Hey! Today’s update covers why artists start beef with hip-hop media, Lizzo’s ongoing legal battles over “Truth Hurts,” and Spotify’s new changes that let record labels pay to promote their artists.
Beef with Hip-Hop Media
The beef between Gucci Mane and The Breakfast Club won’t stop. This isn’t a dissection of the beef (you can read that on any hip-hop website). Instead, it’s an acknowledgment of the power in starting beef with the media.
Was Gucci out of pocket for what he said about Angela Yee and DJ Envy? Yes. Does he need to get over these grudges? Yes. But he’s not an idiot. He knows that the hosts have to address his statements on wax, which leads to more press for all the other sites that follow his lead.
This type of coverage creates more waves than a standard Breakfast Club interview. By now, the show has dramatic moments so often that they barely register. You have to be on Tekashi 6ix9ine levels of trolling to get folks talking about an interview at this point. But starting drama on The Breakfast Club is very different than starting drama with The Breakfast Club.
And at this point, media personalities are some of the most powerful figures in their respective fields. In a recent episode of Rap Radar, Stephen A. Smith said, “somebody told me, ‘take away the top five athletes in the world and I’m the most popular dude in China.'” My first reaction was, “Alright, relax bro.” Top five seemed high, but his general sentiment holds. Stephen A, like Charlamagne Tha God, is one of the most recognizable figures in his field. He has numerous platforms to share his viewpoint on. The athletes who get into it with Stephen A., like Kevin Durant, forced Stephen A. to address it. When Stephen A’s warned KD and said “you don’t, wanna make an enemy out of me, that clip went viral.
We’ve seen this play out in politics too. President Trump used this same tactic during his 2016 campaign to ensure media coverage. He railed against the “fake news” CNN, and “failing” New York Times, and MSNBC at any and every opportunity. It gave him front and center placement during the 16-person debates, and he carried that through to the election.
The two most-watched Joe Budden Podcast episodes on YouTube are Budden’s response to disses from rappers who once had beef with Joe Budden. These are not coincidences. Gucci and any other rapper who intentionally start drama with prominent hip-hop outlets know what they’re doing. It can be exhausting and formulaic, but that’s the game we live in.
Lizzo’s Lawsuits over “Truth Hurts”
The #1 song in the country might have a new lawsuit for each week it tops the charts. Here’s a brief timeline on the copyright cases that Lizzo has been caught up in:
June 17 – Lizzo files a trademark for “100% that bitch.” Intends to sell merch with the words on it.
July 23 – Lizzo signs publishing deal with Warner Chappell (which in hindsight, seems like it was done in anticipation of the legal claims that were headed her way).
Oct 14 – From The New York Times:
The song’s official credits list four writers: Lizzo, whose real name is Melissa Jefferson; Ricky Reed, her primary producer; Tele, another producer; and Jesse Saint John. But a pair of songwriting brothers, Justin and Jeremiah Raisen, say they were involved in an early writing session with Lizzo that adapted a tweet into the song’s signature lyric — “I just took a DNA test, turns out I’m 100 percent that bitch” — and were denied credit.
The brothers seek credit and 5% royalties from the song. They posted this video to show that they supported the songwriting process for “Healthy,” where the lyric was said.
Oct 18 – CeCe Peniston claims that Lizzo’s “Juice” infringed upon her “Finally” because it used similar ad libs.
Oct 23 – Lizzo files counter lawsuit against Raisen and Rothman for a judicial declaration that they have no ownership or rights over “Truth Hurts.” Lizzo officially gives songwriting credit to Mina Lionness. Lizzo’s publishing Warner/Chappell dismissed the claims citing no substantial similarity behind the songs.
That’s a lot, but there are a few interesting evolutions here:
Social media’s role in copyright infringement.
Mina Lioness deserves credit, no questions there. They all acknowledged that the lyric stemmed from this tweet. The tweet’s traction proved as much. But what about the tweets by the regular folks who aren’t celebrities? What about the bots? This sets a precedent for musicians to get sued by anyone who tweeted a vernacular or phrase.
For instance. Drake is credited with popularizing YOLO in 2011’s “The Motto.” But I just did a simple twitter search and uncovered several uses as early as January 2009. If those folks wanted songwriters royalties, would Drake have to lawyer up? That’s where this is heading.
The aftermath of the “Dark Horse” lawsuit
Here’s what I wrote in August:
“Federal judges in Los Angeles ruled against Katy Perry, ordering her to pay Christian rapper Flame $2.8 million in damages. Perry’s “Dark Horse” apparently sounds too much like this 2009 song “Joyful Noise.” (if you haven’t listened, click those links and check for yourself).
This ridiculous ruling has music attorneys frustrated about future lawsuits. Based on this ruling, songs that share similar musical elements to massive hits can easily be sued for copyright infringement. “There are only 12 notes you can work with, and so things are going to sound alike without technically infringing,” said Mr. McPherson, the music attorney. “The stifling of creativity we predicted after ‘Blurred Lines’ is happening, and after this Katy Perry case it’s going to happen more.”
Agreed. Several examples have come up in recent years, like Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud,” and Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.” Hopefully, these lawsuits don’t start a trend, but it seems like that’s where it’s heading.
The “Juice” / “Finally” ad lib dispute falls in this category. I find the similarities slim, but that doesn’t mean CeCe Peniston won’t fight this case.
Here’s how I see this playing out. Lizzo will lose the lawsuit against the Raisen brothers. They will ultimately be credited as songwriters and receive their royalty checks. She will win any pending lawsuit against CeCe Peniston though. This puts the modern-day hitmaker in a point of frustration. Any big hit is subject to any and anyone coming out of the woodwork with their hand out. But for better or worse, it comes with the territory.
Spotify’s Inevitable ‘Pay-for-Play’ is Here
“You’ve probably noticed the occasional full-screen recommendation in your Spotify mobile app, letting you know that one of your favorite artists has a new album out. Based on interviews we’ve conducted with Premium users, as well as your shout outs on Twitter, listeners seem to like this feature.
We personalize these new album recommendations based on your listening taste, combined with human curation. With an upcoming test we’re running in the US, we’re giving artists and their teams the ability to directly tap into this process and connect with the fans that care most about their music.
In this test, we will let artist teams pay to sponsor these recommendations, giving them the power to tell their listeners on Spotify—across both our Free and Premium tiers—about their latest release. You’ll now hear from a wider range of artists, which means you’re less likely to miss out on new releases from your favorites.”
In short (because that was longer than it needed to be) artists can now advertise their music on Spotify. This is an ad market that existed outside of Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Spotify had alluded to this on several occasions. It flexed its data on many occasions and knew that it could be packaged and sold in a way that would benefit the artist.
We understand why Spotify wanted to do this. The company wants to earn more revenue outside of music streaming, where record labels take the majority. As Music Business Worldwide pointed out, these deals are likely included in the ongoing negotiations with record labels and Spotify. And if that’s true, it empowers the record label artists and makes it harder for the indie artist to rise above the fray unless they pay up.
While some artists may be happy about this deal, the growing power of Spotify should be a concern. Not because of anti-trust (yet), but because of industry dynamics. While it was surely annoying to constantly guess Instagram’s connection—there was a power in the ability to directly connect with fans on social media platforms. Spotify does not want artists directly connect with followers because they can move that relationship off Spotify, which lessen’s the streaming service’s power. Letting artists directly target ads is the next best way to offer than connection and maintain control.
I expect that artist-run IG and Twitter ads may subside over time, but they won’t go away completely because of the artists-fan connection on those platforms.