|MONDAY 28 JANUARY 2019||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: While Viagogo is now claiming to be fully compliant with consumer rights law in the UK - although many critics and the Competition & Markets Authority would not agree - the company is also hard at work opposing new anti-ticket-touting legislation in Ireland. And new documents obtained by the Irish Times show that the secondary ticketing firm is now arguing that proposed new rules would contravene the Irish constitution and EU law... [READ MORE]|
Viagogo lobbying hard against proposed anti-touting laws in Ireland
The Irish government confirmed in July last year that it planned to support two proposed new laws that would restrict ticket touting in the country. In addition to the customary bots ban, banning software used by some touts to hoover up tickets from primary sites, the new rules would also outlaw the resale of tickets for profit entirely for some venues.
These plans made headlines in the Irish press again a month later, after Maria Byrne, Senator for Limerick, said she would oppose the new anti-touting laws because Viagogo employs about 150 people in the city - a local workforce since increased to around 275.
That it might be forced to pull out of Ireland entirely, thus resulting in job losses, is one of the lobbying lines that has been employed by Viagogo ever since wide-ranging anti-touting laws became an actual prospect in Ireland. But it's not its only lobbying line.
The politician behind the bill to restrict the sale of tickets for profit, Noel Rock, tells the Irish Times that efforts to get the proposals passed into law have moved at a "glacial" pace due to heavy lobbying from the secondary ticketing firm.
A legal submission from Viagogo obtained by the Irish Times reveals other arguments put forward by the resale site. It reckons that, if it became law, the resale restriction would be "extremely vulnerable to challenge by reason of its likely infringement on constitutional rights granted by [Ireland's Constitution]" and "would run contrary to EU law".
It adds that proposed new powers for police to seize tickets believed to have been resold in contravention of the new law would undermine the right to innocence until being proven guilty. Not only that, it would be in breach of constitutional rights to property ownership.
The filing also includes the job losses argument - saying that the new law would pose a "significant risk to existing jobs" - and then lobs in the classic defence used by touting websites whenever new regulations are proposed, ie that the resale of tickets would just be pushed over to less secure channels online outside the jurisdiction of any new laws.
In spite of this, Rock says that he's still hopeful that the bill will pass by St Patrick's Day this year - so that's 17 Mar.
Meanwhile, back in the UK, it is not yet clear if Viagogo has made any moves to address the "serious concerns" of the CMA. The regulator said last week that it did not believe Viagogo had fallen in line with a court order that demanded it make various changes to the way it sells tickets by 18 Jan, so that its operations would comply with UK consumer rights law.
The CMA gave Viagogo one last chance to comply, though the resale site continues to insist it is already compliant. Assuming no further changes are made, the next move will be for the CMA to go back before the judges to argue the injunction has been ignored and Viagogo is therefore in contempt of court. If that was ruled to be the case, there is a possibility that execs at the rogue company could face jail time.
Kanye West sues both Sony and Universal
The rapper's lawyers filed two lawsuits last week. The first targets Sony/ATV's EMI Music Publishing, while the second is against Universal Music record labels Def Jam and Roc-A-Fella, and the mega-major's merchandise business Bravado.
The legal papers are heavily redacted and therefore specifics of the two disputes are not public domain. However, it's thought that West may be seeking to reclaim rights he gave up to his various business partners in the early years of his career.
Last year he complained that Sony/ATV had knocked back an offer he'd made to buy back his song rights. And an unredacted bit of the EMI lawsuit states: "There now exists a dispute between plaintiffs and defendant EMI regarding the parties' rights and obligations to one another under the EMI contract and extensions".
The litigation may be intended as a negotiating tactic in any ongoing talks relating to West's efforts to buy back all those rights. But, you know, we can still dream on about these cases actually ending up in court. Which would undoubtedly be good fun all round.
Frank Ocean settles lawsuit with producer
Ocean went legal in February last year after Keith registered himself as a co-writer on a number of 'Blonde' tracks via the database of collecting society ASCAP. Keith - who worked on Ocean's previous album 'Channel Orange' - is not credited in the liner notes for the 2016 record, and Ocean's lawsuit says that he did not "contribute any lyrics, melodies or music that would give rise to any claim of authorship".
Keith then countersued in May, demanding that Ocean's lawsuit be dismissed and saying that he produced and co-wrote the majority of the songs on 'Blonde'. He claimed that he accepted a flat fee for his work on 'Channel Orange', but made it clear to Ocean that he would not accept the same deal for the new record. However, no specific deal was actually agreed before the album was released.
Now, according to The Blast, both men have dropped their lawsuits against each other after they agreed an undisclosed settlement. Whether this means Keith will now be acknowledged for the work he says he did - or not - remains to be seen.
Elsewhere in Frank Ocean news, his 'Endless' album, which was released as an exclusive 45 minute video on Apple Music in 2016, is now coming to other streaming services, according to Billboard.
The album completed Ocean's cut-back commitment to Universal's Def Jam and was followed two weeks later by the aforementioned and independently released 'Blonde', which was also an Apple exclusive initially, although it was subsequently made more widely available.
Rather than appearing in its video form, the album will apparently be made available as audio-only elsewhere, with tracks separated out as you would normally expect. Exactly why it is becoming available now is unclear.
Spotify removes tracks after another possible scam gaming the system
BBC Trending has reported on chatter occurring on Reddit and Twitter about a bunch of mysterious 'fake artists' that have been cropping up on the personal listening histories of various Spotify users. Said users claim to have never heard of - or heard any music from - any of these artists and are therefore bemused as to how they are now listed as having been played via their accounts of the streaming platform.
Of course, there has been much chatter about 'fake artists' and 'fake music' on Spotify before. In most cases artists and tracks are dubbed fake because they are credited to musicians that no one has heard of and which have no online presence beyond the streaming service.
However, most of those tracks are in fact library music, which is to say they are recordings provided to Spotify by a library music company. Because library music is primarily designed for a business audience - ie people looking for music they can cheaply sync into movies, ads, telly shows and YouTube videos - the people who make it tend to use an assortment of pseudonyms.
It's only in the streaming age that this music, and the pseudonyms attached to it, have started to get public attention, as some music libraries do licensing deals with Spotify. Those deals mainly occurred after some savvy libraries noticed just how popular chill out and relaxation playlists are on the streaming firms, and that there isn't much commercially released music to fill said playlists.
So, most fake music from fake artists is in fact library music from artists using pseudonyms. Though that's not to say there haven't been cases of people uploading cheap and cheerful tracks under random names in order to game the system and get themselves a share of Spotify's monthly pay out to music rights owners.
One such scam involved scammers setting up a load of premium Spotify accounts, playing their own super-short tracks 24/7, and then banking a monthly royalty cheque which - because of the way streaming royalties are calculated - would be significantly higher than the cost of all those premium accounts.
The new allegation being chatted about online right now is that a scammer is somehow getting their cheap and cheerful uploads into the listening histories of Spotify subscribers without them having ever actually listened to that music. Which would presumably require some sort of hacking behind the scenes.
Though, of course, it is possible that the Spotify system did actually play these tracks to these users, through curated or automated playlists or its radio feature, and said users simply didn't notice at the time. They probably wouldn't have noticed at all if Spotify hadn't run an end of year promotion encouraging people to look back at their personal listening trends.
That said, since the BBC approached Spotify about these unknown artists mysteriously popping up in people's listening histories, at least some of those artists have been removed from the streaming service. Spotify then confirmed that steps had been taken because "abnormal streaming activity" had been detected. Which suggests that something dodgy has been going on behind the scenes.
It's no secret that, as streaming continues to boom, there is an increased incentive for people to look to game the streaming system, either for immediate profit, or to build hype around a specific artist, or just for fun. Both Spotify and the distributors which the scammers often use to get their music into the system need to be ever more vigilant. Which is one of the reasons why Spotify is starting to rank its distribution partners.
For its part, the streaming firm told the BBC: "We take the artificial manipulation of streaming activity on our service extremely seriously. Spotify has multiple detection measures in place monitoring consumption on the service to detect, investigate and deal with such activity. These artists were removed because we detected abnormal streaming activity in relation to their content".
Meanwhile, conspiracy theories will continue to circulate about fake this and fake that, and also over whether or not this or that stakeholder in the digital music ecosystem is turning a blind eye to the scammers because they too are somehow gaming the system.
Fun times one and all.
Michael Jackson estate hits out again as new documentary on alleged child abuse premieres
The majority of the reports from those who saw the film this weekend seem to accept the accusations made by Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who say they were abused by Jackson in the 1990s, when aged seven and ten respectively.
New York Post reporter Fracensca Bacardi said on Twitter that the film had "left people appalled" and - referencing the very high profile criminal case against the singer in 2005, in relation to other claims of child abuse - "wondering how Michael Jackson got acquitted".
Both Robson and Safechuck appeared on stage after the second part of the film was screened on Saturday. Safechuck said that they had not been paid by the filmmakers and never expected to be.
The two accusers both launched legal action in relation to their respective abuse allegations after Jackson's death in 2009: Robson in 2013 and Safechuck in 2014. Both cases were dismissed before reaching trial, the courts saying that they had waited too long to launch civil proceedings in relation to the abuse allegations.
Prior to that, while Jackson was still alive, both men had testified in defence of the star during that 2005 criminal trial, providing testimonies that contributed to the musician's acquittal. In the film, Robson says he subsequently admitted that he was abused to a therapist, after experiencing two breakdowns.
Both men explain what they say happened to them in graphic detail in the film, adding that they only felt comfortable telling their respective stories after meeting each other in the wake of their legal action. However, the Jackson estate continues to describe them as "admitted liars" who are making "efforts to achieve notoriety and a payday".
"'Leaving Neverland' isn't a documentary", says the estate. "It is the kind of tabloid character assassination Michael Jackson endured in life, and now in death. The film takes uncorroborated allegations that supposedly happened 20 years ago and treats them as fact. These claims were the basis of lawsuits filed by these two admitted liars which were ultimately dismissed by a judge".
It went on to say that the film provides "no independent evidence and absolutely no proof in support of their accusations, which means the entire film hinges solely on the word of two perjurers". Moreover, it adds, director Dan Reed "intentionally avoided interviewing numerous people over the years who spent significant time with Michael Jackson and have unambiguously stated that he treated children with respect and did nothing hurtful to them".
"We are extremely sympathetic to any legitimate victim of child abuse", the estate insists. "This film, however, does those victims a disservice. Because despite all the disingenuous denials made that this is not about money, it has always been about money - millions of dollars - dating back to 2013 when both Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who share the same law firm, launched their unsuccessful claims against Michael's Estate".
"Now that Michael is no longer here to defend himself", the estate concludes, "Robson, Safechuck and their lawyers continue their efforts to achieve notoriety and a payday by smearing him with the same allegations a jury found him innocent of when he was alive".
The film is set to air in the UK on Channel 4 in the spring.
Cheryl Tweedy's lawyers want people to stop talking about 2003 assault conviction
According to the Mail On Sunday, Tweedy's legal reps argued that bringing up the crime, her subsequent trial and her conviction in a 2018 article is a breach of the Rehabilitation Of Offenders Act. Which it almost certainly isn't.
As one media lawyer - Duncan Lamont at Charles Russell Speechlys - pointed out to the Mail: "The rationale behind the Rehabilitation Of Offenders Act was that, [after a period of time] if you applied for a job, you didn't have to mention your conviction to your employer because the conviction was spent. It does not apply to the media. The act was designed to give people who committed an offence a second chance, not for privacy purposes".
The Guardian itself hasn't commented on its correspondence with lawyers acting for Tweedy, but the Mail said that it too had received a legal letter that "cited the Rehabilitation Of Offenders Act and argued Ms Tweedy should be treated by the media in the same manner as someone who had not committed nor been charged, prosecuted, convicted and sentenced for an offence".
That letter didn't stop the Mail running its story and The Guardian article is still live. And now we've reported on the conviction again too. Which proves, as always, you should never hire lawyers who claim to do 'reputation management'. It can be terrible for your reputation.
Spirit Music, Ian Brown, Julia Michaels, more
Other notable announcements and developments today...
• Spirit Music execs Jon Singer and Ross Cameron have completed a buyout of the music rights company. "There is a powerful shift occurring within the music industry and this new dynamism means that Spirit, with our amazing songwriters, dedicated team and 75,000 songs, is especially well-positioned for growth", says Singer.
• Ian Brown has released the title track from his upcoming new solo album, 'Ripples'. The album is out this Friday.
• Julia Michaels has released a new single, 'Inner Monologue Part 1', featuring Selena Gomez. "I wanted it to be a little satirical, because anxiety is typically such a dark topic," she goes on. "It's something that when you talk about it, you don't talk about it with a smile. I guess it's my way of trying to take my power back from anxiety".
• Underworld have released the second part of their year long 'Drift' project, 'Appleshine (Film Edit)'.
• David Gray has released new single 'Watching The Waves'. The track is taken from his upcoming new album 'Gold In The Brass Age'.
• Royal Trux have released the video for the title track of their upcoming new album 'White Stuff'.
• Lion Babe have announced that they will release new album 'Cosmic Wind' on 29 Mar Here's new single, 'The Wave', featuring Leikeli47.
• Kokoko have released the video for their track 'LOVE', featuring Nyangombe.
• Ängie is back with new single 'IDGAF'. It's not a Dua Lipa cover.
• King Crimson will play three shows at the Royal Albert Hall from 18-20 Jun to mark their 50th anniversary.
• Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Ed Sheeran launches signature guitar line
In a video promoting the new range, Sheeran reveals how he'd longed for many years to own a Lowden guitar, but struggled to find them in the shops. His first was the 'Wee Lowden' small-bodied model, which was designed specifically for him in 2012. You can't get one specifically designed for you, but you can now get one specifically designed for him to sell specifically to you.
In the same video, Sheeran also notes that he's launching his own guitar line at a time when the number of young people playing the instrument is dropping. Expanding on that in a statement alongside the announcement, he says: "There are fewer guitar bands and fewer artists using guitars now, and not as many kids picking up guitars. That is something I would like to change by getting these great quality guitars, made in Ireland, into kids' hands and encouraging them to learn and progress".
That may be easier said than done. Prices for the Sheeran range have not yet been announced, but a Lowden guitar will generally set you back several thousand pounds. Though it has been vaguely hinted that Sheeran's may be more affordable. My first guitar cost £30, so hopefully it'll be somewhere closer to that.
Anyway, you can have a look at these guitars that will set you back somewhere between £30 and £7000 (TBC) here.