|TUESDAY 26 NOVEMBER 2019||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: And then there was one. eBay yesterday announced that it was selling its secondary ticketing platform StubHub to big bad Viagogo, meaning that a UK ticketing market that used to have four big for-profit resale platforms now has just one. Viagogo will hand over $4.05 billion in cash to acquire its rival in a deal which Eric Baker, the man who founded both touting companies, insists is a "win-win" for fans... [READ MORE]|
Viagogo buys StubHub for $4 billion
eBay has been pondering a sale of StubHub for much of the year after a number of its investors suggested such a sale as one of the ways the company could improve its "floundering" share price. In March the firm announced a strategic review of its current assets and by July it was reported that a number of potential buyers for StubHub had come forward. Then, last month, eBay's interim CEO Scott Schenkel told investors that an announcement on the future of its tickets website was imminent.
eBay's review of its ownership of StubHub followed several years of increased scrutiny of the secondary ticketing market. Although there had been critics of online touting from the very early days - even before the rise of companies like StubHub and Viagogo when a lot of the touting happened on the main eBay website - in more recent years those critics have become more organised and more vocal. As that criticism grew, politicians and regulators that seemed unwilling to crack down a decade ago started to talk about tighter regulation.
When the British music community launched its FanFair campaign and the country's Competition & Markets Authority announced it was investigating the ticket resale sector, there were four big secondary ticketing platforms operating in the UK. Alongside Viagogo and StubHub were the Live Nation-owned Seatwave and Get Me In!
Greater scrutiny of some of the more dodgy practices in the wider ticket resale business led to StubHub and Live Nation beginning to employ an "at least we're not as bad as Viagogo" defence. Though so bad a rep had Viagogo got by this point, that even that line became untenable for Live Nation, which subsequently shut down its resale sites in Europe.
However, as Viagogo went to war with the CMA - initially saying nothing and then spouting all kinds of nonsense - StubHub, which more or less complied with the UK regulator's demands, did still get to enjoy the accolade of being the lesser of two evils.
It wasn't just in the UK that lawmakers and regulators were starting to ramp up the rhetoric against online touting, with new rules being introduced or existing rules better enforced in multiple European countries as well as Australia and New Zealand.
While Viagogo has done its best to ignore and circumvent those rules, all that increased regulation made the US market - where online touting is still generally more readily excepted as the norm - all the more attractive. And the US is a market where StubHub, not Viagogo, is a key player. Which could be one big reason why the latter would want to pull four billion out of its back pocket to buy up the former.
Confirming the deal yesterday, Viagogo boss Baker - who co-founded StubHub in the US in 2000 before leaving to launch Viagogo in Europe six years later - said: "Buyers will have a wider choice of tickets, and sellers will have a wider network of buyers. Bringing these two companies together creates a win-win for fans - more choice and better pricing. It has long been my wish to unite the two companies. I am so proud of how StubHub has grown over the years and excited about the possibilities for our shared future".
Critics of secondary ticketing in the UK yesterday expressed concern that the resale platform that has generally - if reluctantly - fallen in line with consumer rights rules was now set to be owned by a company that has done everything it can to circumvent the law so to continue to confuse consumers into buying risky tickets at marked up prices.
Adam Webb of the aforementioned FanFair campaign said: "This feels like a desperate move from both parties. However, news of this acquisition should be a major concern for both audiences and music businesses - especially if Viagogo, a company that recently had a court order hanging over its head and is still the subject of a CMA investigation, use this process as an attempt to detoxify its brand. FanFair will be writing to UK regulators and politicians today, and we reiterate our advice to music fans to avoid these sites".
Meanwhile Annabella Coldrick at the Music Managers Forum, a key player in instigating the FanFair campaign, added: "On the back of the FanFair Alliance campaign, we've seen huge steps to reform the UK's secondary ticketing market and put a stop to the rip off anti-fan practices of sites like Viagogo. For that reason, today's announcement is a huge concern. The consolidation of the biggest remaining platforms for ticket touts could put a brake on progress and cause untold harm for audiences and artists alike".
Concerns go beyond the UK, of course. Katie O'Leary of the pan-European anti-touting campaign FEAT told reporters: "It's alarming to think of Viagogo potentially gaining an even greater stronghold in the secondary ticketing market given it's been the subject of various legal actions across Europe and banned from advertising on Google globally".
"Viagogo claim this will create a 'win-win for fans'", she went on, "but further consolidation in the secondary ticketing market would most likely restrict competition, and further negatively impact fans. We hope that regulators will have consumers' best interests at heart when considering this deal, and consider not only the question of Viagogo's increased dominance but also whether they can be considered a fit and proper owner".
Viagogo and eBay say that they expect their deal to close by the end of the first quarter of 2020, subject to regulatory approval and customary closing conditions.
Photographer sues Prince estate for copyright infringement
The lawsuit states that Dube "is a gifted photographer and artist whose work, in 2013, caught the attention of one of the most talented musicians and entertainers of our time, Prince Rogers Nelson, more commonly referred to as Prince".
Between 2013 and his death in 2016, Prince "became a mentor and friend to Ms Dube. He also hired her on many occasions during that time to provide freelance work, including photography, graphic design, film/videography, voice and other creative".
None of those projects involved Dube assigning any of the rights in her photography or designs to the musician, the lawsuit adds, because "throughout his life, Prince maintained a strong edict that an artist should retain control over his or her artistry".
However, the photographer claims, since Prince's death his estate has used her images on advertising, merchandise, record releases and other promotional material, all without her permission. And, she adds, they knew they were using her work, because in some cases she has been credited as the photographer, and in others a rep for the estate reached out to try to negotiate a licence.
"Ms Dube now brings this action to assert her rights guaranteed under the Copyright Act", the lawsuit goes on, "and to preserve the integrity of her work, currently being commercialised by defendants and used for mass-marketing, mass-produced sales and advertising, without her consent and contrary to the intent behind the creation of those works".
The photographer wants an injunction banning future use of her images by the estate and damages for all past uses.
The other Shake It Off lyric-theft case returns to court
In 2015 a musician called Jesse Graham sued Taylor Swift accusing her of ripping off his 2013 song 'Haters Gonna Hate' on her 2014 hit. His song, see, contained the lyric "Haters gone hate, Haters gon hate, Playas gon play, Playas gon play". And then Swifty, on her song, sang "Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play, And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate". A blatant rip off, reckons Graham.
However, the judge who ended up dealing with the case was far from convinced, speedly tossing the lawsuit while issuing a comedy judgement that quoted Taylor Swift song titles and lyrics. Just in case anyone thought Graham's legal claims weren't entertaining enough already.
Then in 2017 songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler went legal insisting that 'Shake It Off' was not, in fact, a rip off of Graham's 'Haters Gonna Hate', but of a song they wrote all the way back in 2001 called 'Playas Gon Play'. It contained the line "The playas gon play/Them haters gonna hate".
The judge who threw that case out of his courtroom employed snark rather than sneaky Taylor Swift references. Singing about players playing and haters hating was far too "banal", he ruled, for such lines to enjoy any kind of copyright protection.
Then last month the whole matter was back in the news when America's Ninth Circuit appeals court decided that the banality, or not, of pop song lyrics, and the impact that banality, or not, has on the copyrightability of those lyrics is something for a jury to decide. Not a judge. And so the Hall/Butler case is heading back to a lower court for another go.
Which is possibly why Graham has suddenly popped up again with a rework of his legal claim against Swift. 'Shake It Off', he would like the court to remember, "extensively copies" his song, which the pop star and her songwriting pals "undoubtedly had access" to "given the broad dissemination of 'Haters Gone Hate'".
It's actually Graham's fourth go at suing Swift, so it will be interesting to see how quickly the judge will toss this one. I mean, whether the judge responds more positively this time. He's seeking damages of at least $42 million. And why not, say I!
Labels want court in Charter copyright case to ignore the professors
Charter is one of the ISPs that the record industry is trying to hold liable for its customers copyright infringement. The Recording Industry Association Of America is leading on three lawsuits of this kind in the wake of BMG's successful legal battle with Cox Communications.
In that case it was decided that Cox should not enjoy safe harbour protection from liability for its customer's actions because of its deliberately shoddy policy for dealing with repeat infringers among its user base. The RIAA is now suing Cox, Charter and Grande.
One of the key elements of these three cases is whether the ISPs should be held liable for vicarious as well as contributory infringement. If so, the potential damages the record labels could receive if they win in court would be higher.
To prove vicarious infringement the labels need to show that an ISP directly financially benefited from its customer's infringing activity. In the RIAA's case against Grande Communications the vicarious infringement claim was dismissed.
But when a magistrate judge recently reviewed the Charter case he said he thought the vicarious infringement element should not be axed at this stage. This was partly based on Charter promoting its super-fast internet speeds, something that - the labels argue - would be particularly attractive to those accessing unlicensed content via file-sharing networks.
It was that viewpoint that the professors recently hit out at via an 'amicus brief' which they filed with the court. The magistrate judge's opinion on the case, they said, "misapplies the legal standard for the direct financial benefit prong of the vicarious liability test and improperly loosens the pleading standard in a way that would impose unprecedented risks of liability and make it nearly impossible for any ISP to win [early] dismissal of bare, conclusory, and speculative allegations".
However, in a new legal filing the labels argue that the court should reject the academical intervention. Partly because it just repeats Charter Communication's own legal arguments which the net firm is more than capable of making itself; partly because the professors are not as "disinterested" in the case as they claim; and partly because their argument actually centres on "federal pleading standards" rather than intellectual property matters, so the mainly IP focused academics are not experts on this aspect of the dispute.
On the second point - ie whether or not the academics signing the amicus brief have no personal interest in the case - the RIAA notes that one of the signatories chairs the campaigning group the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
"One of the proposed amici is the chairperson of the board of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit digital rights group that often advocates against the interests of copyright owners", the labels say. "At a minimum, the proposed amici should be required to disclose any employment, consultancy, or other relationships with defendants and other parties (including, eg, other ISPs and similar technology companies, industry organisations, trade associations) that may have interests in the outcome of this action".
Much of the RIAA's new submission deals with various precedents regarding the acceptance or rejection of amicus briefs by the American courts. It then concludes: "For the foregoing reasons, the court should deny the proposed amici's motion for leave to file an amicus brief". We now await to see if the judge concurs.
Big Deal and Mad Decent sign Dillon Francis to publishing deal
"Dillon has built a hugely loyal fanbase driven by his solo recordings, his incredible collaborations and his live shows and Mad Decent has been with him every step of the way", says Big Deal co-President Jamie Cerreta. "We are THRILLED to be able to play a role in Dillon's career moving forward. He's a one of a kind artist, fiercely independent and creative, all of which make him a perfect fit for us at Big Deal".
Mad Decent and Big Deal launched their publishing partnership in February this year, with the latter administering the former's song rights catalogue and the two companies jointly signing artists.
Musicians pledge support for Labour Party as the big vote approaches
Key to their hopes is an end to so called austerity, saying: "Ending austerity will, for the first time in many of our lifetimes, use the taxes we all already pay into to reinvest in the housing, youth clubs, community groups and cultural centres being destroyed by the current government".
They add that Labour isn't a perfect alternative to the Tories, stating that they "don't think the British establishment is fundamentally going to change". However, they go on: "We are sick of our taxes being spent on fighting more wars and building more jails".
As for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, they say that he "has been one of the few people who has fought against injustice all his political life, from apartheid South Africa to the bombing of Libya".
They then call on fans to exercise their right to vote, noting that the deadline to register - if you are not already - is midnight tonight.
It has also been announced that the #Grime4Corbyn campaign which emerged around the last General Election 20 minutes ago, or whenever that was, is to relaunch with a livestream this Friday at 7pm.
This all comes after Labour pledged a £1 billion arts fund if elected on 12 Dec.
LABELS & PUBLISHERS
UK record industry collecting society PPL has announced a partnership with Sound Credit, an app that allows music makers to provide better data about who has been involved in recording a track. Under the alliance, it will be easier for PPL members to use Sound Credit not only to log their involvement by name but also by their International Performer Number, the unique code used by the collective licensing system. "With an IPN identifier in Sound Credit, we can indelibly link a performer with a sound recording and its usage", says the firm's CEO Gebre Waddell.
Kobalt has promoted Jeannette Perez to the role of CEO. That's Chief Experience Officer, obviously. "She has always ensured that we deliver the highest quality creative services and opportunities to our partners and her dedication to our songwriters and artists perfectly aligns with the values of Kobalt", says actual CEO Willard Ahdritz. "I'm THRILLED to take on this new challenge", adds Perez. What an experience that was!
You can now share music and podcasts to your Snapchat Story directly from Deezer. Great news! "Thanks to our Snapchat integration, there's finally no need to swap between apps when you find something your friends really need to hear", says Stefan Tweraser, Deezer's Chief Product And Growth Officer. Finally!
Iggy Pop has released a video for 'Sonali' from his latest album 'Free'. The video is directed by Mac DeMarco.
Wombats guitarist Matthew Murphy has released a new single in his solo guise, Love Fame Tragedy, titled 'Body Parts'. "I had the idea of a song called 'Body Parts' a while back", he boasts.
Club 8 have released new single 'The Hospital'.
MJ Hibbett And The Validators have released new single 'You're A Tory Now'. Although rules around political broadcasting during a General Election campaign means that it's currently illegal for radio stations in the UK to play it. "'You're A Tory Now' is about the sudden shock of discovering that one of your friends has turned into a Tory", says Hibbett. "It's a call for understanding in a divided country, which manages to also gently suggest that being a Tory is not something that should be encouraged".
The Keep has released new single 'Cub', taken from his EP 'Primer', due out on 6 Dec through Houndstooth.
GIGS & TOURS
Film composer Hans Zimmer has announced new live shows for March 2021. That's getting on for a year and a half away, so don't say you weren't given ample notice. He'll play the O2 Arena in London on 5 Mar 2021 and Manchester Arena on 7 Mar 2021. Tickets go on sale on Friday.
Låpsley has announced that she will play Chats Palace in London on 30 Jan - her first UK live show in three years. Her new EP, 'These Elements', is out on 6 Dec. "I am so excited to perform in January and show you what I've been working on, to reconnect with fans and to get lost in the performance of this EP that means so much to me", she says.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Ayda Field calls Robbie Williams' plans to fight Liam Gallagher "embarrassing"
Williams' hopes of a boxing match with Gallagher date back to the 2000 BRIT Awards, where he laid down the challenge while picking up the prize for Best Video. The idea came up again last month in an interview with GQ, where Williams spoke about not being a man to let a grudge lie.
"I'd love it", he said. "But I'd want it to be a professional fight ... It's got to be fucking whistles and bells if it happens. Yeah, Liam and I would be a wonderful thing".
Since that interview he's spoken about it all several more times, including on ITV's 'Jonathan Ross Show', where he said that he'd gone so far as to approach boxing promoter Eddie Hearn about staging the fight (which, it's probably worth noting, Liam Gallagher has not agreed to or even commented on publicly).
But now it looks like the whole plan is off because Ayda Field thinks all this needless dick-swinging is "embarrassing". That, if nothing else, seems like the sort of bickering that is more in-keeping with Christmas.
However, rather than telling him that privately over their festive lunch next month, as tradition would dictate, she's used the first episode of the couple's new podcast, 'At Home With The Williamses', to give her other half a stern talking to. Five episodes of this podcast will arrive in the run up to Christmas, by the way.
"I think it is embarrassing", she says. "You are 45, man. You're going to go in a ring and smack each other? It's just lame".
Is that where she stops? No, she continues: "First of all, neither one of you are at your top, peak form. You are not in your 20s, I hate to break it to you. You are both peppered at this point. Your back's going to go out, your knees are going to buckle. I am going to have to bring you back from the dead after this. I don't understand it".
Sensing that her husband still isn't entirely won around by the argument, she adds that she will "knock the hate out" of Williams - metaphorically, I think, rather than suggesting she take Gallagher's place in the ring - "to the point where you might even send Liam Gallagher a Christmas card".
Well, that would be a nice turnaround. Although if Williams does send that card, it remains to be seen what he writes in it. Liam can put it next to the one from Noel's management team.