|THURSDAY 18 JULY 2019||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Google yesterday announced that it was suspending the advertising account of always controversial secondary ticketing website Viagogo. The decision means that the resale platform will no longer be able to buy its way to the top of Google's search result lists... [READ MORE]|
Google stops taking Viagogo's advertising pound
Search engine advertising has always been a key marketing tactic for the ticket resale websites. Critics of online touting argue that said sites are exploiting the fact that many consumers do not realise that companies can buy the top spot in a search result list.
This means many consumers will assume that when they search for tickets via the Google search engine, whichever link comes top must be the official ticket seller. When, in fact, if a Viagogo or StubHub has bought its way to the top of the list, that link will instead take consumers to all the unofficial sellers of tickets.
The resale sites, and especially Viagogo, have also long been accused of using deliberately misleading language - in both the text of their Google ads and on their own websites - to further confuse ticket buyers. So that they don't realise they are buying from a tout, probably at a hiked-up price, and that the ticket they are buying could be cancelled by the promoter, if the original ticket's terms and conditions allow such a thing.
Anti-touting campaigners have long argued that search engines should crack down on this practice. To that end, at the start of last year Google introduced new rules specifically for secondary ticketing platforms using its advertising services. Those rules aimed to force the resale sites to do more to ensure consumers realise they are buying touted tickets.
Most resale sites did introduce some new messaging in a bid to meet Google's demands. However, the critics have argued that some resale operations, and especially Viagogo, continue to do what they can to hide the identities of the sellers using their platform, and the fact that those sellers are touts, and the full costs of the tickets being touted.
To that end, said critics have regularly expressed disappointment in the past year that Google hasn't seemed keen to enforce its own policies and crack down on its consumer-confusing secondary ticketing advertisers.
In the UK, Viagogo - under pressure from the Competition & Markets Authority and the courts - has actually made additional changes to its website, making it easier for buyers to get more information about the ticket they are buying and its seller. Though, according to the CMA, the site is still not fully compliant with UK consumer rights law.
Which is why the regulator is now heading back to court to begin contempt proceedings, on the basis Viagogo has failed to comply with a court order it secured last year. As those contempt proceedings were confirmed earlier this month, cross-sector trade group UK Music again called on Google to stop taking Viagogo's advertising pound. Which means it was among a number of organisations welcoming yesterday's news.
Confirming it had now suspended Viagogo's ad account on a global basis with immediate effect, the web giant said: "When people use our platform for help in purchasing tickets, we want to make sure that they have an experience they can trust. This is why we have strict policies and take necessary action when we find an advertiser in breach".
UK Music boss Michael Dugher quickly responded by saying he was "delighted that Google is finally bowing to public pressure and taking action. Google is the first port of call when most music fans search for tickets and they have a responsibility to ensure its customers are not misled into paying over the odds for gigs and festivals".
The UK's FanFair Alliance has also long called on Google to act. It also published research on the role misleading advertising on search engines has had in driving consumers to secondary ticketing websites not out of choice but because of confusion.
The anti-touting campaign's Adam Webb said yesterday: "This is a landmark moment, and a major step forward to preventing exploitation of audiences in the secondary ticketing market. After publishing extensive research highlighting the impacts of Viagogo's misleading search advertising, FanFair Alliance has been in constructive conversations with Google for over two years in an attempt to address this issue".
Adding that he was also "delighted" that the web giant had finally acted and suspended Viagogo's advertising, Webb then acknowledged that resale sites have other online platforms at their disposal to reach and possibly confuse consumers. "We now hope other platforms, particularly Facebook, can follow Google's example", he said.
Also among those hailing Google's decision was Sharon Hodgson MP, a long time campaigner on ticket touting. "For years, I have heard from fans who were led to believe that Viagogo was a trusted and official resale website because it appeared at the top of a Google search", she said yesterday. "I'm pleased that this will no longer occur. A well respected brand such as Google should have done this a long time ago. But I am now pleased that this step has been taken, which will protect consumers and fans".
For its part, Viagogo issued only a short statement about Google's decision. Saying it was "extremely surprised" to learn about Google's concerns, it added that it was "confident that there has been no breach of Google's policies and [we] look forward to working with them to resolve this as quickly as possible".
The resale site had more to say this morning about its ongoing run-ins with the aforementioned CMA. While those contempt of court proceedings are ongoing, Viagogo has had one bit of success regarding how the court order the regulator secured last year should be interpreted.
The CMA confirmed earlier this month that, in addition to the contempt proceedings, it and Viagogo had been in court to get judicial clarification on some specific obligations listed in the injunction. That included whether the way the resale site is listing the face value of the tickets being resold complies with the legal obligation to provide said information. Viagogo said this morning that a judge had now ruled that it does.
Welcoming that decision, Viagogo's MD Cris Miller said: "We are delighted with the outcome of this hearing. We always strive for a close and effective relationship with market regulators, but this hearing further demonstrates that there are matters of interpretation of the order on which the CMA should not and cannot be relied upon to make the final determination".
Universal says that it is heartbroken about but not legally liable for that big 2008 warehouse fire
Although at the time the mega-major played down the extent of the damage caused by the 2008 fire at a warehouse it leased off the Universal film company, recent reporting by the New York Times has suggested thousands of master tapes were lost.
The NYT reports, and other subsequent chatter about the fire, has resulted in new litigation by artists whose masters are thought to have been damaged in the blaze. Artists involved in a $100 million class action filed last month include Soundgarden, Hole, Steve Earle, and the estates of Tom Petty and Tupac.
That lawsuit claims that the major was negligent in the way it stored the master tapes of its artists, especially as there had been an earlier fire at the Hollywood site. It also argues that artists affected by the fire should have shared in monies Universal Music received ten years ago via both an insurance claim and a settlement with Universal Studios.
But, responding to that lawsuit, Universal has argued that it has no contractual obligations to its artists regarding the storage of their masters, it being the owner of said tapes and the copyright in the recordings contained on them. Nor do any artist contracts obligate the label to share monies secured from insurance claims or legal settlements like those Universal pursued in the wake of the 2008 fire.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the label's lawyer Scott Edelman has written - in a motion requesting that the artists' lawsuit be dismissed - that the complaint "includes two breach of contract 'claims for relief' but conspicuously avoids reciting any language from the recording agreements that plaintiffs accuse UMG of breaching".
"Those agreements", he goes on, "grant UMG ownership of any master recordings and entitle the artists to royalties in specific enumerated circumstances, none of which has been or can be pleaded here. The complaint does not and cannot plead any facts plausibly showing that UMG breached any provision in any contract".
The legal filing comes as Universal's SVP Recording Studios & Archive Management, Pat Kraus, has sent a lengthy memo to staff with an update on the work his team has been doing to identify what tapes and recordings were actually lost in the blaze. Although the major is fighting the legal ramifications of the renewed interest in the 2008 fire, it has basically conceded that it did a shit job at communicating with affected artists a decade ago.
In the memo, Kraus says that his team has been liaising with 275 artists - or their representatives - about possibly lost masters. He writes: "To date we've reviewed 26,663 individual assets covering 30 artists. Of those assets, we believe we've identified 424 that could be missing or lost due to the fire, with audio assets accounting for 349 of them".
"Our data suggests", he adds, "that 22 of those could be 'original masters' which are associated with five artists. For each of those lost masters, we have located high-quality alternate sources in the form of safety copies or duplicate masters".
But, Kraus concedes, this work is just the start. "In the coming weeks and months we will continue to update our artists and internal teams with our progress". And while the major still maintains that the NYT articles have greatly exaggerated the extent of the losses caused by the 2008 fire, the archiving chief adds that "it's fair to assume that while some recordings will prove not to have been impacted, others naturally will".
This is "painful" and "heart-breaking" Kraus says. "But, this experience has inspired us to redouble our efforts: first, to find alternate copies and other solutions for any lost recordings and second, to safeguard our archives to ensure that the music in these recordings will live on forever and be enjoyed by fans at the highest fidelity possible".
And, one might hope, to ensure that the next time something happens that majorly impacts on the recordings or livelihoods of artists, Universal doesn't wait ten years to tell them.
Sony confirms labels and publishing will come together in one business unit
The move has long been expected. Sony has always been unusual, compared to the other major music rights companies, in having its two music divisions operate pretty autonomously from each other. That was in no small part because, for years, the songs business, Sony/ATV Music Publishing, had a different ownership structure, with Michael Jackson controlling 50% of the company's shares.
Then, even after Sony/ATV bought the Jackson estate out of the business in 2016, there remained complexities around the ownership of its EMI Music Publishing division, which Sony acquired as part of a consortium of investors in 2012. But last year Sony secured full ownership of all the EMI catalogues as well.
There was also the dilemma of who would be put in charge if Sony Music and Sony/ATV were brought together in one unit, with both the record company and the publishing firm being run by prominent and respected industry veterans, ie Rob Stringer and Marty Bandier respectively. The latter's decision to step down from Sony/ATV earlier this year provided the perfect opportunity to instigate the closer integration.
In a memo to staff yesterday, overall Sony Corp chief Kenichiro Yoshida confirmed that Stringer would head up the Sony Music Group while continuing to be CEO of Sony Music Entertainment. Bandier's replacement at Sony/ATV, Jon Platt, will now report into Stringer.
Yoshida said that the move "would further strengthen and solidify Sony's position as a leader in the music industry" and help "foster a higher level of collaboration between our recorded music and music publishing businesses, while respecting and maintaining the independence and unique culture of each organisation".
The shift does pose some interesting questions, especially in relation to criticisms made by songwriter groups when Sony took full control of the EMI publishing business last year.
With the shift to streaming, there has been much debate about how digital income should be shared between recording rights and publishing rights. Some argue that the original streaming business model provided too big a share of the money for the labels and artists, to the detriment of the publishers and songwriters.
Cynics point out that this suits the big music companies with interests in both recordings and songs, because industry conventions mean that labels get to keep the majority of the money they collect when recordings are exploited, whereas on the publishing side the majority of any income is paid over to the writer.
In the context of the EMI deal, some argued that by removing other investors from the EMI songs business, the bias of the Sony parent company towards recordings over songs could have more effect.
Though, actually, you could argue that the re-slicing of the digital pie that has actually occurred in the last decade - with publishers seeing their share of streaming income rise a few percent as labels take a similar cut - was in no small part achieved because of pressure from Sony/ATV and Bandier. But Sony/ATV was possibly able to be more proactive in this domain because it was more removed from the Sony labels business.
Sony, of course, would certainly deny that the corporate restructure will have any impact on Sony/ATV's mission to secure the best possible rates for its writers. And given the big battle in that domain at the moment is against the streaming services before the US Copyright Royalty Board, rather than against the labels, it's unlikely there'll be any noticeable shift in the short term. But it will be interesting to see how the joined-up Sony music company's position on things like the digital pie debate evolves in the years ahead.
Despite the unification of its global music companies, Sony's music operations in home country Japan will still remain separate. Though Yoshida did add that "I would like for the new Sony Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment Japan to continue and further strengthen their collaboration in the spirit of One Sony". Yeah, good luck with that.
Media mogul Haim Saban launches music company
Saban's entertainment industry career actually began in music and, once he moved into TV, he continued to compose theme tunes, especially for kids shows. The new Saban Music Group will seek to both sign new artists and buy-up existing music companies and catalogues, with the businessman pledging a neat $500 million to get the new venture off the ground.
The new music group will be led by Gustavo Lopez, who previously headed up the Latin music focused Talento Uno, which Saban acquired in May. Of the new venture, Lopez has said: "Saban Music Group is a Los Angeles-based record label with a worldwide view of the music industry, looking to capture the globalisation of music and work with artists who have an international appeal".
Saban himself adds: "Music has always been one of my life's greatest passions - shaping, influencing and motivating me on a daily basis. It is with great excitement that I re-enter the music business - not only as a businessman but as someone who is passionate about the art, dedicated to the development of worldwide artists and [who] wants to provide world-class entertainment".
Spotify launches Disney hub to mark 'The Lion King' release
That hub will include an assortment of playlists featuring music from Disney films, with names like Disney Hits, Disney Favourites, Disney Classics, Disney Sing-alongs, Disney Princess and, just for a little bit of variety, Marvel Music.
To mark this glorious occasion, Spotify has also published lists of the most streamed Disney songs on the streaming service and the Disney songs that have had the most repeat plays in the last month. And now, mainly because I failed to find a really good reason not to include them, here are those two lists for you to muse on.
Paul McCartney working on 'It's A Wonderful Life' musical
Says McCartney: "Like many of these things this all started with an email. Bill had asked if it was something I might be up for. Writing a musical is not something that had ever really appealed to me, but Bill and I met up with Lee Hall and had a chat and I found myself thinking this could be interesting and fun".
Kenwright adds: "Working with Paul on 'It's A Wonderful Life' is a dream realised. To be honest, I was hooked on first hearing him say 'one/two/three/four' on the demo of the opening number! But since then it's been an extraordinary journey - on every song I experience Paul's unique gift of melody and composition. It's musical theatre - but it's always McCartney".
As for the Frank Capra-directed movie they have chosen to musicalise, McCartney says: "'It's A Wonderful Life' is a universal story we can all relate to". Meanwhile Kenwright adds: "Paul, Lee, and I use the word 'cherish' when we refer to our source material and that's what we intend to do: cherish Frank Capra's creation".
Work is still ongoing on the new musical, with plans to premiere it on stage in late 2020.
Kobalt's AWAL has confirmed it will work with Iranian/Swedish singer songwriter Snoh Aalegra on the release of her new album 'Ugh, Those Feels Again'.
LABELS & PUBLISHERS
Warner Music has launched a new website for its classical labels Warner Classics and Erato. The major says the revamp acknowledges that even classical fans are now into that new fangled streaming nonsense. What a time to be alive!
HMV's new owner Doug Putman will keynote at the Annual General Meeting of the UK Entertainment Retailers Association on 18 Sep. Lesley Johnson from BBC Studios, Samantha Ebelthite from Electronic Arts and Annabella Coldrick from the Music Managers Forum will also speak.
Charli XCX has posted the video for her collaboration with Christine And The Queens. The track is 'Gone' and it will appear on the former's new album 'Charli' when it arrives in September.
Four Tet has put a new track online called 'Dreamer'.
Janet Jackson is reissuing five more of her old albums on vinyl. The reissue bonanza will cover: 'Control: The Remixes', 'Rhythm Nation 1814', 'Janet.', 'The Velvet Rope' and 'All For You'.
Parlophone is releasing 2001's 'The Best Of Morrissey' album on vinyl next month. Imagine working on that release. I trust the whole Parlophone marketing team has been provided with an A-Z of stock responses for each and every racist thing Moz might say during the promo cycle for this record.
GIGS & FESTIVALS
The Warehouse Project has confirmed full line-ups for most of the shows it is staging at the new Depot site in central Manchester between September and November this year. They include Apex Twin, Disclosure, Eats Everything, Diplo, Roisin Murphy, Chase & Status, Louie Vega, David Morales, Joy Orbison, Skrillex, Annie Mac and Skepta. Full details here.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Did Iowa social services chief lose his job for loving Tupac too much?
The Associated Press has obtained a stack of emails, sent by Iowa Department Of Human Services Director Jerry Foxhoven to his colleagues, which include accolades to the late hip hop star and his music. And last month, it seems, the director even sent one such email to all 4300 employees of the government agency. He lost his job the next day.
The AP says that Foxhaven told his former colleagues that he had been a huge fan of Shakur for years. And to further that fandom, he reportedly hosted weekly Tupac Fridays in his office, traded lyrics with other employees, and marked his own 65th birthday by sharing out Shakur-themed cookies.
A spokesperson for the state's governor, Kim Reynolds, has declined to confirm or deny whether Foxhaven sharing his Shakur love with all 4300 employees of the agency he ran contributed to the decision to pressure the director to resign. Though there were a number of factors behind that decision, said spokesperson added.
The AP reports that some colleagues liked Foxhoven's frequent Shakur referencing, although some weren't so keen on the constant Tupac chat. For his part, Foxhoven told the AP that he hadn't been given a reason as to why Reynolds wanted him to depart, but that he didn't think the Shakur love was a factor. Instead the governor just wanted to take the agency he ran in a different direction.