Music Industry News 2021
by Alex Cosper

Local Venues Begin Returning to Live Music

Music venues across the nation began opening up for live music again starting in mid-March. New Orleans was one of the earliest major cities to bring back live music. By Friday, March 26 many major cities including Los Angeles and San Francisco had returned to live music while New York City planned to resume concerts beginning in April.

Sony Music Announces Purchase of Paul Simon Song Catalog

Sony Music Publishing announced on March 31 it had acquired the Paul Simon song catalog, which began in the sixties. Simon is one of several legendary artists who have agreed in the past year to sell their music to a large music company, along with Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Stevie Nicks. Some of the songwriter's most popular songs were recorded for Simon & Garfunkel such as "The Sound of Silence," "Mrs. Robinson" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water." The duo sold over 100 million units then Simon had a long successful solo career with hits such as "Kodachrome," "Loves Me Like a Rock" and "You Can Call Me Al."

Grammys Sink to All-Time Low TV Ratings

The 63rd Annual Grammy Awards show was broadcast on CBS March 14 to a smaller TV audience than last year. The show pulled in 9.2 million viewers, according to Nielsen, compared with 2020 figures of 18.7 million. The 53 percent decline marked the smallest Grammys audience so far in its history. In the 18-49 target demographic the show's rating fell to 2.1 compared with 5.4 in 2020. These numbers reflect both TV and online viewing. The show was hosted by Trevor Noah and featured performances by Taylor Swift, Harry Styles, Billie Eilish and Megan Thee Stallion. NPR reported the full list of nominees and winners.

RECORD OF THE YEAR: Billie Eilish - "Everything I Wanted"
ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Taylor Swift - Folklore
SONG OF THE YEAR: Songwriters Dernst EmileII, H.E.R. & Tiara Thomas - "I Can't Breathe"
BEST NEW ARTIST: Megan Thee Stallion
BEST POP SOLO PERFORMANCE: Harry Styles - "Watermelon Sugar"
BEST POP VOCAL ALBUM: Dua Lipa - Future Nostalgia
BEST ROCK ALBUM: The Strokes - The New Abnormal
BEST ROCK SONG: Songwriter Brittany Howard - "Stay High"
BEST ALTERNATIVE MUSIC ALBUM: Fiona Apple - Fetch The Bolt Cutters
BEST R&B ALBUM: John Legend - Bigger Love
BEST R&B SONG: Songwriters Robert Glasper, Meshell Ndegeocello & Gabriella Wilson - "Better Than I Imagined"
BEST RAP ALBUM: Nas - "King's Disease"
BEST RAP SONG: Songwriters Beyonce, Shawn Carter, Brittany Hazzard, Derrick Milano, Terius Nash, Megan Pete, Bobby Session Jr, Jordan Kyle Lanier Thorpe & Anthony White - "Savage"
BEST COUNTRY ALBUM - Miranda Lambert - Wildcard
BEST COUNTRY SONG - Songwriters Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemby & Lori McKenna - "Crowded Table"

Jazz Legend Chick Corea Dies

Grammy-winning jazz recording artist Chick Corea died of cancer on Feb. 9 at the age of 79 in Tampa Bay, Florida. His first album Tones for Joan's Bones was released in 1968. Over the span of his long career he released over 75 studio albums. In March the musician was given two Grammy Awards for Best Improvised Jazz Solo for the track "All Blues" and Best Instrumental Jazz Album Trilogy 2. Throughout the ceremony's history he's been nominated over 60 times and received 25 Grammy awards.

Vivendi to Spin Off UMG by Yearend

Vivendi SA announced Feb. 13 it plans to spin off its profitable music division Universal Music Group later this year as an IPO on the Euronext stock exchange. Tencent Holdings Ltd. recently doubled its stake and now owns 20 percent of UMG, while Vivendi owns the rest. Following the announcement ratings specialist Moody's changed its outlook on Vivendi from stable to negative. UMG is currently the world's largest music company worth $36.4 billion (30 billion euros).

While UMG has been profitable during the pandemic, Vivendi's advertising and publishing revenue has declined. The French conglomerate first announced its intentions to sell the music division about a year ago. The Tencent-led group supports going public as shareholders meet Mar. 29 to discuss the plan.

Music Streaming Services Generate $424 Million in Licensing Fees

The nonprofit organization Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC) announced on Feb. 16 it had received over $42 million in licensing fees from various music streaming services. Apple Music contributed the largest share at over $163 million. The next biggest share came from Spotify, which paid over $152 million, followed by Amazon's payment of over $42 million. These fees were characterized by the MLC as "accrued historical unmatched royalties from digital service providers."

Hipgnosis to Expand Shares and Catalogs

Hipgnosis Songs Fund Limited said in its Jan. 21 prospectus it will issue up to 1.5 billion new shares and plans to keep on acquiring ownership of valuable song repertoires of proven recording artists. As of last September, the company's music catalog was valued at $1.59 billion after acquiring the rights to music of several legends. Neil Young recently sold 50 percent of his song catalog to the firm.

GSU to Offer Music Industry Degree

Not many campuses in America offer music industry degrees, but Georgia Southern University's Department of Music plans to launch such a program in the Fall of 2021. The coursework will revolve around traditional music programs along with music technology, management, live sound, recording and more. GSU is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music.

Sub Pop Opens New Retail Store in Seattle

Sub Pop Records is known around the world as a music label that spearheaded the Seattle rock explosion of the 90s led by Nirvana. The label announced in January it has added its second retail store in Seattle to sell band merchandise such as vinyl albums, shirts and hats. Sub Pop's original airport location opened in 2014, as the new flagship location is at 2130 7th Ave.

Taylor Dayne Performs at Trump's Mar-a-Lago Resort

Singer/songwriter Taylor Dayne, who had a string of pop hits in the late 80s and early 90s, performed a New Year's Eve show at President Trump's Florida resort property called Mar-a-Lago. Trump throws an annual party at the mansion. The 58-year-old singer faced criticism from fans on Twitter to which she replied, "I'm saddened by all this .. I try to stay non-political and non-judgmental and not preach." Dayne deleted the tweet shortly afterward.

See 2020 Music News

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