|MONDAY 9 MARCH 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The music industry spent the weekend weighing up the implications of this year's South By Southwest becoming the latest major music event to cancel over concerns regarding the coronavirus COVID-19. Meanwhile, organisers of the mega showcase festival and music convention confirmed that they were not insured for this kind of cancellation... [READ MORE]|
Music industry reacts to cancellation of South By Southwest
Austin, Texas-based SXSW had initially resisted calls that it should cancel its 2020 edition as part of efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus. It insisted that the event would go ahead even as key partners and speakers - especially on the tech side - started to pull out, and as an online petition calling for cancellation gained momentum.
But on Friday organisers confirmed that city officials in Austin had ordered that this year's edition not go ahead. In a statement, SXSW said: "The city of Austin has cancelled the March dates for SXSW. [We] will faithfully follow the city's directions".
It went on: "We are devastated to share this news with you. 'The show must go on' is in our DNA, and this is the first time in 34 years that the March event will not take place. We are now working through the ramifications of this unprecedented situation".
The organisers noted that Austin's public health department had said as recently as last Wednesday that there was no evidence cancelling SXSW would make the local community any safer as COVID-19 starts to spread across the US. However, after the local authority had a change of heart, they added "we honour and respect the city of Austin's decision".
The statement also said that organisers are exploring options to reschedule the 2020 edition of its annual event and/or to provide an online version of some or all of its conference programme. More details about all that will follow in due course.
In the short term, a lot of artists and music companies will be cancelling travel plans and wondering whether any of the money already spent on their SXSW activities is refundable. The majority of the artists who play the festival, of course, are relatively early in their careers, investing in a SXSW performance as part of a bid to build industry momentum. Which means they are at the stage where being out of pocket a few grand is a big deal.
Some of those bands will have received funding from government, charitable or industry organisations, which will also have to review the impact of the cancellation. With no SXSW for artists to attend, the grants they dished out will provide no return on investment.
The city of Austin will be majorly hit too, many businesses there relying on the annual boost delivered by the 400,000+ people who attend the various strands of SXSW, and the spin-off and side-show events that happen over ten days each March.
As for SXSW itself, the big question was whether organisers were insured for this kind of cancellation. According to the Austin Chronicle, a local newspaper published by one of the festival's co-founders, Nick Barbaro, the answer to that question is "no".
Another co-founder and the event's MD, Roland Swenson, told the paper that his company had "a lot of insurance" covering the possible negative consequences of terrorism, injury, property destruction and severe weather, but "bacterial infections, communicable diseases, viruses and pandemics are not covered".
From a music industry perspective, insurance is a big part of the COVID-19 story as more shows and festivals are cancelled or postponed. It's generally thought that a promoter is probably in a better position insurance-wise if forced to cancel by government, rather than voluntarily choosing to shut down a show over coronavirus concerns.
However, for each event it will depend on the specific wording of their individual insurance policies. Other events may find that "communicable diseases" are likewise excluded, except where an artist has to cancel as a result of contracting such a disease.
Elsewhere in the US, organisers of the main Miami edition of the Ultra Music Festival have officially confirmed their event is also cancelled because of COVID-19 concerns. Local government officials had already informally confirmed the cancellation, but now the dance music event's website has made an official announcement. Technically it's a postponement - but by a full year - meaning the 2020 edition is cancelled.
The official statement reads: "It is with a heavy heart that we inform you that the city of Miami has issued an official directive requiring that the 22nd edition of Ultra Music Festival, originally scheduled for 20, 21 and 22 Mar 2020 will be postponed to 26, 27 and 28 Mar 2021. Due to the Florida Governor's declaration of a public health emergency and Centers Of Disease Control And Prevention's interim guidance for COVID-19, it is impossible for the city to provide access to Bayfront Park at this time".
Labels v Grande court battle postponed
The major labels sued a number of American ISPs after BMG was successful in its lawsuit against Cox Communications. In that legal battle, BMG successfully argued that Cox had a deliberately shoddy system for dealing with infringement and infringers on its networks and, therefore, should not enjoy protection via the copyright safe harbour. That meant that it could be held liable for its users' copyright infringement.
Cox was among the ISPs the majors then sued, that case resulting in the headline-grabbing billion dollar ruling in the record industry's favour last year. The labels are hoping for similar success against other net firms like Grande, Charter and RCN. Given the scale of the damages in the Cox case, the other ISPs are desperately hoping that they can distinguish their arguably lacklustre anti-infringement policies from those of their competitor.
Grande was due to be the first test as to whether the precedent seemingly set in the Cox cases could be applied to the other ISPs, and - if so - whether similarly large damages would be won by the labels. The case was set to kick off at the Austin courthouse last week, but it has now been pushed back to September. Both sides reckoned that the six days set aside for their case this month was insufficient, having previously asked for ten days.
According to Torrentfreak, legal reps for both the labels and Grande told the court: "The parties do not believe that six days is an adequate amount of time to try this case. Accordingly, the parties request that the court continue the trial setting and reset it at a time that allows for ten trial days".
Judge David Ezra formally agreed to the postponement last week, meaning the labels v Grande will now come to court on Wednesday 9 Sep.
Mix licensing platform Dubset bought by rights management firm Pex
A key focus of the Dubset business was using audio-ID technology to identify tracks that have been used in unofficial mixes and remixes and then ensuring that they are all properly cleared and any royalties due are collected. The company secured deals with various music companies by offering rightsholders the tools to control and monetise the use of their music in often popular but traditionally unlicensed mixtapes and DJ mixes.
As for Pex, it states that it "delivers independent video and music analytics and rights management services to enable creators, rightsholders and marketers to find, measure and leverage the value of content across the web". By acquiring Dubset, Pex gets access to that company's music industry client base and partners, who in turn will be able to monitor and manage the use of their recordings on a wider range of social and user-upload platforms.
Says Pex boss Rasty Turek: "Dubset is a company we've been interested in for some time. There are very few companies in the music business that have successfully licensed as much catalogue as Dubset, and the music rights database they've built is massive and rare. Our technology's scale and speed enables broad market access by all rightsholders to our rights management and analytics services, built on top of the 20 billion video and audio files in our indexed database. We feel this will prove to be a game-changing combination".
Dubset's former SVP Global Licensing Bob Barbiere, who is now SVP Digital Rights at Pex, adds: "The distribution of digital media via social media has outpaced rightsholders' abilities to track, license, and manage their audio and video assets. Dubset was timely and successful in filling an industry need around identification and licensing of music in mixes and remixes. This acquisition will immediately expand rightsholders' abilities to locate, protect, and monetise use of their catalogue within any form of music or video currently being shared on any of the world's largest UGC and social media sites".
Universal Music provides update on losses from 2008 warehouse fire
That fire has become newsworthy again in the last year, of course, because of articles published by the New York Times that claimed many more master recordings were lost in the blaze than previously admitted by the major record company. Those allegations then resulted in legal action by some of the artists that the newspaper alleged had lost recordings in the fire, but had never been told about the damage.
Universal insists that the impact of the fire was nowhere near as big as the New York Times has claimed, mainly because many of the "assets" lost were not, in fact, master tapes. And even where master tapes were destroyed, in most cases the major had back-up copies in other locations. Some of Kraus's memo from last week was spent repeating those claims.
Nevertheless, Universal has been seeking to reassure artists who may have lost some assets - including possible masters - in the fire. And Kraus's team have been leading on those efforts. He writes: "Through the exhaustive work by our team of more than 70 specialists, we are able to provide more accurate information to artists for whom our analysis has been completed".
He goes on: "We prioritise our work based on requests from artists and their representatives, given that it can take as long as several weeks to analyse potentially thousands of assets for a given artist".
"The Times published a list of 830 artist names and stated or implied that those artists lost original recordings in the fire", he continues. "Of the 392 inquiries that we've received so far, my team and I have reviewed more than 150,000 assets and responded to 209 of those artists".
"So far", he says, "less than 0.1% of those assets might have been original recordings affected by the fire. [And] for the very few original recordings we believe were impacted, almost all had previously been commercially released and we have located safeties, copies or digital alternatives for every single album".
He later adds: "Our work is not yet done. We continue to meticulously review assets in our facilities around the world and will live up to our commitment to be transparent and respond to every artist or artist's representative's inquiry".
Perhaps unsurprisingly, last week's memo hasn't satisfied the lawyers leading on the lawsuit in relation to the 2008 fire. They continue to stress that Universal's statements now differ to what was said when the major itself was seeking damages and an insurance pay out in the wake of the blaze at the Hollywood base of its former sister company Universal Studios.
Responding to last week's memo, attorney Ed McPherson told Variety: "UMG now claims to 'have located safeties, copies or digital alternatives', whatever those are. They may even have found some 8-tracks. But none of those recordings is of the same quality or generation as the original multi-track masters, which is exactly what UMG and its experts testified to when UMG was the plaintiff, claiming that the lost masters were irreplaceable and worth tens of millions of dollars".
Several Justin Bieber shows in the US downgraded from stadium to arena
Given that the impact of the coronavirus COVID-19 on the live sector - especially in the US - became big news last week, you could possibly blame the slower ticket sales on concerns over the spread of the virus Stateside. Which is to say, people are putting off buying tickets for the May shows because of concerns about contracting the virus, or that the concerts may be called off if measures to contain the virus run for months rather than weeks.
That said, ticket sales on other pop tours in the US don't seem to have been affected too much by coronavirus concerns. Suggesting, instead, that while Bieber is still a major act, he is not quite as big a draw as he was in all American markets. Though stadium dates are still planned in some cities.
Mike Walsh joins Bluedot promoter From The Fields
Walsh will help the company develop its existing portfolio of festivals and events, which include Kendall Calling, Bluedot and Off The Record, as well as pursuing some new projects.
Confirming the hire, From The Fields Director Ben Robinson says: "Mike joins us at a very exciting time for the development of From The Fields. His commitment to the music scene is second to none and his incredible aptitude for discovering new music and developing brands will be well served in his new role".
Walsh himself adds that he is "delighted" to be taking on the new position at a company he has admired since its creation fifteen years ago.
He says: "We will be reimagining the Off The Record new music conference, working on the further development of the already hugely successful Kendal Calling and Bluedot festivals, as well as progressing some exciting new ideas".
The Roots' Black Thought to write music for and act in new Black No More musical
Theatre production company New Group says of the musical adaptation: "It's June 1928 in New York City, and Howard University graduate Dr Junius Crookman promotes a mysterious machine that promises to remove the burden of race from any person of colour by turning them white - Crookman's plan to 'solve the American race problem'. 'Black No More' is an examination of race, identity and the very nature of love".
Trotter will also act in the show, alongside Jennifer Damiano, Brandon Victor Dixon, Tamika Lawrence and Theo Stockman. Daryl Walters will work on music supervision and arrangements, Bill T Jones will choreograph and it will be directed by Scott Elliott.
Initial performances are currently set to take place in New York in October.
Lewis Capaldi's former etiquette advisor says it's a shame he swears so much
Over three hours at Brewer's home, she tells the Daily Record, Capaldi was apparently taught how to introduce himself to people, make small talk, walk elegantly and get out of a car correctly, among other things.
Although she did not disclose her fee, Brewer says that she was paid "well over four figures", adding: "He wasn't a big star then and didn't have the reputation he has now. But they must have thought he had potential to spend that money".
As for how he faired in her class, she says that "he was a good pupil and listened carefully", although she expressed dismay at his tendency to swear - particularly during his acceptance speech for the Best New Artist award at last month's BRITs.
"None of the classes included any swearing and he never swore when he was with me", she says. "It's a great shame he feels he has to swear now as he's a nice guy with huge talent. I think it's an age thing and I'm sure he will grow out of it".
A spokesperson for Capaldi insists that this was not a serious attempt to improve the musician's manners, saying: "This was part of a jokey video series filmed around the release of Lewis's single 'Grace' but never released. Lewis's team loves him exactly how he is".
Meanwhile, Capaldi has just announced an expansion of his existing mental health support initiative. First announced last year, he has now revealed more details about the scheme - called Liveline - which will offer support services for people attending his upcoming arena shows to manage anxiety and panic attacks.
The service will offer quiet spaces and access to trained mental health professionals at the shows, as well as the opportunity to find 'gig buddies' before the event too.