How is coronavirus affecting music? Here’s how one industry leader sees it

Covid-19 has rattled industries throughout the world. The music industry is no exception. Concerts have been canceled and record stores are closed. Even online orders of physical products have been disrupted, because internet retailers like Amazon are falling behind on shipments. In a new blog post written for Music Business Worldwide, Believe CEO Denis Ladegaillerie describes the impact he thinks coronavirus will have on the retail side of the business.

Headquartered in Paris, Believe is a global music distributor and the world’s number one distributor of digital independent music.

From Believe’s perspective, physical music sales will not pick back up significantly until late summer—early September at the soonest. Artists will have to be flexible and creative as a result.

“We are closely observing countries like France or Germany, which only got into COVID-19 confinement recently, or the US, which is still not in complete confinement everywhere,” Ladegaillerie wrote. “We are taking the assumption that confinement isn’t likely to be lifted for another five or six weeks, which takes us into May. After that, you’re still going to see restrictions on retail – let’s say that takes us into early June. Then it’s the summer, which is typically a quiet time for physical music sales anyway.”

In view of all that, Ladegaillerie estimates that, between now and summertime, Believe’s physical music sales will drop by anywhere from 70 to 90 percent. And the sales they do make in this period will be mostly direct-to-fan (from the artist to the consumer), Ladegaillerie explained.

“In France we are putting a task-force together to organize D2C business on most of our releases and build initiatives even more after the lockdown. Direct to fan works very well on hip-hop, as well as metal – the artist Kekra recently made almost 60% of his sales first week with purely D2C physical sales.”

One of Believe’s artists, Nightwish, recently shipped over 10,000 products to fans after releasing their latest album on April 10.

But Believe is still encouraging its artists to push back the release of new LPs until later in the year in order to avoid poor sales. In the meantime, Ladegaillerie writes, artists should concentrate on connecting with audiences on social media, while still releasing singles and EPs.

Even when stores open back up and retail begins returning to normal, physical music sales will still be a fraction of what they were before the pandemic began—about 50 percent, Believe believes. But here is the silver lining: digital sales are expected to soar as more consumers turn to this option as a substitute for physical products. Of course, the harm caused by pirating still exists, perhaps more than ever before. Pirating is not a victimless crime—it ought to be prosecuted, and it ought to show up on NSW police checks.

Nevertheless, digital is key right now. “Believe’s key message to artists and labels today is to try to make the best out of this situation by accelerating your knowledge of the digital business …” This means artists have to embrace the digital world even more than they had before, promoting upcoming albums and engaging with fans on social media as much as possible. That way they increase the likelihood of a successful physical release when the time finally comes.

Billy Corgan talks new Smashing Pumpkins, personal crisis

The Smashing Pumpkins are at work on a new album. That’s according to frontman Billy Corgan, who recently sat down for an interview with Nashville radio station 102.9 The Buzz.

“It’s currently 21 songs,” Corgan said. “We’ve been working on it for over a year. It’s pretty different, in a good way, I think. Everyone who’s heard it likes it a lot, so that’s a good sign.”

Corgan also opened up about what he called his “spiritual crisis,” which he says led him to question whether he would ever make music again.

“I wasn’t really sure that I wanted to play music anymore,” he said. “It wasn’t because I hated music, I just didn’t understand what the point of it all was. It gets very complicated. … And so I found by taking these trips through America, mostly down Route 66 … I kind of found myself wanting to write about what I had seen, and it inspired me to start writing songs again.”

“I certainly feel super motivated again, which I totally connect to those [road] trips,” he continued. “They lit the fire back in me. … It kind of really put me back on track and I said, ‘No, you have plenty of music to make.’”

He went on to give some information about the Smashing Pumpkins’ plans with regard to touring.

“We’re gonna do some touring. We’re playing a big festival in Atlanta, I think in April or May—Shaky Knees. I’m not sure if we’re playing Nashville this year. Actually I think we might. I might be giving a secret away. We might be doing a little surprise-y gig soon.”

The new record will be the Pumpkins’ 11th. Their last one, Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol. 1, was released in November 2018 to mixed reviews. They reached the top of the US charts in 1995 with Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. The lead single from that record, “Bullet with Butterfly Wings,” won a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance in 1997.

In addition to the ten Smashing Pumpkins albums, Corgan has recorded three solo albums: TheFutureEmbrace (2005), Ogilala (2017) and Cotillions (2019).

Roger Waters details new North American tour

Roger Waters has published the dates for his upcoming North American tour. Called This Is Not a Drill, the tour will begin in July in Pittsburgh, PA, and wrap up three months later in Dallas, TX.

Accompanying the announcement is a three-minute video in which the Pink Floyd co-founder explains the meaning of the tour’s title.

“As the clock ticks faster and faster and faster down to extinction, it seemed like a good thing to make a fuss about it,” Waters says as “Another Brick In The Wall” plays in the background. “So that’s why I’m going on the road.”

These days Waters is known as much for his political activism as he is for his music. Last September he gave a speech and performed at a rally for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been incarcerated in Belmarsh Prison in London since last April. Assange and his legal team are currently fighting efforts by Donald Trump’s administration to have him extradited to the US to face espionage charges.

At the rally, Waters dedicated his performance of “Wish You Were Here” to Assange.

But the main theme of This Is Not a Drill is environmental activism.

“To be blunt, we need to change the way we organize ourselves as a human race—or die,” he says. “This tour will be part of a global movement by people who are concerned for others to effect the change that is necessary.”

The promotional video has Waters emphasizing how much he still enjoys touring.

“I still love playing in a band,” he says. “It is good fun, I promise you. If I look as if I’m having fun while I’m on the stage, it’s because I am.”

This Is Not a Drill will be different from Waters’ previous tours in that he will be playing arenas.

“We’re doing a show in the round,” he says. “Why are we doing that? It’s something new. To us, to me. And I look forward to the challenge.”

Below are the dates.

July 8 – Pittsburgh, PA @ PPG Paints Arena
July 10 – Philadelphia, PA @ Wells Fargo Center
July 14 – Detroit, MI @ Little Caesars Arena
July 17 – Toronto, ON @ Scotiabank Arena
July 21 – Quebec City, QC @ Videotron Centre
July 23 – Montreal, QC @ Bell Centre
July 25 – Albany, NY @ Times Union Center
July 28 – Boston, MA @ TD Garden
July 30 – Washington, DC @ Capitol One Arena
August 1 – Cincinnati, OH @ Heritage Bank Center
August 5 – New York, NY @ Madison Square Garden
August 11 – Raleigh, NC @ PNC Arena
August 13 – Orlando, FL @ Amway Center
August 15 – Miami, FL @ AmericanAirlines Arena
August 18 – Nashville, TN @ Bridgestone Arena
August 20 – Atlanta, GA @ State Farm Arena
August 22 – Milwaukee, WI @ Fiserv Forum
August 25 – Minneapolis, MN @ Target Center
August 27 – Chicago, IL @ United Center
August 29 – Kansas City, MO @ Sprint Center
September 2 – Denver, CO @ Pepsi Center
September 4 – Las Vegas, NV @ T-Mobile Arena
September 10 – Los Angeles, CA @ STAPLES Center
September 14 – Vancouver, BC @ Rogers Arena
September 16 – Edmonton, AB @ Rogers Place
September 19 – Tacoma, WA @ Tacoma Dome
September 21 – Portland, OR @ Moda Center
September 23 – Sacramento, CA @ Golden 1 Center
September 25 – San Francisco, CA @ Chase Center
September 30 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Vivint Smart Home Arena
October 3 – Dallas, TX @ American Airlines Center

Josh Klinghoffer says no hard feelings after being asked to leave the Red Hot Chili Peppers

In December the Red Hot Chili Peppers announced that original guitarist John Frusciante, who left the group in 2008, would be rejoining the band in 2020. While that was good news for Chili Peppers fans, it was bad news for Josh Klinghoffer, Frusciante’s replacement.

“The Red Hot Chili Peppers announce that we are parting ways with our guitarist of the past ten years, Josh Klinghoffer,” the band wrote in a statement posted to Instagram. “Josh is a beautiful musician who we respect and love. We are deeply grateful for our time with him, and the countless gifts he shared with us.

“We also announce, with great excitement and full hearts, that John Frusciante is rejoining our group.”

Klinghoffer recently discussed the change on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, describing his ouster as a “pretty simple decision.”

He said the band told him while they were at bassist Flea’s house.

“They just said, ‘We’ll get right to it. We’ve decided to ask John to come back to the band.’ And I just sat there quiet for a second and I said, ‘I’m not surprised.’

“The only thing I could think to say was, ‘I wish I could have done something with you guys, musically or creatively, that would have made this an absolute impossibility.’”

Klinghoffer added that he knows Frusciante’s absence left a hole in the band that no one else could ever entirely fill.

“John and Flea have a musical language,” he said. “I’ll never be able to contend with the history him and John had.”

He went on to say that the news was a “complete shock but no surprise” and confirmed that there is “no animosity” between himself and the rest of the band.

The subject had previously come up in a recent interview Klinghoffer did with Ultimate Guitar. But he was clearly unwilling to share any details about the split at that time.

Asked what lessons he would take away from his experience in the band, Klinghoffer said, “Ask me that another time.”

And asked whether there were any hard feelings, he replied tersely, “I don’t think so. Not from me.”

This is the second time Frusciante has returned to the group. He first left in 1992, returning in 1998.

It was reported a couple weeks ago that the group was working on a new album with Frusciante.

“For now, we’ll mostly be concentrating on new songs and writing a new record,” drummer Chad Smith told Rolling Stone. “We’re all real excited to make new music.”

Eminem defends new music: ‘This album was not made for the squeamish’

Eminem published an open letter today in response to criticism of his new album Music to Be Murdered By. The record was released without forewarning on 17 January and quickly provoked a wave of outrage over some of its lyrical content.

Most of the criticism was directed at the song “Unaccommodating,” in which Eminem references the 2017 Manchester bombing. Below is the offending lyric:

“But I’m contemplating yelling ‘Bombs away’ on the game/ Like I’m outside of an Ariana Grande concert waiting.”

Numerous people took to social media to express their fury and accuse the rapper of being insensitive. For example, one tweet read, “Eminem literally just made a joke about the Manchester bombing at ariana grande’s concert… that is just so fucking sick, y’all better not give this man any attention. people literally lost their lives, and you’re going to release music and try to make a profit off of them.”

Eminem defended himself in an open letter posted on his Instagram page. It’s somewhat confusing, but he seems to be saying that, by referencing atrocities in his lyrics, he is critiquing society’s approach to violence. His goal, he admits, is “to shock the conscience, which may cause positive action.” Below is the letter in full:

Gentle Listener:

In today’s wonderful world murder has become so commonplace that we are a society obsessed and fascinated by it. I thought why not make a sport of it, and murder over beats? So before you jump the gun, please allow me to explain.

This album was not made for the squeamish. If you are easily offended or unnerved at the screams of bloody murder, this may not be the collection for you. Certain selections have been designed to shock the conscience, which may cause positive action. Unfortunately, darkness has truly fallen upon us.

So you see, murder in this instance isn’t always literal, nor pleasant. These bars are only meant for the sharpest knives in the drawer. For the victims of this album, may you rest peacefully. For the rest of you, please listen more closely next time. Goodnight!

With deepest sympathy,

Eminem

I’ll leave it to you, Gentle Reader, to decide whether that makes any sense.

It should perhaps be noted that Eminem donated money to the victims of the Manchester bombing, partnering with the British Red Cross.

Dugan addresses Grammy controversy on morning talk shows

Deborah Dugan, who served as CEO of the Recording Academy until she was cashiered last week, appeared on several talk shows this morning to address the controversy sparked by a complaint she filed with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In that complaint, Dugan makes a number of explosive claims involving sexual harassment, voting irregularities at the Grammys, general corruption at the Academy and, most dramatic of all, rape.

Dugan filed her complain after she was placed on administrative leave by the Academy, which said the move was prompted by a “formal allegation of misconduct” against her. But Dugan maintains she was forced out after complaining about the above issues internally.

Dugan’s complaint accuses the Academy of enabling sexual harassment. As an example, she recounts a dinner with Academy executive Joel Katz during which she says Katz made sexually inappropriate comments to her before trying to kiss her.

“I felt like I was being tested in how much I would acquiesce,” she told Good Morning America. “And I realized that that was a power-setting move, just on the onset, as I was coming in to the committee.”

Katz has denied the accusation.

Appearing on CBS This Morning, Dugan elaborated on her claim that the Academy is corrupt and plagued by conflicts of interest.

“In that room not only are there trustees that have conflicts of interest on particular artists that are nominated, but more importantly there are even artists that are nominated that are in the room,” she said. “So for me that’s just such a blatant conflict of interest.”

To the question of whether the term “rigged” is an apt word to use to describe the process, Dugan responded, “Yes it is.”

“All along I spotted things, saying ‘this doesn’t seem right,’ and sort of complaining all along quite frankly,” she continued. “But I kept wanting to make it work, I kept wanting to make a difference from the inside. I only have come out to be here today because I have been so severely retaliated against.”

The most explosive part of Dugan’s complaint is the claim that her predecessor as CEO, Neil Portnow, was let go after being accused of raping a “foreign” recording artist. Portnow published a statement in which he called the allegation “ludicrous and untrue.”

In spite of all that, Dugan said she plans to watch the Grammy Awards this Sunday.

“I worked very hard on the show,” she said on Good Morning America. “And I love the artists that are going to be performing and I love all those that are nominated that don’t get the honor of being on the show.”

New Morrissey album is coming soon

Former Smiths frontman Morrissey’s thirteenth studio album will hit the shelves in March 2020, according to a statement on the singer’s official website. Berlin-based label BMG—which has worked with The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, The Cranberries and Iggy Pop, among others—is behind the album, which was recorded in St-Remy, France, and produced by repeat collaborator Joe Chiccarelli.

Called I Am Not A Dog On A Chain, the new record contains 11 tracks:

Jim Jim Falls
Love Is On Its Way Out
Bobby, Don’t You Think They Know?
I Am Not A Dog On A Chain
What Kind Of People Live In These Houses?
Knockabout World
Darling, I Hug A Pillow
Once I Saw The River Clean
The Truth About Ruth
The Secret Of Music
My Hurling Days Are Done

The lead single is “Bobby, Don’t You Think They Know?” featuring Thelma Houston, best known for her 1977 hit “Don’t Leave Me This Way.” According to the Morrissey Central website, “Morrissey has described I Am Not A Dog On A Chain as: ‘ … the very best of me … too good to be true … too true to be considered good …’, and concludes Morrissey’s contract with BMG Records.”

Morrissey’s solo career began when the Smiths split up in 1987. His first solo album, Viva Hate, was released the following year and reached number 1 in the UK. 1994’s Vauxhall and I also peaked at number 1 in the UK charts, as did 2006’s Ringleader of the Tormentors. His last album, California Son, an eclectic collection of cover songs, was released in May to mixed reviews.

Morrissey has fallen out of favor with much of the UK press in recent years after making a number of controversial statements and lending his support to the right-wing political party For Britain.

Kurt Vile announces solo tour

Kurt Vile recently announced a 22-show tour of North America. This time, however, Vile will be performing without his longtime band, the Violators. It will be Vile’s first solo tour in a decade. Supporting him will be Welsh artist Cate Le Bon, who released her fifth studio album, Reward, this past May.

After co-founding The War on Drugs in 2005, Vile embarked on a solo career that has seen him produce eight studio albums. His highest charting album in the US is 2015’s b’lieve I’m goin down … That was followed two years later by Lotta Sea Lice, a collaboration with Courtney Barnett. His most recent record is 2018’s Bottle It In, which includes the singles “Loading Zones” and “Bassacckwards.”

Below is a full list of dates for the upcoming tour:

01/18 — Thermal, CA @ Empire Grand Oasis
04/08 — Chicago, IL @ Thalia Hall
04/09 — Detroit, MI @ MOCAD
04/10 — Pittsburgh, PA @ The Warhol at The Carnegie Lecture Hall
04/11 — Nelsonville, Ohio @ Stuarts Opera House
04/13 — Woodstock, NY @ Levon Helm Studios
04/14 — Somerville, MA @ Somerville Theater
04/15 — Lebanon, NH @ Lebanon Opera House
04/16 — New York, NY @ Town Hall
04/20 — Philadelphia, PA @ World Cafe Live
04/21 — Philadelphia, PA @ World Cafe Live
04/23 — Jersey City, NJ @ White Eagle Hall
04/24 — Washington, DC @ Lincoln Theatre
04/30 — Seattle, WA @ Neptune Theatre
05/01 — Portland, OR @ Aladdin Theatre
05/02 — Portland, OR @ Aladdin Theatre
05/04 — Petaluma, CA @ Mystic Theater
05/05 — San Francisco, CA @ Castro Theatre
05/06 — Santa Cruz, CA @ Rio Theatre
05/07 — San Luis Obispo, CA @ Fremont Theater
05/08 — Los Angeles, CA @ Theatre at the Ace Hotel
05/09 — Pioneertown, CA @ Pappy & Harriets
05/15 — Austin, TX @ Paramount Theatre

From professional taiko to Capitol Hill

Erika Ninoyu is an accomplished percussionist who specializes in the traditional Japanese form of taiko. She is also a staffer for a representative in the US Congress. Ninoyu recently spoke to Roll Call about her background and the ways in which she uses music to help her perform her duties in the seemingly disparate field of lawmaking.

Born in Anchorage, Alaska, to Japanese parents, Ninoyu studied and subsequently taught music in the United States. In 2013 she moved to Japan to play taiko professionally.

“We lived in and trained every day, even on weekends, in an abandoned elementary school building in the mountains of Aichi Prefecture,” Ninoyu recalled. “I ran 9K every morning, cleaned the dojo, cooked for 20 members and staff, repaired costumes and dedicated countless hours to training.”

It was around this time that Ninoyu developed an interest in political activism.

“Growing up, I thought I was both Japanese and American, but for the first time I realized there was something called being Japanese American,” she told Roll Call.

After returning to the US she began working with Japanese American advocacy groups, eventually securing a Congressional fellowship from the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS). From there she went on to work in the office of Rep. Grace Meng, a Democrat from New York. She is now vice chairwoman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

Ninoyu argues that, in addition to giving her the discipline and work ethic required to succeed in the hyper-competitive atmosphere of Washington, DC, her musical background has other, more specific advantages.

“We’re really in touch with rhythms and what moves people,” she explained. “I think what a musician such as myself brings to policymaking is the creativity and vision to guide these impulses, ideas and expressions.”

Perhaps that’s what the world’s legislatures need: more musicians and less lawyers.

Universal Music CEO thanks staff for label’s 2019 successes in holiday message

A holiday letter from Lucian Grainge, CEO of Universal Music Group, to the company’s staff has been published on the web. In it, Grainge thanks his employees for contributing to what has been another banner year for the record label.

“As the driving force in our industry, relentlessly focused on the future, we often fail to take even a moment to celebrate what we’ve accomplished, and I’d like to do that now,” Grainge writes. “Therefore, let’s pause for just such a moment, to take stock and share a few highlights of how astonishing this year has been.”

He proceeds to point out that, over the course of the year, Universal had an artist atop the five biggest music platforms (Amazon, Apple, Deezer, Spotify and YouTube) and furthermore that each platform had a different Universal artist at the top, namely Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish, J Balvin, Post Malone and Daddy Yankee. In 2019 Universal also had (among other things):

  • Four of the Top 5 US debut albums
  • The No. 1 song on Apple for more than 60% of the year
  • The No. 1 song on Spotify each week for the first 39 weeks of the year
  • The Top 4 tracks on Spotify globally
  • Four of the Top 5 global albums on Spotify
  • Four of Spotify’s Top 5 most-streamed artists of the decade 

Grainge credits Universal’s culture of innovation, independence and unity for its enormous success.

“We think and act like entrepreneurs, questioning the status quo, standing apart from the crowd, not taking ‘no’ for an answer, anticipating the disruptive forces just around the corner and then finding ways to deal with them not as threats but opportunities,” he writes. “Creative contrarians to the max, we push. While our labels and other businesses have significant autonomy and, as a result, are highly competitive even with each other, they are guided by one overriding principle: we are stronger together.”

Founded in 1934, Universal is one of the three largest labels in the industry, along with Sony Music and Warner Music Group.

Read Grainge’s end-of-year letter in full here.