The Grammys and the Oscars are in the rear-view mirror, and South by Southwest is still a month away. That means the music industry gets to take a deep breath and contemplate the more important things in life, like whether a song is any good. One of the oldest axioms of the music business is, “It all starts with a song.” That was proved true this week with the reaction caused by the release of a new film’s theme, which caused people to immediately take sides.
This week in music:
BILLIE EILISH BOND SONG – The theme for the forthcoming James Bond film, No Time To Die, has been released by pop music’s newest superstar and her producer brother. So far, it’s spawned more debate than that meme over gold dress versus blue dress. Those used to the soaring anthems spawned by Shirley Bassey thru Adele may not find the whispered and moody styling here to their taste. Others feel it’s yet another triumph for the first family of 2020 pop. Take a listen and make up your own mind.
JUSTIN BIEBER CARPOOL: It’s wall-to-wall Justin Bieber, celebrating the release on Valentine’s Day of his first album in five years. Bieber’s Changes has already spawned one controversy. As part of his three-day appearance on The Late Late Show with James Corden, it was revealed that (gasp) Corden doesn’t actually drive the car as he turns his head, sings and dances in the driver’s seat. The vehicle is towed, much to his eternal disgrace.
UNIVERSAL GOES PUBLIC: Universal Music, the world’s biggest record company, is planning to offer shares on the stock market. The news comes just one week after rival Warner Music Group announced similar plans. UMG is home to Taylor Swift and the Beatles, among others. Vivendi, the music group’s French parent company, said it aimed to float by “early 2023 at the latest.”
GREG KOT BUYOUT: Yet another rock critic is gone from the major newspapers, as the Chicago Tribune’s Greg Kot said that he is taking a buyout after 40 years, including the last 30 as music critic. Kot is 62 and plans to focus on a basketball business.
BEALE STREET LINEUP: The Lumineers, Three 6 Mafia, The Avett Brothers, Lil Wayne and The Smashing Pumpkins will be part of the performers scheduled to appear at this year’s Beale Street Music Festival in Memphis, Tennessee. The three-day festival is held every year during Memphis in May. The music festival will run May 1 through 3. Other acts scheduled to perform include Nelly, Weezer, DaBaby, Lindsey Buckingham, Patty Griffin, and the Deftones.
MUSICIANS AND AB 5: The largely freelance world of music professionals took a hit from California’s Assembly Bill 5, which mandated that gig workers – including may musicians, but also embracing freelance writers, ride-hailing drivers, coders and more – had to be listed as employees if they worked a certain amount for anyone. That led to problems, but now the bill’s sponsor is going back to the drawing board and revising the unexpected consequences to better suit the world’s workers.
LOCAL 47 BACKS BERNIE: Los Angeles’ Local 47 of the American Federation of Musicians has endorsed Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont for president in the 2020 primary election. “Today more than ever, unions and workers are under attack by exploitative forces that are eroding our middle class. Immediate action and activism is crucial,” said Local 47 president John Acosta. “Bernie Sanders is the best presidential candidate to defend musicians and all workers by protecting jobs and workers’ rights.”
YOUTUBE HELPS MUSIC: YouTube paid out $3 billion to the music industry in 2019 from ads and subscriptions as it partners to grow revenue and promote new artists, said CEO Susan Wojcicki. In a blog post Friday celebrating the company’s 15th birthday, she laid out some achievements and aspirations. The number of YouTube creators earning five figures annually, for instance, has grown by more than 40% in the past year. More than 170,000 YouTube channels around the world have more than 100,000 subscribers.