|TUESDAY 21 APRIL 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: A music fan in California has filed a class action lawsuit against Ticketmaster over allegations it changed its terms on refunds after the COVID-19 shutdown began. However, the Live Nation-owned ticketing company has already denied any major change to its terms of service, while Live Nation itself has issued guidance in recent days about how refunds will be issued for its own American shows that have been cancelled or postponed... [READ MORE]|
Ticketmaster sued over COVID-19 refunds policies
Of course, the entire live industry has been dealing with an unprecedented number of cancelled and postponed shows as governments across the world have introduced measures to restrict and delay the spread of COVID-19. How and when refunds are issued varies from country to country - and company to company - depending on what local consumer rights laws say, what each ticketing firm's own terms set out, and what approaches individual promoters and venues (and possibly their insurers) are taking.
In many cases a distinction is made between cancelled shows and postponed shows. With the former, cash refunds are usually issued automatically and pretty quickly.
However, given the wider negative impact of the COVID-19 shutdown, some promoters have been looking for more time to issue refunds, and/or to persuade ticket-buyers to accept a voucher instead of money. How much flexibility there is for promoters will depend on local laws, though in some European countries the live sector has requested that those laws be amended in the short-term to help promoters weather the COVID storm.
For postponed shows, promoters and their ticket agents often hold onto monies until new dates have been announced. Then, usually, refunds will be offered to those who can't make the new dates. Again, a promoter's exact obligations will depend on local consumer rights laws. Though many promoters offer refunds on postponed shows either way, not least because generally most ticket-buyers still want to attend the show, so the number of refunds you have to issue is relatively low.
It's Ticketmaster's policy on postponed shows that is at the heart of the class action lawsuit filed by Derek Hanson, who in February bought tickets via the Ticketmaster website for two Rage Against The Machine shows that were due to take place this week. Those shows, of course, have been postponed because of the COVID-19 shutdown.
But can Hanson get a refund? In his lawsuit he claims that when he bought his RATM tickets the relevant page on the Ticketmaster website stated that "refunds are available if your event is postponed, rescheduled or cancelled".
However, he says, the ticketing firm then "retroactively changed their refund policies so that visitors to the same webpage were redirected to a new page that said only that refunds were available for cancellations".
"In other words", the lawsuit goes on, "defendants now identifies cancellation as the only basis for getting a refund. Refunds are no longer being offered for postponed shows, which are currently postponed indefinitely, or for rescheduled shows, even if ticket holders can't make the new date. Ticketmaster's policy now states that, 'If the event was moved, postponed, or rescheduled, the [promoter or venue] may set refund limitations'".
Hanson's lawsuit follows a flurry of criticism of Ticketmaster in the US - both online and in the political community - for its handling of refunds on postponed shows. Though the ticketing firm has told reporters that, although it did recently clarify the language on its website, its refund policy hasn't really changed, in that decisions relating to postponed shows have always been made by its clients, ie the promoters.
But those promoters will do the right thing, Tickemaster President Jared Smith has assured his firm's more vocal critics in Washington in a letter to Congress members Katie Porter and Bill Pascrell. He wrote: "Let me reiterate: neither our clients, nor Ticketmaster, intend to withhold refunds on postponed shows. In fact, as of today, both Live Nation Entertainment and AEG Live, two of our largest event organisers, have announced they will begin to provide refunds, on a rolling basis, for all events impacted by COVID-19".
Other Live Nation and Ticketmaster execs have pushed back at their critics off the record, arguing that they have been working flat out to try to deal with an unprecedented situation. They stress that for each postponed show there are promoters, venues, booking agents, artist managers and artists themselves to be consulted, and that takes time. Therefore any silence on refunds to date hasn't been ominous, it's simply that lots of meetings have to take place.
As Smith mentioned in his letter, AEG as well as Ticketmaster owner Live Nation have both issued statements in recent days clarifying their position on refunds for COVID-19 affected shows in America. Which in turn clarifies the position on a significant number of the shows currently sitting on the Ticketmaster US platform.
Both companies are refunding monies on cancelled shows, although Live Nation is also offering customers a voucher option, with said vouchers worth up to 150% of whatever money is owing. On postponed shows, ticket-buyers will be able to request a refund for up to 30 days after new dates have been announced (Live Nation will also offer vouchers in that scenario too). However, for postponed shows with no new dates, ticket-buyers will still seemingly be in limbo, which has been one of the big criticisms to date.
The lawyer leading on Hanson's lawsuit welcomed the recent statements from Ticketmaster, Live Nation and AEG, but said issues remained. Speaking to Law360, Marie McCrary of Gutride Safier LLP said: "We remain concerned that for rescheduled events Ticketmaster is still leaving the refund decision to the organisers of each event. In addition, when events are 'postponed indefinitely' without any new date set, refunds are being denied. Ticketmaster needs to offer refunds for all such events".
Ticketmaster, of course, isn't the only ticketing company already sued Stateside over COVID-19 refunds. Secondary ticketing platform StubHub was sued earlier this month for changes it made to its FanProtect Guarantee scheme in the wake of the pandemic.
Sokari signs to Bucks
"Sokari is a hardworking, intelligent and, above all else, talented producer, songwriter and artist", says Bucks' Director Creative A&R, Sarah Liversedge-Platz. "He's incredibly ambitious and we look forward to helping him realise that ambition. It's great to be working with Conchord Management as well, who we've had plenty of success with to date. We're braced for an exciting journey ahead!"
Oh yes, did we mention that Sokari is managed by Conchord Management? Because he is. And his manager there, Cathy Mathalone, adds: "Sokari has a great track record of collaborating with a wide range of artists and writers. He now has aspirations to work with some of the biggest songwriters, artists and producers in the business, and I am confident there will be some brilliant opportunities secured through this partnership".
"I have had the pleasure of working with Sarah and the Bucks team for years", she goes on, "so am very familiar with the drive and passion they have to push and develop their talent on a global scale".
Among the artists Sokari has collaborated with to date are Stefflon Don and Kojey Radical. His latest release is the track 'Hold Me Back' from Kadiata's 'Blind, This Summer' EP.
Madison Square Garden Company completes split into separate Sports and Entertainment companies
"While the current environment presents significant challenges to our industry, we are confident in the future, and look forward to MSG Entertainment building on its reputation as a leader in live experiences", says MSG Entertainment CEO James L Dolan. "We are also very pleased to welcome Mark, a talented corporate finance executive who brings extensive experience working with well-known companies. We believe he is the ideal executive to help guide MSG Entertainment as we continue to pursue excellence across our operations".
Fitzpatrick joins from WeWork, where he had been Deputy CFO since 2016. Prior to that he was at Time Warner Cable for ten years.
The Madison Square Garden Company announced in November last year that it was planning to spin off its entertainment business from its sports business, after losses were higher than expected in its most recent quarterly figures. The company had planned a partial spin off - with the entertainment business retaining a third of the shares in the sports business - but it was decided that a full separation was necessary.
Earlier this month, the board of directors approved the separation, paving the way for the plan to be implemented.
Apple Music expands into 52 new countries
The bulk of the new territories - just under half, in fact - are within the continent of Africa. While it's still early-days in most African markets, many in the industry reckon there is real potential for growth in the region in the next decade.
With that in mind, global music companies have been rushing to do deals with local companies - just last week Warner Music invested in distribution firm Africori. The arrival of Apple Music in more African countries, with various localised playlists, feeds into that trend.
Beyond Africa, ten of the new territories where Apple Music is arriving are in Latin America and the Caribbean, plus there are launches in some former states of Yugoslavia and a number of former Soviet countries.
This is all part of a wider push by Apple to expand its services business - which also includes Apple Podcasts, the App Store and iCloud - into more of the world. It's Apple Music that gets by far the widest expansion though.
"We're delighted to bring many of Apple's most beloved services to users in more countries than ever before", says Oliver Schusser, VP of Apple Music and International Content. "We hope our customers can discover their new favourite apps, games, music and podcasts as we continue to celebrate the world's best creators, artists, and developers".
Here's the full list of new places where Apple Music can now be accessed:
Africa: Algeria, Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, and Tunisia, Zambia.
Asia-Pacific: Bhutan, Maldives, Myanmar.
Europe: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Georgia, Iceland, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia.
Latin America and the Caribbean: The Bahamas, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Turks and Caicos, Uruguay.
Middle East: Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Yemen.
Oceania: Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu.
Apple Music is now available in a total of 167 countries and regions worldwide.
Mixcloud unveils new live streaming functionality
With that in mind, Mixcloud has fast-tracked a live streaming option that it has been developing behind the scenes which allows people to live stream both video and audio and - crucially, which also seeks to address both the monetisation and copyright questions.
It is helped in that domain by the fact it already has a creator-to-fan subscription set-up in Mixcloud Select. And from the start, Mixcloud has sought licences from the music industry to cover the mixes and programmes on its platform, meaning royalties are paid to artists, labels, songwriters and publishers whose music gets used.
Unveiling the new service, called Mixcloud Live, yesterday, the company said that it was "the first music-focused solution to enable audio creators to live stream ... and generate income - all via a legal and licensed platform".
Dan Le Sac releases "most honest and best music" of his career on new EP
It's now more than five years since the final Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip show. Despite releasing various records - including two video game soundtracks - since then, these EPs truly mark a new era for him, he says.
"Post Dan Vs Pip I've felt utterly lost", Le Sac explains. "Sure, there have been records made and released, but for a long time I struggled to know what my voice sounded like without Pip. [2018 album] '63 Days' was the first record that felt personal, like nothing was missing".
"But the processes involved in creating it were still the same, tied to a laptop, tied to sloppy sample chopping and glitch virtual instruments", he adds. "To truly feel like this was MY music, I had to change my process, and the three EPs are that journey".
He went the EPs route - rather than waiting until an album was ready - out of "necessity -
"My career ended when Pip and I walked off the Bestival stage in Sept 2014", he concludes. "These EPs are me finally understanding that and making noise I love unburdened by impact dates, release schedules and promo. Basically, it's the most honest, and I think, best music I've ever made".
COVID-19 SUPPORT INTIATIVES
JLS have added their name to the list of artists planning to play free shows for NHS staff later this year. While many of those shows are somewhat optimistically scheduled for October, JLS have gone for 28 Nov. "We can never be too grateful for the NHS", says the band's JB. "The privilege of free healthcare from professionals who have studied for many years to obtain the knowledge and skills to keep us healthy cannot be underestimated". Tickets for the performance at the Birmingham Resorts World Arena are available here.
Twitch has hired Tracy Chan as its new Head Of Product And Engineering For Music. She joins the live streaming platform from Spotify. "As Twitch looks to expand its offerings for music creators and within the music industry as a whole, I am confident that together with the team, we will be able to build the necessary tools to support artists now and as they continue to explore their new virtual stage", she says.
Bon Iver have released new single 'PDLIF'. All proceeds will be donated to the charity Direct Relief to support frontline health workers.
Wiz Khalifa has released new EP 'The Saga Of Wiz Khalifa'. As well as himself, it also features Megan Thee Stallion, Ty Dolla $ign, Mustard, Quavo, Mustard, K Camp, Tyga and Logic.
One of the UB40s - UB40 Featuring Ali Campbell And Astro - has released a new version of Bill Withers' 'Lean On Me' in aid of NHS Charities. "Astro and I have really felt it was the track that encapsulated everything that's going on at the moment, we're all needing to lean on our NHS heroes", says Campbell. "We wanted to make our contribution to this great cause; covering this song was the perfect way to show our appreciation".
Nadine Shah has released 'Kitchen Sink', the title track from her upcoming album.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Chris Martin, Dua Lipa and more contribute to BBC's Stay Home Live Lounge
Dubbed the Stay Home Live Lounge, the recording will be premiered simultaneously on Radio 1, Radio 2, 1Xtra, 6Music and the Asian Network at midday this Thursday. A video version will then air later the same day on BBC One's 'Big Night In', a charity fundraiser taking place on Thursday evening in aid of Comic Relief and Children In Need. The record will also be released in aid of those charities.
The artists involved have all recorded their parts for the record and its video at home while on COVID-19 lockdown. Produced by Fraser T Smith, the artists on the track are: AJ Tracey, Anne-Marie, Bastille, Biffy Clyro, Celeste, Chris Martin, Dermot Kennedy, Dua Lipa, Ellie Goulding, Five Seconds of Summer, Grace Carter, Hailee Steinfeld, Jess Glynne, Mabel, Paloma Faith, Rag N Bone Man, Rita Ora, Royal Blood, Sam Fender, Sean Paul, Sigrid, Yungblud and Zara Larsson.
"It's humbling to have been asked to produce this amazing single, taking the Foo Fighters' classic 'Times Like These', with the Radio 1 Live Lounge team and the incredible collective of artists who have come together to record whilst in isolation", says Smith.
"Our vision was to create a stay at home version using phones, pots, pans and acoustic guitars that would honour the brilliance and honesty of the artists and song, rather than the trickery of an expensive recording studio", he adds. "We tried to make this single in a totally different way artistically, relevant to today. The lyrics particularly resonate with us all at this challenging time, and I sincerely hope that money raised can help the plight of the unified battle against COVID-19 around the world".
Proceeds from sales and downloads of the recording that occur in the UK will be split 50/50 between Children In Need and Comic Relief. International net profits will be donated to the WHO's COVID-19-Solidarity Response Fund.