|THURSDAY 13 JUNE 2019||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Killing the bots and declaring the fees were two key talking points during a full-day debate on the ticketing market organised by the Federal Trade Commission in the US on Tuesday... [READ MORE]|
Fewer bots and more transparency demanded at FTC session on the American ticketing market
Ticketing bots are already officially banned in the US but the sanctions aren't sufficiently harsh, some said, while there was also talk about possible new rules forcing all ticketing sites to declare their fees upfront, something that has already been introduced - in one way or another - in some other countries.
The FTC announced last October that it would stage what it called a full-day workshop in order to debate some of the big issues in the American ticketing market. It was originally scheduled for March, but Donald Trump's government shut down earlier this year forced the whole thing to be postponed until June.
That October announcement came in the wake of media coverage Stateside about Live Nation's Ticketmaster, relating to allegations of anti-competitive conduct and revelations about the way it works with ticket touts, or scalpers as they say in the US.
Though at the time Live Nation was keen to point out that the FTC workshop was set up to discuss the entire ticketing market - primary as well as secondary - and was not happening just to bash its Ticketmaster division and/or online ticket touts and the companies that support them.
Bots were the first topic for discussion during the session. By bots, of course, we mean the software some ticket touts use to hoover up large numbers of tickets from the primary sites in order to resell them on the secondary market. For in-demand events, touts employing such technology can result in very rapid sell-outs, meaning even eager online-early-ready-to-refresh-and-click fans are unable to access tickets at face value from a primary seller.
In many countries where online touting has proven controversial and market regulation has been considered, a bots ban is often the first thing to be discussed. That's partly because most lobbyists for the secondary ticketing market - representing touts and the websites they use to resell tickets - normally support such a ban, officially at least.
Back in 2016 the US introduced a country-wide bots ban - even though ticketing is more commonly regulated at a State level - via the Better Online Ticket Sales Act, aka the Bots Act. However, various people participating in Tuesday's workshop insisted, the penalties enabled by the Bots Act are not severe enough, so it hasn't resulted in the desired cut-back on the use of bots by the touts.
According to Law360, Joe Ridout of consumer rights group Consumer Action said that the FTC being able to fine those using the bots was not a big enough deterrent. "The penalties just aren't sufficient to deter bad actors without criminal penalties". The FTC should also bring tech firms into the debate on bots, he added, before stating: "We need to do more if we're going to get to the bottom of who's behind bots".
Some anti-touting campaigners reckon the bots ban debate is something of a distraction, and that ticket resale sites like talking about banning the bots because it puts off discussions about other kinds of regulation for the secondary market. And anyway, it's hard for US authorities to target anyone buying up tickets with bots from outside America. And even with a bots ban in place, touts can employ teams of people to manually harvest tickets, which may be more expensive, but not so much so that it will deter industrial-level touts.
As for other regulations of the resale market - like those that have slowly been introduced and then enforced in the UK and elsewhere - that tends to happen at a State-level in the US. Some states have introduced some regulations, while others have instead sought to regulate against concert promoters that seek to restrict the resale of their tickets.
However, across the country, there are generally still many more people willing to publicly campaign in favour of ticket touting than in Europe, mainly by employing the usual arguments.
There's the key argument that consumers should have the right to resell tickets. Then that promoters shouldn't be allowed to interfere with that right. And after that, the claim that without legit resale sites consumers would end up on rogue websites in foreign places where they would be more regularly ripped off.
Other arguments still being employed by the pro-touting lobby in the US include that tickets routinely sell for below face value on the secondary platforms - ie not every touted ticket comes at a massive mark-up - and with sell-out shows, where the price-hikes kick in big time, that's the fault of artists for not playing more gigs and/or bigger venues.
Another discussion point at Tuesday's workshop applies as much to primary ticket sellers as it does the resale platforms. That being the mega-fees ticketing sites usually charge, on top of whatever the face value of the ticket may be.
Consumers rarely understand and universally hate these fees, which are particularly steep in the US. Although getting rid of them would involve reworking the live music business model, and the deals done between artists, promoters and ticket agents.
However, even if the steep fees are necessary, they could still be communicated better, so that the consumer is told the full price of their ticket - including all the fees - on the first web page they visit, not 20 minutes later after navigating numerous web pages and filling out an assortment of tedious forms.
Declaring the full-cost of tickets upfront has become the norm in some other markets, either as a result of consumer rights law or industry initiatives in response to consumer pressure. In the UK, on the secondary side, upfront declaration of all fees was one of the demands made by the Advertising Standards Authority last year.
According to Vox, the ticketing platforms involved in this part of the discussion on Tuesday - both primary and secondary - seemed to say they'd welcome some regulation on this point in the US too. Because if and when sites voluntarily start declaring the full cost of tickets upfront, they lose competitive advantage. If it's not universal, people shopping around online will assume (incorrectly, of course) that sites hiding the fees are better value.
StubHub's rep at the session, John Lawrence, said that his company's experiment with declaring the full cost upfront on its US site confused customers and lost his company business. "This is a textbook place where a regulator could make a big difference", the academic on the panel, MIT's Sara Fisher Ellison added, because a new rule on declaring all fees upfront would force everyone to shift over to that system at the same time.
Vox's reporter adds "essentially every person on the panel agreed, appearing to politely beg the FTC to regulate them so that people would like them again".
So there did seem to be some appetite, even among the touting lobby, for further regulation on bots and transparency. Although there remains much resistance, in some quarters at least, to restricting the resale of tickets in the US - either with outright bans or a restriction on mark-ups, like those proposed or passed in Ireland and Australia.
After the session, the boss of the National Association Of Ticket Brokers, Gary Adler, said: "Hopefully the workshop is the catalyst for much-needed change in the ticketing system, as there is existing authority at the FTC as it relates to deceptive advertising and marketing practices which means the Commission can act now, and where new authority is needed, there were renewed calls at the workshop for federal legislation to provide that authority or to create new rules for the ticketing market".
Ticket resale remains big business in the US of course - hence Live Nation's decision to shut down its resale sites not applying to America. But there could as yet be more efforts to bash the bots, and introduce a little more transparency to help consumers understand quite how much buying a ticket to an in-demand show will actually cost.
Distrokid allies with Audible Magic to tackle unofficial uploads
Both Spotify and Apple now publish lists of preferred music distributors, of course, and one of the key requirements for distribution firms that want preferred status is having sufficient systems in place to stop people from uploading other people's music. Maybe Ariana Grande's music. Or Beyonce's music. Or SZA's music. Or Rihanna's music. Or Playboi Carti's music. Or any recordings of songs written by Harold Arlen.
Distrokid, more than most DIY distributors, needs to take these requirements seriously, what with Spotify being a business partner and a shareholder. It would be a bit embarrassing if Spotify had to take preferred status away from the distribution firm it is actively working with and owns a slice of.
Under the new partnership, all uploads to Distrokid will be compared to Audible Magic's database of 20 million media assets, to check that they are not straight copies of someone else's release. Such checking is becoming ever more common across the industry, which in the main is a good idea, except where legit remixes, super-similar covers and karaoke tracks also get blocked. But hey, fuck the remixers, super-similar cover makers and karaoke firms. And I'm sure Audible Magic's system and Distrokid's use of it has all that covered.
Confirming the new alliance, Audible Magic boss Vance Ikezoye says: "Distrokid has a positive reputation amongst artists for making distribution fast, reliable and easy. This partnership signals our joint commitment to an industry working towards clean data, proper rights management and improved artist attribution".
Distrokid is also seeking to make it easier for artists and labels to get their music into Audible Magic's database, to reduce the chances of future unofficial uploads of their work. That particular service is called DistroLock and the company says it will also make an API available so that "other distributors and streaming services [can] easily validate the authenticity of music uploaded to their respective platforms".
"Until now, there hasn't been a definitive way for artists to say, 'this is my audio, don't let anyone else release it'", Distrokid CEO Philip Kaplan declares. "With the launch of DistroLock, any musician can pre-emptively register their audio to help ensure that unauthorised releases don't see the light of day. This partnership with Audible Magic and the creation of DistroLock will help artists by ensuring that their original content is uploaded and distributed fairly, with accuracy and speed".
New cultural hub proposed for centre of Manchester
Live music companies Broadwick Live, Vibration Group and Ground Control are all involved in the project that would take over the site of the old Mayfield railway station and Royal Mail depot, which has been disused for more than three decades.
The site has already been used for very occasional cultural and clubbing events in recent years, and more are planning for later this year, including shows as part of the Manchester Pride Live festival on 24-25 Aug.
Under the big new plan, new spaces for clubs, gigs, film screenings, exhibitions and theatrical performances would be set up, alongside a plethora of the obligatory street food vendors. They would all, in essence, be 'pop-up' spaces, as plans for more a permanent redevelopment of the site go through the motions.
"The new performance spaces as part of the Mayfield regeneration are a huge opportunity to welcome the city of Manchester to see [the site]", says Broadwick's Venues Director Bradley Thomson. "Using arts programming and cultural happenings we plan to create some amazing experiences in this new space".
Meanwhile Vibration Group's Creative Director Simeon Aldred adds: "Our team are famous for our work in cultural regeneration, but in a city as rich as Manchester culturally, we have an exciting opportunity to push the boundaries to the next level in terms of performance".
Confirming that the planned spaces would host an eclectic mix of events, he goes on: "We are also super excited to programme a broad spectrum of arts in the venue from newly commissioned ballet through to orchestral residencies and free events for the people of Manchester".
Beyond the upcoming events planned on the site, the bigger project still requires planning permission. If that permission is granted, the cultural complex is expected to be in operation for about five years while further redevelopment of the Mayfield site continues.
Spotify launches personalised playlist for US drivers
Back at that big Apple-spoiler press event in 2015, big boss Daniel Ek announced the Spotify Now playlist. The idea being that you'd hit play on it in the morning and it would adapt to your needs throughout the day. Maybe it would play some quiet music first thing, something a bit louder for your commute, drop in a news update at some point, and maybe even a podcast or two. After pressing play once, you'd never need to touch it again. It would handle it all, guessing what you wanted next before you knew yourself.
Well now - again, FOUR YEARS LATER - you can sort of almost have something a bit like that, kind of. Yesterday, for US users only, Spotify launched Your Daily Drive, a personalised playlist that updates daily, playing you music and dropping in the odd news update. It's a bit like radio, except, well I suppose there's no presenter and the music will be tailored to your tastes.
News will be provided by the Wall Street Journal, NPR and PRI, and the music played will be a mix of songs Spotify knows you like, with a smattering of new stuff that it thinks you'll like because it sounds exactly like the stuff it knows you like.
"If it feels like you're always in the car, you're not alone", says Spotify in a statement. "Americans log 70 billion hours behind the wheel each year, with a big chunk of that time spent commuting to and from work or school. To help make that time fly by, stay up to date on the world around you, and maybe even rock out to a few timeless classics, we are excited to introduce Your Daily Drive".
Hopefully most of the news updates streamed to all those car-obsessed public-transport-phobic Americans will be about climate change.
Anyway, news of this new playlist has had a mixed response. Some are arguing that it proves, once and for all, that Spotify is no longer a music company. Although, while Spotify does now like to talk about 'audio' rather than 'music', saying that dropping some news into the mix stops Spotify being a music service is basically the same as saying that Newsbeat means Radio 1 isn't a music radio station.
What this new playlist does show, however, is Spotify's commitment to trying to tear people away from traditional radio, simply by offering a more radio-like service. The key place to do that is in the car. And, of course, the company recently launched a piece of in-car streaming hardware to better understand how people listen when they're driving.
Whether the Your Daily Drive playlist will work for people in the same way that radio does remains to be seen. The long delay in making good on that 2015 promise suggests developing an automated radio-style programming system was a lot more difficult to implement than hoped. Plus, of course, while for some music fans radio-style DJ chatter is a turn-off, for many it's a key part of the radio experience. And that's harder to automate in a satisfactory way - especially when so much radio presenting relies on live interaction with listeners.
Michael Weissman promoted to president at SoundCloud
"Mike is a proven leader whose strong business acumen and passion for the SoundCloud mission have been critical to helping us grow the world's largest two-sided ecosystem of audio creators and passionate fans driving what's next in music and audio", says Kerry Trainor, CEO of both sides of that two-sided ecosystem we all know and love.
She goes on: "Mike's leadership will be invaluable as we accelerate into our next phase of growth, and continue to provide the most comprehensive tools for creators to build their careers first on SoundCloud". And maybe even search for a third side of the ecosystem?
Weissman himself adds: "I'm incredibly excited for what's in front of us at SoundCloud. Since joining SoundCloud nearly two years ago, we've grown the business across all key metrics, established several key partnerships and expanded globally. I look forward to continuing to drive the business and furthering our commitment to help creators and fans connect. Thank you to Kerry and the SoundCloud board for this great opportunity".
Bob Harris announces break from Radio 2 due to illness
"I am sorry to say that I will be unable to broadcast on the 'Radio 2 Country Show' for the next few weeks", he says in a statement. "Ten days ago, while out walking, I suffered a tear to my aorta known as an aortic dissection. The aorta is basically the M1 of the body and any damage is regarded as extremely serious".
"For the past few years I have been walking an average of five miles a day and I am convinced that the level of fitness I have achieved during that time helped save my life", he continues. "I am not exactly sure when I will be on air again but I am on the road to recovery now and will be back playing music for you on Radio 2 as soon as possible".
Head Of Radio 2 Lewis Carnie adds: "On behalf of everyone at Radio 2 and our millions of listeners, we wish Bob a very speedy recovery and look forward to welcoming him back to Wogan House when he's ready".
For the next two editions of 'The Country Show' - this evening and next Thursday - Paul Sexton will sit in, after which other guest presenters will be picked to fill in until Harris's return.
Music publisher CTM has announced that it is opening a Latin office in partnership with production duo Play-N-Skillz. "I am convinced that Play-N-Skillz are the right partners [with which] to create a successful music publishing powerhouse with Latin writers on a global scale", says CTM CEO André de Raaff. So that's lucky.
Digital distributor Fuga has signed Italian record label Planet Records to a global digital services deal. The deal covers the label's own roster, plus artists using its Planet Distribution service. "Fuga's technology allows us to maintain total control of product, directly from the recording studio to the final listener", reckons Planet founder Roberto Ferrante.
Former EMI HR exec Clare Cowland has joined Sony/ATV as VP Human Resources, UK & International. "I'm excited to welcome Clare", says SVP Global Human Resources Elicia Felix-Hughey. "We welcome Clare", says International President Guy Henderson. "I am lucky to welcome her", says UK President David Ventura. Too late Dave, we've already done that.
Anna Of The North has released new single 'Thank Me Later'. She's also announced that she will play a show at Heaven in London on 6 Nov.
The LaFontaines have released new single 'Body'. Their new album, 'Junior', is out tomorrow and their UK tour starts tonight in Glasgow.
Bea1991 has announced that she will release her long-awaited debut album, 'Brand New Adult', next month. It has quite the artwork. She's also released new single 'Did You Feel Me Slip Away?', featuring Dev Hynes.
Africa Express have released new track 'City In Lights' featuring Georgia, The Mahotella Queens, Otim Alpha and Nick Zinner.
Shura has announced that she will release her second album, 'Forevher', on 16 Aug. Here's new single, 'Religion (U Can Lay Your Hands On Me)'.
Snow Ghosts have released the video for 'Heavy Heart', taken from their latest album, 'A Quiet Ritual'.
Maria Usbeck has announced that she will release new album 'Envejeciendo' on 16 Aug. From it, this is first single 'Amor Anciano'.
GIGS & TOURS
Deerhunter have announced UK and Ireland tour dates in November. Kicking off at Whelans in Dublin on 2 Nov, they will also play London's Roundhouse.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Justin Bieber fears Tom Cruise's "dad strength"
Of course, the hypothetical situation where I jokingly tweeted something like that would never happen. I don't joke about how much I want to fight Tom Cruise and what a wimp he is for not accepting the challenge. But Justin Bieber is just a guy who messes around on the internet and sometimes says things he doesn't mean.
Here's a specific example of Bieber just japing it up online. Earlier this week, he tweeted: "I wanna challenge Tom Cruise to fight in the [UFC] Octagon. Tom if you don't take this fight you're scared and you will never live it down. Who is willing to put on the fight? @danawhite?"
See, he didn't directly tag Tom Cruise into his message there. However, he did make sure it was seen by Dana White, President of mixed martial arts league the Ultimate Fighting Championship. White did not respond, but UFC fighter Conor McGregor did offer to host the fight himself, demanding that the world should know if Cruise has "the sprouts to fight, like he does in the movies".
So that was that. Bieber was ready, they had a host, all that was needed was the nod from Cruise. But it never came. And then, before it even could, Bieber said he was just joking anyway.
Asked by TMZ about the challenge, Bieber said: "I was just playing ... It was just a random tweet, I do that stuff sometimes. I'm pretty sure Tom would whoop my ass in a fight. I'd have to get in shape, I'm really skinny at the moment. I think he'd probably be out of my weight class, cos he's big, you know, he's got that dad strength. He's a dad, right?"
I've never heard of "dad strength" before, but I guess it must be a thing, and a valid reason to back out of a fight. Whatever, he was just joking anyway. Sometimes he just tweets silly stuff for fun, like people used to do on Twitter before it all became awful. Here's hoping that his collaboration with Ed Sheeran was another joke and I just imagined their song together.