TODAY'S TOP STORY: If you're feeling just a little bit nostalgic for all those unnecessary news stories earlier in the year confirming that your main man Eddy Sheeran was the most successful recording artist in the world in 2017, then sit down and get ready to digest, dissect, analyse and enjoy this unnecessary confirmation that your dominant dude Eddy Sheeran is the most successful touring artist in the world in 2018... [READ MORE]
TOP STORIES Ed Sheeran's $213.9 million grossing 2018 tour breaks records
DEALS Warner/Chappell signs Odunsi (The Engine)
LIVE BUSINESS Former Ticketbis exec says resale sites dominated by 50 super touts
MEDIA Radio 1 commissions music video comedy show for iPlayer
RELEASES Estelle announces reggae album, Lover's Rock
GIGS & FESTIVALS John Carpenter announces UK live shows
Chvrches announce February UK tour
AND FINALLY... Take That confirm 30th anniversary tour and greatest hits "with a twist"
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Ed Sheeran's $213.9 million grossing 2018 tour breaks records
If you're feeling just a little bit nostalgic for all those unnecessary news stories earlier in the year confirming that your main man Eddy Sheeran was the most successful recording artist in the world in 2017, then sit down and get ready to digest, dissect, analyse and enjoy this unnecessary confirmation that your dominant dude Eddy Sheeran is the most successful touring artist in the world in 2018.

US live industry trade magazine Pollstar has just published its mid-year touring report, packed full of data about ticket sales and box office income from the biggest touring acts of the year so far. And, somewhat unsurprisingly, Sheeran - along with his trusty guitar and box of pedals - tops the chart with gross income for his touring activity in the first half of the year reported at $213.9 million.

That's $100 million more than second place artist Bruno Mars, despite Sheeran's average ticket price being $50 lower. Indeed, Sheeran's average ticket price - at $80.90 - is the lowest of all the top ten touring artists of 2018 so far. Third place The Rolling Stones have the highest average ticket price in the top ten at $159.17, which is how they managed to gross slightly over $100 million while performing just twelve shows, compared to Sheeran's 52.

Adding to Sheeran's list of stat-based achievements, Pollstar notes that "Ed Sheeran's $213.9 million gross is the largest ever recorded on the Mid-Year Worldwide Chart - which began in 2009".

It then adds: "It's a massive 40% increase over last year's number one ranked Guns N Roses trek, which totalled $151.5 million and 20% higher than the chart's [previous] all-time topper, AC/DC who brought in $177.5 million in 2010".

Of course, Sheeran still has plenty more shows to come in the second half of 2018, so presumably plenty more cash will drop on top of that $213.9 million in the months ahead. Speaking to Pollstar about the various new stat brags now enjoyed by his client, Sheeran's manager Stuart Camp said that their touring strategy had always been based on keeping average ticket prices down while playing more shows.

He mused: "Our live strategy has always been the same: a great show put on at an affordable ticket price for Ed's fans. The bottom line is that we have to make the experience special and we have to make everyone want to come back again. We have always strived to never waiver from that ethic. There is no VIP up-sell nonsense or overpriced tickets [and] we've fought very hard against unscrupulous secondary markets. We go to as many places as we can".

By combining IFPI's unsurprising revelation that Sheeran was the biggest recording artist last year with Pollstar's unsurprising confirmation that Sheeran was the biggest touring artist in the first half of this year, there should be no surprises that Forbes has just listed Sheeran has the highest paid solo artist in its new Highest Paid Celebrities chart. U2 and Coldplay rank higher, but with all band members grouped together.

However, all the musical stars are out-ranked in pay-packet terms by the likes of Floyd Mayweather, George Clooney, Judge Judy and Kylie Jenner. So cash-hungry kids who find learning to play guitar a bit of a chore might instead want to have a go at fighting, flogging coffee, studying law or - erm - well, nothing really.


Warner/Chappell signs Odunsi (The Engine)
Warner/Chappell in the UK has signed Nigerian artist, songwriter and producer Odunsi (The Engine) to one of those worldwide publishing deals you all love so much. Odunsi has garnered plenty of acclaim for his Afro-fusion sound, which mashes together Afrobeat, electonica, R&B, reggae and other genres. Having released EP 'Time Of Our Lives' and a number of singles, he is now working on a debut album.

Confirming the signing, Warner/Chappell UK A&R Director Amber Davis said: "Odunsi is a fresh and impressive young talent. He has shaken up the music scene in Nigeria and is now attracting global attention. The music he is writing sounds incredibly unique and I'm excited to see how he'll grow as a songwriter here with us at Chappell".

Odunsi himself added: "I'm really pleased to be joining the roster at Warner/Chappell and can't wait to work with Amber who has such an amazing reputation for helping songwriters. I've always made music in collaboration with others and am looking forward to working more with songwriters from around the world".


Former Ticketbis exec says resale sites dominated by 50 super touts
A former executive at Ticketbis, the secondary ticketing platform bought by eBay's StubHub in 2016, has confirmed that the ticket resale market is now controlled by a small community of industrial-level touts. But he reckons that the new business he is now leading could shake-up the secondary marketing, and for that matter the primary ticketing sector too, which is often dominated by a small number of major players.

Jorge Díaz Largo was VP Of Product And Marketing at Ticketbis. He is joined by two other former Ticketbis execs - David Di Bartolomeo and Carmen Navarro Lado - at his new ticketing start-up, which is called Tracer.

Talking to IQ about his time at Ticketbis, Díaz says: "We were naïve. We wanted to help normal people who were no longer able to go to a concert and wanted to get rid of their ticket. However, in every market we were in - the UK, France, Germany, Latin America - it was a marketplace for ticket touts, where touts controlled the tickets and set the prices".

He goes on: "What [the main resale sites] aren't saying is that almost all their inventory is controlled by no more than 50 ticket touts, who have access to millions of tickets. These major resellers account for 80-90% of the revenue of these companies, so their main mission is to take care of the brokers - they're the real client, not the ticket buyer - with specific people, dedicated account managers, taking care of these sellers, incentivising them to sell more, helping them get more inventory".

Tracer is a mobile-centric ticketing set-up that employs the always fun blockchain in a bid to offer more functionality to artists and promoters, which includes more control over ticket resale, but also extra tools to offer discounts and promotions.

As well as the secondary sector, Díaz also reckons his platform could help overhaul the primary ticketing market too. Not least by providing artists and promoters with more data. Though, of course, there have been numerous ticketing start-ups over the years that have had similar ambitions. They have always found it hard to crack a market where, for bigger tours and festivals, the advances and other financial kick-backs offered by the big primary ticket agents remain very tempting. Even when new fangled start-ups have better platforms and offer much more data.

Díaz says he's aware of these challenges, but feels the primary ticketing sector is nevertheless ready for a shake up. Elsewhere in the IQ interview he notes: "Who has the power now? Big primary ticketing companies. Artists and independent promoters take the money, but they don't know the exact number of tickets sold. We want to move that power from ticketing companies to artists... once they have that power, they can sell tickets wherever they want".


Radio 1 commissions music video comedy show for iPlayer
BBC Radio 1 has (only slightly confusingly) commissioned a new telly show for the iPlayer. Titled 'What iS Music Videos?' (the weird stylisation of 'iS' an intentional part of the title, for some reason), the Beeb reckons that the show will "bring together sketch comedy and music videos for the first time", which I'm pretty certain isn't true.

Anyway, the show is presented by 'The AI Player' - actor Pippa Haywood with a robot effect on her voice - who will play a selection of the latest music videos and say some made up stuff about them. Sketches will then lie further about how the videos were made. Those will feature Radio 1 presenters, some artists themselves, and comedy actor Will Best, who is better known for his presenting work.

"I'm really excited about bringing a new format to BBC iPlayer that showcases the best of the music Radio 1 plays, but with a comic twist", says Sam Bailey, Commissioning Editor for Radio 1's BBC iPlayer channel. "With the AI Player, we've stumbled upon a truly remarkable piece of technology - it seems to know absolutely nothing about music, but once you've heard its take on the latest hits, you certainly never listen to them in the same way again!"

The show's co-creator - and Creative Director of its maker Starstruck Media - James Delow adds: "The AI Player never gets anything right, but she's really enthusiastic. And occasionally defamatory. But nonetheless, we're THRILLED to be able to present her incoherent ramblings to the Radio 1 iPlayer audience".

Twelve monthly shows have been commissioned, with the first to appear in early August. I know you're sitting there thinking this will probably be awful, but you haven't even watched this clip yet.


Approved: James BKS
James BKS is already an experienced producer. He has worked with artists such as Talib Kweli and Diddy, as well as composing film and advert music for his own Grown Kid agency. Now he prepares to step out into clearer view as the first artist signed to Idris Elba's 7Wallace label.

Co-written with Mai Lan, his first single 'Kwele' also features his father, influential saxophonist Manu Dibango, and rapper Allan Kingdom. The track sees James BKS feed African musical influences into pop production.

"I want people to get to know my journey", says the producer of the track. "The song is the musical answer to my inner questions. Finally I can be proud of my roots and say this music is fully me".

Of making James BKS his first signing, Elba recently told Billboard: "James is a rare find. His hip hop sensibilities transfer to the other music he makes, he's a nice person to work with and is gonna be a strong artist in the future. It's a huge move for 7Wallace, a small indie label".

Watch the video for 'Kwele' here.

Stay up to date with all of the artists featured in the CMU Approved column by subscribing to our Spotify playlist.

Estelle announces reggae album, Lover's Rock
Estelle has announced that she will release her fifth studio album, 'Lover's Rock', in September. The record will see her dive fully into reggae and is preceded by new single 'Better'.

"Since the release of 'Come Over', featuring Sean Paul, from my first album, fans have consistently asked when I would make an entire reggae album", says Estelle. "I'm happy to give the people what they have been asking for and I'm proud to share another piece of my life and art with the world".

Randy Chin, President at VP Records, which will release the album, adds: "Upon hearing the song 'Better', I knew it had all of the right elements of a modern day hit. We are very excited to work with Estelle and be alongside her journey in her first full-length reggae project".

Watch the video for 'Better' here.


John Carpenter announces UK live shows
Soundtrack composer John Carpenter will bring his live show back to the UK in October. He will perform two shows close enough to Halloween for me to say here that they will be appropriately close to Halloween. Both the actual Halloween, and the new remake of the film 'Halloween', which will come out in between the two performances.

Playing in London and Manchester, Carpenter will no doubt crack out some of his original ‘Halloween' soundtrack (not least because these shows are appropriately close to Halloween). There'll also be some of his work on non-horror films too, but it wouldn't be appropriate to mention that here.

Tickets for the show will go on sale this Friday. Here are the dates, which - you'll no doubt notice - are appropriately close to Halloween:

16 Oct: London, Hammersmith Apollo
21 Oct: Manchester, Albert Hall


Chvrches announce February UK tour
Chvrches have announced that they embarking on a journey around the UK and Ireland for what you might call a 'tour' in February. This will follow various festival dates over the summer, and, of course, the release of their third album 'Love Is Dead'.

Here are the tour dates:

7 Feb: London, Alexandra Palace
9 Feb: Birmingham, Academy
12 Feb: Bournemouth, Academy
14 Feb: Manchester, Victoria Warehouse
16 Feb: Glasgow, Hydro
18 Feb: Newcastle, Academy
19 Feb: Belfast, Ulster Hall
21 Feb: Dublin, Olympia


Take That confirm 30th anniversary tour and greatest hits "with a twist"
Gary Barlow has confirmed that Take That will tour next year to mark their 30th anniversary. The news comes after they failed to pull together a full reunion to mark their 25th anniversary last year. Which, you're right, is confusing.

Just so we're all up to speed, the last attempt at a big Take That celebration was to mark the 25th anniversary of the release of their debut single in 1991. By the time they abandoned that idea, it was nearly the 26th anniversary. Next year marks the 30th anniversary of the genesis of the group in 1989, when it was just Gary Barlow and a pending audition process. You know, the classic anniversary that people celebrate. If this venture proves successful though, they can carry it on into 2020 to celebrate the group's actual formation.

As well as the tour in 2019, Barlow tweeted yesterday that the band will release "a greatest hits with a twist" later this year. Which sounds like it could be an ironic greatest hits, where it's filled with filler tracks that no one likes. Or maybe it will be a generic hits album with a cover of Chubby Checker's 'The Twist' at the end. Or perhaps the physical version of the record will come with an actual slice of lemon. Got to have a gimmick, right?

Actually, it's likely we already know what the twist is based on a recent interview on 'The One Show'. In that, Howard Donald revealed that the group - with its current three man line-up - had re-recorded a load of old Take That songs. Donald told the BBC show that they had been "recreating some of the songs for the greatest hits", and that they planned to include three new tracks on the hits record.

Barlow added: "We've re-imagined some of the songs, but not all of them. You've got to be careful with these things. If you take them too far, you're destroying people's memories. We've tried to be respectful to the music, but just putting a load of music on an album wasn't enough for us. We wanted to just go back and have a look through it, and try to make it sound better".

Recording new versions of the hits kind of makes sense. Take That are quite a different outfit now, compared to 30 years ago. And a record of how their performances of those songs have changed might be quite nice. Also, in the streaming age, you could argue that the standard greatest hits compilation no longer makes any sense. People can just make a playlist of their own favourite tracks right now, so why try to force a selection on them?

Of course, there's still a fairly large market for any new Take That CD out there, but the band have already released four greatest hits records. Which means the average CD buying Take That fan will already have at least one of those. So maybe they'll be more inclined to buy another hits record if it offers something a little bit different.

Indeed, the "greatest hits with a twist" format seems likely to become ever more prevalent in an age of streaming playlists. It's a whole new avenue for aging artists looking to milk yet more money out of catalogue, having done pretty much all the standard compilation and re-release products before. Elton John, of course, recently released two compilations featuring other artists performing his most popular songs.

In his tweet, Barlow goes on, "in 2019 we will turn our recordings into a live show featuring all the hits from the last three decades". Which presumably means a show including the reworked versions of the old hits. So, that'll be nice, won't it?

You know what would be nicer thoughy? A proper full-on reunion of all five members of the group. Maybe. Barlow ruled that out earlier this year, but now The Sun seems pretty convinced that Robbie Williams will be involved in the anniversary tour in some way.

Although Williams might now be a little too busy to get involved with any extensive touring and all the prep that comes with it. He's just signed up to be a judge of the next series of 'X Factor'. As well as Simon Cowell, Williams be joined by his wife Ayda Field and former winner of the show - as part of One Direction - Louis Tomlinson.

He's not the first member of Take That to take on the role, of course. Barlow did it for three years. He had some words of warning for Williams, which are possibly code for "there's no way you can do our anniversary tour now". He told The Sun: "It's going to be great, but I know what's to come with that show. I know what it does to you. He's got some hard work ahead, that's for sure. I've told him it's a lot of hours - more than people realise. It's tiring".

Full details of the tour and greatest hits compilation are expected shortly.


ANDY MALT | Editor
Andy heads up the team, overseeing the CMU bulletins and website, coordinating features and interviews, reporting on artist and business stories, and contributing to the CMU Approved column.
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