This week: It's the BAN edition! The US wants to ban TikTok. The UK Labour Party wants to ban insane ticket prices. Slightly more tenuously: French regulators haven't said anything about banning a Warner x Believe deal - but might they? Probably not. The EU Parliament banned nothing, but passed the EU AI Act. A bunch of bands banned themselves from playing SXSW.

ICYMI: Another potential streaming levy to get Spotify's blood pressure rising; Lizzo got paid $5 million for not having COVID which meant she was ready willing and able to play a festival that didn't happen; Bad Bunny is showing his (perfectly justified) mean side with a fan who thinks he's the main character; Tidal is ditching high quality audio subscriptions because everyone should have high quality audio and Neil Young agrees; this Thursday is the vernal equinox, National Be Nice day, and intergalactic Tiramisu day. And if the IFPI weren't doing a big stats drop on the same day, we wouldn't have found that out.

And Finally! The Sugababes are single handedly responsible for popularising sugar and ruining a generation, and they are sorry. Jacob Rees-Mogg agrees, and that's never a good thing...


🇺🇸 Proposals forcing a sale or ban of TikTok in the US were speedily passed by the US House Of Representatives

The proposed act would give TikTok's China-based owner ByteDance six months to sell the social media app or face a US-wide ban. It is the latest attempt by American lawmakers to ban TikTok based on concerns that the Chinese government has access to US user-data via ByteDance. The act was only introduced into the House last week, was unanimously passed by the relevant committee within days, and then voted through by the entire House on Wednesday.

But sources told Bloomberg that selling TikTok remains a last resort option for ByteDance. Although its attempts to encourage users to lobby their Representatives in Washington seemed to backfire, ByteDance will continue to fight the proposals in the US Senate and, if necessary, through the courts. It argues that the act violates free speech protections in the US Constitution, an argument that has been successful in blocking past attempts to ban TikTok in the US. 


🎟️ The UK Labour Party said it would introduce a ticket touting price cap if it wins the next General Election

It would mean that ticket touts - or scalpers - would not be able to resell tickets for any more than 10% of face value. Although not an outright ban - which is what anti-touting campaign FanFair called for last year - it would have a significant impact on the secondary ticketing market. The policy commitment was welcomed by FanFair and music managers, though ticket resale platform Viagogo indicated it would fight against the introduction of any new touting laws. 

Labour's commitment came as two people connected to a former ticket touting operation, TQ Tickets, were found guilty in Leeds Crown Court of fraudulent trading. The criminal case against Mark Woods and Lynda Chenery stemmed from an investigation by National Trading Standards which sought to enforce existing laws that regulate ticket resale.


🥊 Warner Music’s maybe-maybe-not bid for French indie giant Believe took a twist this week 

When Warner formally announced its interest in Believe in a regulatory filing, the statement included a very quietly worded threat that, on the face of it, didn’t seem like a threat at all. It all hinges on the fact that Warner wants access to Believe’s books to make a proper bid for the company - but the consortium led by Believe founder and CEO Denis Ladegaillerie has sped up how quickly they plan their own takeover.

The increased speed at which that competing deal is now moving means Warner might miss out, so it threatened to call in the French regulators in an attempt to put the brakes on. The independent “Ad Hoc Committee” at Believe was having none of it, and called Warner’s bluff. In a bold move, Believe has called in the regulators itself, but has also said that it will still block access to the information Warner wants to see. 

Whether the regulator approves the accelerated Ladegaillerie consortium bid, or says that Believe has to throw open the books to Warner, remains to be seen. There’s potentially at least one other obstacle, and that is whether the French regulators would approve the sale of a prestigious French company, and a significant employer in the French music industry, to Warner - which recently laid-off hundreds of staff. 

There’s also a potential issue raised by Warner sharing a common parent - Access Industries - with French streaming platform Deezer. Would the French regulators view Warner, Believe and Deezer ending up as frérots as too much of a good thing?


🇪🇺 The European Parliament passed the EU AI Act

The EU AI Act has been voted into law by the European Parliament, and pretty much every trade body in the music industry joined together in a big group hug, putting out a statement saying that it’s a “world-first” before going back to their usual jostling. 

The EU AI Act introduces wide-ranging regulation of artificial intelligence across the European Union. For the music industry - and the wider copyright industries - what matters most is what it says about the copyright and transparency obligations of generative AI companies. Any AI businesses operating in Europe will need to make available information about what data has been used to train their models and demonstrate that they have complied with EU copyright law, regardless of where any training or development actually occurs. 

World first it might be, but the name could have been better thought through: try saying EU AI Act rapidly a few times, and you quickly end up sounding like you’re singing ‘Old MacDonald Had A Farm’. Anyway, the act, say the trade bodies, “provides tools for rightsholders to enforce their rights” which sounds great. Of course, quite how useful the new AI regulations prove to be for music companies will depend on how they are actually implemented. Watch this space. 


🔫 Dozens of artists and bands boycotted South By South West because of its military sponsors

The US Army was a “super sponsor” of the Austin, Texas showcase festival this year, while there were defence companies involved in the conference. That proved particularly controversial because of those organisations' connections to the conflict in Gaza. One of the bands to pull out, Belfast-based Kneecap, said they wanted to "highlight the unacceptable deep links the festival has to weapons companies and the US military who at this very moment are enabling a genocide and famine against a trapped population". 

Texas governor Greg Abbott told the boycotting bands "bye - don’t come back". However SXSW itself said it respected the decision made by the acts that had cancelled performances, but defended the involvement of the military and defence companies in the event. It said, “the Army’s sponsorship is part of our commitment to bring forward ideas that shape our world”, but added, "we fully respect the decision these artists made to exercise their right to free speech”.


🎙 Setlist Podcast:  US politicians want TikTok to sell up or be banned

In this week's Setlist Podcast: Chris Cooke and Andy Malt discuss proposals voted through the US House of Representatives this week to force TikTok owner ByteDance to sell the video-sharing app or face a ban in country, and the UK Labour Party's pledge to introduce a cap on ticket resale prices if it wins the next election. Click here to listen - or search for 'Setlist Podcast'


🖤 Live industry veteran Vince Power has died, aged 76. After moving to London from Ireland when he was 15, Power was inspired to open his first venue - the legendary Mean Fiddler - after a trip to Nashville. When it opened in 1982, Mean Fiddler originally focused on live Irish folk and country music, before starting to book more mainstream acts. Things quickly scaled from there as Power bought up venues across London, before acquiring Reading Festival in 1989, setting up Leeds Festival just over a decade later, and taking a 20% stake in Glastonbury in 2002. Tanita Tikaram said “I owe so much to Vince. He gave me my first gig at the Mean Fiddler acoustic room attended by about three people but he made sure one of them was an important agent”. 


ICYMI:

🎸 Not content with banning TikTok, US Congress - or at least a couple of Congress members - are taking on streaming reform as well. They have proposed a Living Wage For Musicians Act which would basically introduce performer equitable remuneration on streaming in the US, but funded by a levy applied to streaming subscriptions. And a pretty significant levy at that - 50% of the current subscription fee.

Spotify hasn’t - yet - threatened to rage quit the US as a result, but that’s maybe because it’s been too busy lobbing inaccuracies at France. Welcoming the new proposals in Congress, UMAW organiser Damon Krukowski says, “There is a lot of talk in the industry about how to ‘fix’ streaming – but the streaming platforms and major labels have already had their say for more than a decade, and they have failed musicians”.


🤑 One of the backers of a flopped LA festival was such a huge fan of Lizzo that she offered an equally huge fee - $5 million - for her to perform at her festival. COVID meant the festival never happened, but because of the way her contract had been drafted Lizzo got to keep the fee.

Marc and Sharon Hagle were the main backers of the LA Virgin Fest, and Sharon really, really wanted Lizzo to perform, offering an initial $1.35 million before upping it to $2.5 million and then doubling it to a super-sized $5 million. Lizzo’s agents WME had concerns about the event, so made some amendments to the force majeure clauses of her contract. The result: the US appeals court has concluded that Lizzo doesn’t have to return the giant fee. 


🐰 There’s no way to feel closer to your favourite superstar than getting something special in the post from them. When that something turns out to be legal papers suing you for copyright and trademark infringement, it perhaps doesn’t feel quite so special. Bad Bunny fan Eric Garrone recorded a bunch of videos on the first night of the Bad Bunny North American tour and uploaded them to YouTube.

When they were taken down, he said that they were fair use because the event was "a newsworthy event of high public interest and significant informative scope", before adding that Bad Bunny should be glad of the publicity. Under the bit of US copyright law that regulates YouTube takedowns, Bad Bunny HQ now needs to prove to YouTube that it has taken court action to prevent the videos being re-uploaded. 


🌊 Tidal has announced that it is phasing out its HiFi Plus tier, which offers access to higher quality and immersive audio at a higher price. From next month, that audio will be available with a standard 10.99 a month subscription. That pretty much ends the idea that offering higher quality audio might be a way to get more income out of a subscriber each month, an idea Tidal initially pioneered. While Tidal joins the likes of Apple and Amazon in making all higher quality audio available on a standard subscription, Spotify continues to operate without offering any higher quality audio at all.

The market leading premium streaming service has long promised that higher quality audio is incoming, with a Spotify HiFi tier announced in February 2021, but it is yet to launch. This was something Neil Young used to take a pop at Spotify when he announced his return to the platform, saying "I hope all you millions of Spotify users enjoy my songs! They will now all be there for you except for the full sound we created", before exhorting Spotify to “start with a limited hi res tier and build from there!”


👻 If you’re a fan of the vernal equinox you’ll be looking forward to the International Day Of Nowruz, which takes place this coming Thursday, 21 Mar. It’s also National Crunchy Taco Day, World Puppetry Day, World Tattoo Day, National Common Courtesy Day (though possibly only for Americans, so everyone else continue to be rude as usual), Slytherin Pride Day (what?) and - nearly best of all - World Tiramisu Day.

In case that’s not enough, it’s also the IFPI’s Global Music Report day - which probably deserves a national or even global holiday. So that you’re fully prepped for leafing (OK, scrolling) through the biggest of all music industry stats drops while being tattooed, saying thank you to everyone and shovelling Tiramisu into your face, we’ve put together a short guide about how to get completely confused by music revenue stats


And Finally!

🍩 Sugababes vocalist Mutya Buena has apologised for her band’s part in increasing the amount of sugar in the diets of young people during their peak in the 1990s. “We made people think sugar is cool, but it really, really, really isn’t”, she says in a video on Instagram.

And if you don’t know what to make of that, well, Conservative politician Jacob Rees-Mogg has agreed that the Sugababes’ influence on the health of people who grew up in the 90s is shocking. So you should be shocked. Plus there are concerns that people could once again be put at risk as the group’s original line-up continues their resurgence. 

Sugababes’ Mutya Buena says she now accepts that the group caused a spike in sugar consumption and negatively impacted world health. OK, it’s actually an ad for a sugar-free drink. Find out what Jacob Rees-Mogg thought, along with more of this week’s funniest music news stories.

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