|TUESDAY 26 MAY 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: London's Southbank Centre is the latest UK arts organisation to call for urgent government support to help safeguard the country's cultural sector as it navigates the COVID-19 shutdown. The venue complex says that ongoing measures to restrict the spread of the coronavirus means it risks being closed until at least April 2021, which will put "crippling financial pressure" on the charity that runs the centre... [READ MORE]|
Southbank Centre joins the call for urgent government action to save the UK cultural sector
In parts of Europe there are now dates in the calendar for allowing events of a certain size to resume, while some European festivals are still confident that they can go ahead with an albeit reworked version of their events in 2020. That said, the live industry is still working out if and how it can repurpose its venues, festivals and shows to accommodate any ongoing social distancing rules that maybe in effect. Quite what that involves will vary from country to country, and depending on the size and set-up of each venue.
The Southbank Centre, which has published a report on the impact of COVID-19 on its operations, says that if it were to re-open with capacity restrictions in place to enable social distancing - so, say, at 30% capacity - it would lose more money than staying closed. As it is, the charity expects to make a loss of at least £5 million by the end of the current financial year. Opening at 30% capacity would boost losses to £11 million.
Although it has made use of all the government support schemes since COVID-19 shutdown began, the Southbank says that keeping losses down to £5 million has required using up cash reserves and the rest of its annual grant from Arts Council England. It adds: "There will be a need to make some staff redundant and the organisation will cease to be a going concern before the end of the year if further urgent support is not secured".
Among the demands being made by the Southbank Centre of the UK government is a commitment to extend the current furlough financing scheme beyond October for the cultural industries and to "develop a large scale intervention to support the arts sector as it navigates this crisis and which helps it survive and plan for the future".
The Southbank's CEO Elaine Bedell says: "It is with an incredibly heavy heart that we today share further details about the future of the Southbank Centre. We know we are not alone in this and stand with our friends, partners, and colleagues - both here in the UK and abroad - during this time of unprecedented challenge".
"With eight orchestras, the National Poetry Library and Arts Council Collection all calling us home", she goes on, "and playing host to over 4.45 million visitors each year, we're doing all we can to safeguard the Southbank Centre we currently know and love for the years ahead. However, this crisis has hit hard, and we join a number of other organisations and venues in sounding the alarm about the long-term health of UK arts and culture".
She concludes: "The Southbank Centre's own history is traced directly to the 1951 Festival of Britain. Here, the post-war government recognised how vital arts and culture were to the health and wellbeing of a traumatised nation. Just as the South Bank was a focal point of social and economic recovery then, we hope that we'll emerge from this crisis to an even brighter future, throwing our doors wide open once more".
The UK government has set up a taskforce to consider the specific challenges of the cultural sector as it navigates its way out of COVID-19 shutdown. Music is part of that taskforce's remit, even though ministers didn't think to invite anyone from the music industry to join the committee. UK Music, meanwhile, has called for a specific taskforce just for music.
Kendall Jenner returns $90,000 of her Fyre Festival fee
That trustee, Greg Messer, began legal proceedings last September in a bid to get back some of the money that had been splashed out by Fyre Festival boss and convicted fraudster Billy McFarland when he was booking bands to play at and hiring social media influencers to promote his 2017 event.
The festival, of course, fell apart just as it was opening when it became clear McFarland hadn't put in place the infrastructure required to deliver an event of that scale.
Booking agencies like CAA, UTA, ICM and Nue Agency were among those named in Messer's legal filing last year, all of which represent artists who were booked to play the Fyre Festival and who had received advance payments.
It's not uncommon for such advances to be unreturnable in artist contracts, especially when an act agrees to play an unproven new event. However, Messer argued that those advances were paid for out of monies McFarland had fraudulently secured from investors and therefore there was still an obligation on artists to return the cash.
In March, it emerged that Migos had agreed to return $30,000 of the $100,000 fee they had received for a planned set at the Fyre Festival. And now a new legal filing with the bankruptcy courts has confirmed that Jenner, one of the social media influencers paid to big up the doomed festival, will return $90,000 of her fee.
Messer's lawsuit last year also made a number of allegations against Jenner beyond demanding back the fee she had received.
He accused her of failing to declare to her followers that she had been paid to promote the Fyre Festival on her social channels and also said that she had misled people by implying her half-sister's husband Kanye West might be playing.
Though Jenner only actually said that his label GOOD Music was involved, and it was, with other artists from the label's roster meant to be performing at the event.
Presumably Jenner is hoping that - by returning $90,000 of the $275,000 she reportedly received for waffling on about the doomed Fyre Festival on her social channels - she can now put this whole sorry incident behind her.
At least she gets to keep the other $185,000. And the whole thing was a learning experience. A nice $90,000 learning experience. Or at least that's what she told the New York Times in an interview last year.
"You get reached out to by people, whether it be to promote or help or whatever, and you never know how these things are going to turn out, sometimes it's a risk", she told the newspaper.
"I definitely do as much research as I can", she added "but sometimes there isn't much research you can do because it's a starting brand and you kind of have to have faith in it and hope it will work out the way people say it will [but] you never really know what's going to happen".
Actually, I'm not sure she learned anything for the whole Fyre hoo haa. So, not really a learning experience worth $90,000. Then again, that was kind of unreal money anyway, so I'm not sure it matters all that much.
Madonna sued over cancelled Madame X show
The lawsuit filed by Michelle Holland and Thomas Wilhelm also disputes the official reason given for the cancellation. Promoters said that the show was pulled over health concerns - and other dates on the same tour were cancelled because the musician was finding performing painful due to a torn ligament and bad knee.
However, the lawsuit quotes a Daily Mail report that claimed the Miami show was actually called off after a "furious" Madonna had a "temper tantrum" during a rehearsal, firing two employees as well as pulling out of the show. They also quote a Facebook post that alleged "she threw a fit at rehearsals and was upset for low ticket sales and the venue's unprofessionalism".
Later in their legal filing, Holland and Wilhelm also state that they believe the star had been served with legal papers by ex-husband Guy Ritchie on the same day as the Miami show, which meant she was "upset" and "furious" before rehearsals even began.
With all that in mind, Holland and Wilhelm want "actual and consequential" damages from the star and her promoter Live Nation to compensate them for the losses they incurred travelling to the cancelled show. They also want class action status for the lawsuit, which would allow other ticketholders to likewise demand compensation.
It's not the first round of litigation relating to the 'Madame X Tour'. Two previous lawsuits have been filed over Madonna's late start times at her shows.
One of those lawsuits was filed by ticketholders who left a New York date on the tour before Madonna even got on stage as a result of a two hour delay to start time. Another complained that - after those initial late starts - Live Nation pushed back the official stage times of future 'Madame X' shows from 8.30pm to 10.30pm, but wouldn't offer refunds to those fans who no longer wanted to attend as a result of the now late night timings.
StubHub faces class action in Canada too over its COVID-19 refunds policy
It follows a lawsuit filed in the US last month which accused StubHub of changing the terms of its much promoted FanProtect guarantee scheme in the wake of the COVID-19 shutdown of live entertainment.
In that lawsuit, it was claimed that StubHub's previous policy was to offer cash refunds to anyone who bought tickets from resellers on the secondary ticketing platform to a show that was then cancelled. As the COVID-19 shutdown kicked in, it then started offering the option of taking a voucher worth 120% of the price of the cancelled ticket.
But then, on 25 Mar, terms were changed on the resale firm's website so that ticketholders could be forced to take the voucher instead of cash - at "StubHub's sole discretion" - unless the ticket was bought in a country where consumer rights law obliged the ticketing firm to provide a cash refund. It was that change that led to the class action lawsuit in the US courts.
With similar policies seemingly being applied in Canada too, Toronto based law firm Koskie Minsky last week said that it was also commencing a class action against StubHub "on behalf of all persons resident in Canada who purchased one or more tickets from the defendants before 25 Mar 2020, for an event that has been cancelled, or is cancelled prior to certification of this claim, and who have not received a refund prior to certification of the class action".
A partner at the firm, Kirk Baert, told reporters: "StubHub has reneged on its promise to refund class members' money. This is obviously wrong and hurts everyday Canadians whose household budgets are stretched right now".
Many ticketing companies have been struggling with the challenge of issuing refunds on so many cancelled shows as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. For secondary sites like StubHub, they have the added challenge of extra links in the chain between promoter and fan, with the reseller being reliant on the refund policies and procedures of the primary ticket agent. It remains to be seen how StubHub responds to these two lawsuits.
Island Records charity auction raises almost £180,000
"I'd like to thank all our amazing artists, our US counterparts at Island US and Republic, all our media partners, Omega Auctions and every last member of the Island team who have worked tirelessly to get this auction together in such a short space of time", says Island Records President Louis Bloom.
"I'd also like to thank every person who bid on these amazing lots or made a donation, you have made a difference and all the money we raised will aid COVID-19 relief and go direct to NHS Charities Together and Feeding America", he goes on. "We are living through very challenging times and to be able to come together, like we have this week, and to help those in need, has been a real honour".
Those handwritten Bono lyrics accounted for a large portion of the £179,755 raised, going for £76,000. That figure is thought to be a record for a set of U2 lyrics. Other items on offer included a signed banjo from Mumford & Sons, a pair of Amy Winehouse's stilettos, and a ringtone that Nokia commission from Brian Eno in 2003 but never used.
We Are Scientists release merch for those with botched lockdown haircuts
You can choose from a baseball cap bearing the legend 'I cut my own hair' or a bandana designed to look like frontman Keith Murray's expertly self-coiffed hair.
"I've been cutting my own hair for years now, so one silver lining of this cloudy life in quarantine is that this behaviour, which others used to consider a sign of some flaw in my character, has now become an enviable skill", Murray said of the new record last week.
"When I wrote the song last year, I was self-identifying as an outsider", he went on. "Now, I guess, it's become more an anthem of unification; everybody is cutting their own hair, like it or not. In a way, it's pretty nice that the rest of the world - the formerly-professionally-hairdressed majority - has gotten a little closer to knowing the essential, questionably-coiffed Keith Murray".
Bassist Chris Cain now adds: "I knew about Keith's home haircuts and I sort of envied him and was sort of disgusted by him at the same time. What a risk to take, I thought. What a cavalier way to treat this wonderful gift life gave you, like driving around with your dog in the flatbed of your pickup truck instead of in the cab".
"But then the internet people made up this insane challenge - cutting your own hair in just over two minutes while listening to our song... and millions of people did it!", he says "Who are these daredevils? But they boxed me in. And I admit: it felt like really living".
So, you see now the need for this new merch. Plus, the bandana can double up as a facemask/beard substitute as well.
The song is also the official theme tune to mental health charity CALM's Big Buzz Off campaign. So, if you fancy cutting off your hair for a good cause, get involved with that here.
Shesaid.so launches new virtual mentoring programme in France and Italy
Announcing the new scheme, shesaid.so founder Andreea Magdalina said yesterday: "Mentorship not only plays a key role in making or breaking careers in the music industry, it also cultivates a culture of collaboration, thus providing an excellent opportunity for us to further our mission. Staying connected with leading industry professionals and having access to their insights is more important than ever, particularly in this new climate".
With that in mind, she added, "I am profoundly grateful to YouTube Music for enabling us to provide opportunities for women and other gender minorities at a time when they are at higher risk to be negatively impacted by COVID-19".
The latest mentoring scheme will see twelve mentees recruited in both France and Italy, who will be matched with either local or international mentors, depending on each mentee's preference. As well as regular one-to-one virtual meetings between each mentee and mentor, there will also be monthly events for all 48 participants.
Explaining the focus on France and Italy, Magdalina added: "The reason we are focusing on France and Italy at this time is because we have two thriving communities in each of these countries. Plus, our research showed a lack of initiatives that specifically focus on women in the music industry in these local markets which means we're also filling a gap that was not being addressed".
Confirming its support for the programme, YouTube's Head Of Music EMEA Dan Chalmers said: "Now more than ever, it's critical that we support the next generation of female talent and leadership so they can thrive in the music industry. Over the last year, YouTube Music's partnership with shesaid.so has deepened and become more focused, and we're encouraged by the many success stories we've seen from the programme. We believe this year's programme will be even more robust by adding France and Italy, two very important markets for the industry".
Singapore radio station reverses $10,000 prize decision after Tony Hadley intervention
However, following growing controversy, mainly after Hadley's intervention, the station said in a statement late last week: "Since Tony Hadley has said that Mr Shalehan said his name correctly, who are we to disagree? The full prize of $10,000 cash and a shopping spree will also be awarded to Mr Shalehan".
"Also awarded" because that prize had already been given to another listener who won the contest. It has to be said, the new statement doesn't entirely hold up, given Gold 905 did previously disagree with Hadley. In fact it used a clip of Hadley saying his own name in an attempt to prove it was correct in its decision not to award Shalehan the prize money.
Shalehan entered Gold 905's Celebrity Name Drop competition in April. The game required the winner to correctly identify the voices of fourteen celebrities saying one word of the phrase: "Gold nine oh five, the station that sounds good and makes you feel good". Not an easy task, the competition ran for weeks, and required listeners to listen regularly and work out the full list through a process of elimination as others got guesses wrong.
As a result, when Shalehan was told that he'd only correctly identified thirteen of the fourteen voices, he wasn't surprised. However, when someone else was awarded the prize with the same list a couple of weeks later, he was.
He queried this with the station, only to be told that he'd pronounced the first name on the list - Tony Hadley - incorrectly. And correct pronunciation was one of the rules of the game. He disputed that his pronunciation was incorrect, but was told the decision was final.
In the end, out of frustration, he attempted to get in touch with Hadley himself, finding an email address for his manager online. The email ended up being forwarded to Hadley, who sent back a video saying, "You might have had a slight accent, but as far as I'm concerned, you said my name correctly".
Despite this, Gold 905 did not back down, saying that Shalehan's "pronunciation of 'Hadley' did not meet the criteria as stipulated in the rules of the contest", and adding that "all entries have been reviewed fairly and objectively by our judges, and our decision remains final".
As controversy around this decision grew, the station then said that it had offered Shalehan a payment of $5000 "as a gesture of goodwill" and "a token of appreciation for his exceptional commitment to the contest".
Its apparent hopes that this would put an end to the matter proved unfounded. With anger only growing among listeners, and international attention for the story growing, the radio station announced 48 hours later that it had reversed its decision and would now award Shalehan the full prize money.
Speaking to the BBC about Gold 905's change of heart, Shalehan said: "I was so shocked. I feel honestly happy that justice has been served. My message to Mr Tony Hadley is a big, big, big thank you. His video was a great, great game-changer".
Upon hearing the news, Hadley posted a new video message on his Facebook page, saying: "Thank you for acknowledging that Muhammad Shalehan's answers were correct. He's absolutely over the moon".