTube with its fascinating dance moves, also jumped to the No. 1 spot on the Rap Songs chart (even though he has not been fully embraced by the American audience as a genuine rapper).

All of this is good news for artists such as Baauer and Psy, who otherwise would not have garnered the amount of attention they needed to top the charts through the traditional platforms. Getting your music on radio and making your name well known often requires a lot of promotional money and marketing efforts from record labels. Billboard charts are therefore often to predict, based on the major labels that are behind the artists on the charts and the type of music they release (generally pop). But this change in the Billboard formula give artists a chance to reach fame even without being backed financially by a record label, or signed to any deal. In addition, it shifts the attention away from mainstream pop and rap, giving other genres, such as indie or country, a chance to climb onto the Billboard chart based on their online audience base. Sure, there are still debates on whether this change in formula really reflects the consumption of music or the money flw in the business. Record labels can possibly manipulate the views on YouTube and generate unauthentic “hits” for their major talents. But the Billboard chart with its with formula is created to reflect what the public is currently listening to on a week-to-week basis, regardless of the actual money it brings in. So if you’re a new artist, pay close attention. Billboard might have just provided a new model for you to break into the industry.

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