Jun 3, 2024 8 min read

📑 CMU Digest: Ticketmaster breach, Madge show distressingly erotic + more

The essential music business news from the last week

📑 CMU Digest: Ticketmaster breach, Madge show distressingly erotic + more

This week: Massive Ticketmaster breach sees half a billion people's data stolen; AI is "generational inflection point" says Sony Music boss; PRS and STIM report record-breaking songwriter revenues; ticket touts panic over Labour proposal for resale price cap; Madonna show was too late, too hot, too sexy.

ICMYI: Sacha Lord's 180 flip on defamation threat; Sony Music sues Marriott; TikTok kill switch; Spotify's hundred dollar paper weight; Cox Communications really doesn't want to pay copyright lawsuit damages.

Also this week: Make Pop Short Again says PinkPantheress

Personal data of more than half a billion Ticketmaster customers was stolen by hackers

It’s not a good time to be Live Nation. On top of being sued by the US government, the live giant has also suffered a massive data breach. Hacking group ShinyHunters claimed to have accessed Ticketmaster systems to steal data relating to over 560 million customers - which it then put up for sale. Live Nation then confirmed, via a SEC filing, that the breach had taken place on 20 May and involved “a third-party cloud database environment containing company data”.

The breached data includes names, email addresses, phone numbers and some payment data. Although Live Nation says that “the incident has not had, and we do not believe it is reasonably likely to have, a material impact on our overall business operations or on our financial condition” it’s likely that Ticketmaster’s data security measures will be investigated by data protection authorities around the world. Australia’s Department Of Home Affairs was the first to confirm it was already investigating the alleged data breach.

The data hack came during a challenging week for Live Nation following the filing of a lawsuit by the US Department Of Justice accusing the live giant of anticompetitive conduct and urging the courts to force a sale of Ticketmaster. Shortly after that lawsuit was announced, another was filed by a group of Ticketmaster customers also accusing Live Nation of anticompetitive practices. That is a class action lawsuit that seeks to represent millions of ticket-buyers.

Sony Music CEO Rob Stringer talked TikTok, AI and acquisitions in an update to investors 

Short-form video content is playing a “larger and larger role in music discovery and engagement amongst young listeners” Stringer told Sony Corp shareholders in the company's recent day of investor presentations. So much so that short-form video platforms - such as TikTok, Instagram and YouTube Shorts - are becoming “primary consumption sources”. That’s why the music industry must drive more value from those platforms, Stringer noted. Unlike Universal Music, Sony hasn't gone to war with TikTok. However, Stringer nevertheless added that monetisation of short-form video is “not where we’d like it to be” at just 5-6% of Sony Music’s overall streaming revenues.. 

AI represents a “generational inflection point” for music and content, the Sony chief also told investors. He acknowledged the challenges posed by AI and the need for music companies to fight to ensure their copyrights are respected by AI businesses. However, he said, the technology nevertheless has the potential to be a “multidimensional tool for creativity, scalability and efficiency” for the music industry. “We will go where our artists want to go creatively in the AI space”, he said, “while protecting their rights at every step”.

Stringer also spoke about Sony Music's investment strategy, and the acquisitions and partnerships that are driving growth, especially in markets in Asia, Africa and Latin America. With catalogue investments, he added, Sony is “extremely strategic”, not getting involved in the “rush and race with multiples” that has been seen in parts of the music rights market.

Record-breaking revenues were announced by songwriter collecting societies in the UK and Sweden 

UK performing rights collecting society PRS For Music topped annual royalty collections of £1 billion for the first time in 2023, paying through £943.6 million to its songwriter and music publisher members. Broadcast revenues were down slightly, but digital, public and live performance, and international revenues were all up. Digital is the biggest revenue generator for PRS, even though not all digital income on the songs side of the music industry flows through the collecting society, with some going direct to music publishers. Digital collections were up to £366.5 million. 

Sweden’s STIM represents songwriters and music publishers in a much smaller market, though like PRS has members that enjoy significant international success. It brought in 3.095 billion krona (around £230 million) last year, an increase of 14.2% on 2022. The biggest contributor to STIM’s income was also digital, up 8% to 942 million krona (around £70 million), with income from music streamed internationally up 27%. 

Alongside the stats, PRS boss Andrea Czapary Martin bigged up her organisation’s work to address data issues that can negatively impact on song royalty payments, while STIM CEO Casper Bjørner stressed the importance of ICE - the digital licensing hub co-owned by STIM, PRS and German society GEMA - in maximising digital income.

The Guardian uncovered a plan by ticket touts to try to kill off a price cap on ticket resales

The Guardian’s report focused on a recent meeting in London where more than 100 people involved in the reselling of tickets met to discuss the Labour Party’s pledge to introduce a price cap if they win the upcoming UK General Election. This would mean that when a ticket is resold the mark-up on the face value price can’t exceed 10%. Neither touts nor the ticket resale platforms they use want that law to come into effect, with one tout telling the event that if it does, “bottom line is we are all fucked”. 

In order to fight the price cap, a UK division of the American pro-touting Coalition For Ticketing Fairness organisation has been set up. Representatives from the US group were also at the event to explain how touts, with the support of the resale platforms, can try to stop Labour rom going through with its plan. But instigating any lobbying campaign, they stressed, would cost money - prompting the touts to collectively pledge $73,000 to pay for it.

Anti-touting campaigners in the music industry and Parliament said that UK touts employing US-style lobbying tactics could actually backfire and rally more support behind the proposed price-cap. Indeed, Labour MP Sharon Hodgson, a long time campaigner on this issue, insisted it will only strengthen her party's resolve to get the legislation in place. 

Madonna was sued again for arriving on stage late - this time with the added complaint that her show was distressingly erotic

As with two lawsuits filed by concert-goers earlier this year, a new legal filing criticises Madonna for arriving on stage more than 90 minutes after the advertised start time. However, the new lawsuit also raises other grievances with Madonna’s performance. Though mainly that it had everything you’d expect from a Madonna performance. 

Among other things, the litigious concert-goer, Justen Lipeles, complains about being “forced to watch topless women on stage simulating sex acts”. Despite Madonna being famous for including sexual content in her shows, Lipeles says that her current tour caused him “emotional distress”. He also accuses the musician of not allowing the venue to operate its air conditioning, which meant audience members sweated “profusely” and ultimately became “physically ill”. 

Accompanying the lawsuit is a quote from Lipeles’ lawyer, Kevin A Lipeles, very possibly a family member of the angry concert-goer. He talked about the impact Madonna’s performance might have if a ticket buyer unknowingly took their eleven year old daughter with them to the concert, again ignoring that Madonna’s current show is exactly what anyone would expect.


🤡 Sacha Lord, Greater Manchester’s Night Time Economy Advisor, Chair of the Night Time Industries Association, and founder of Manchester’s Warehouse Project and Parklife Festival (both now majority owned by Live Nation), has announced that he has withdrawn his threat to sue the Manchester Mill for defamation following a series of damning allegations by the publication.

🤳 Sony Music has sued hotel company Marriott over its use of music in social media posts. Recordings released by the major - including hits by Beyonce, Michael Jackson and Harry Styles - have appeared, allegedly without licence, in videos promoting the company's various hotel brands. Some of those videos were created by Marriott marketing teams directly, others by companies operating hotels using Marriott brands under licence, and others by influencers paid by the Marriott company. 

💥 The legal challenge over the proposed TikTok ban in the US will be fast-tracked, so that oral arguments will begin in September. Under a law passed by US Congress, TikTok owner ByteDance has until 19 Jan 2025 to sell the app or face a ban, meaning its legal efforts to block the ban are pretty urgent. As TikTok continues in its legal bid, a Washington Post report has revealed concessions the social media company previously offered the American government to overcome data security concerns. That included “a kill switch that would shut the app down”.

🚗 Spotify has been sued by subscribers who are still using its Car Thing device to control use of the service in their vehicles. Sales of Car Thing stopped in 2022 and the device will no longer be supported from December, meaning remaining devices won’t work and will be a "hundred dollar paperweight". That, says a lawsuit, is not acceptable.

💸 US internet service provider Cox Communications has filed another appeal with the Fourth Circuits Appeal Court in its ongoing legal battle with the music industry. It previously got the Fourth Circuit to force a review of the billion dollars in damages it was ordered to pay the record companies. However, it still quite likes the idea of paying no damages at all, and so is ploughing on with a second appeal.

🎙 Setlist Podcast: It’s been a bad week to be Live Nation

In this week's Setlist Podcast: Chris Cooke and Andy Malt discuss the US government’s legal action against Live Nation that seeks to force it to sell off Ticketmaster, ticket touts’ plans to fight the Labour Party’s proposed 10% price cap on the resale of tickets, and more.

🎧 Click here to listen - or search for 'Setlist Podcast'

And Finally! PinkPantheress wants to keep it short

PinkPantheress has generated a lot of talk online this week with comments about how long she thinks pop songs should be. And in the spirit of that, I’ll let you know right now that the answer is ‘Not long’.

Speaking to ABC News in the US, she said that originally, “making short songs was just a result of me experimenting” and finding out what she liked. But as she did this, that brevity became an integral part of what she enjoyed about the music she was creating.

“A song doesn’t need to be longer than two minutes 30 [seconds], in my opinion”, she said. “We don’t need to repeat a verse, we don’t need to have a bridge, we don’t need it. We don’t need a long outro”.

👉 Read the full story and more of this week's funniest music news

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