|THURSDAY 28 MAY 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The company behind one of the first major US music events to cancel its 2020 edition as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic - the Miami edition of the Ultra Music Festival - is the latest American live music business to be sued over its refund policy in relation to a coronavirus-caused cancellation... [READ MORE]|
Cancelled Ultra Music Festival sued over its refunds policy
The music industry in the US and Europe was still uncertain quite what impact the spread of COVID-19 was going to have when it first emerged, in the first week of March, that the flagship edition of the dance music festival that sits at the end of Miami Music Week was about to be cancelled. Or, technically, postponed by one year to March 2021.
Since then ticketholders to the 2020 edition have been offered replacement tickets for either the 2021 or 2022 iterations of the festival. But at least two ticketholders want cash refunds, something the event's organisers have not, as yet, offered. Hence the lawsuit filed with the courts in Florida this week.
Said lawsuit concedes that, technically - under the terms and conditions attached to the sale of tickets to the Ultra Music Festival - the event's promoter isn't obliged to offer any cash refunds. But that term, plaintiffs Samuel Hernandez and Richard Montoure argue, is unenforceable.
Legally speaking, whether or not a live event is obliged to offer cash refunds as a result of a cancellation or postponement depends very much on what local consumer rights laws say. In some places there is such an obligation, and a ticketholder may be able to seek a refund from their credit card company if a ticket agent or promoter doesn't play ball.
Where that's not the case, the question is what do the event's terms and conditions say. And then - as in both this case and a similar one involving South By Southwest - whether or not we feel that those terms and conditions are enforceable under local contract laws.
Hernandez and Montoure's lawsuit states that the Ultra festival's terms include a provision that says the promoter "may, in its sole and absolute discretion, elect to either issue a full or partial refund to purchaser, not issue any refunds, or reschedule the event".
The same provision goes on: "If [the ticket] issuer elects to issue a refund, the ticket purchaser of record shall be refunded an amount up to the face value of the ticket(s) only. If issuer elects to reschedule the event for a future date, you shall not be entitled to a refund".
All of which seems to justify Ultra's seeming resistance to the idea that it should provide refunds to people with tickets to its cancelled 2020 edition (the plaintiffs say that they can't find a phone number for the festival organiser and their email queries regarding a refund have been ignored).
However, the lawsuit goes on: "Through the refund provision, Ultra purports to reserve to itself the right to retain any and all monies paid for tickets regardless of whether Ultra elects to put on the festival, essentially (and impermissibly) rendering its obligations under the [terms] illusory and the agreement itself an unenforceable unilateral option contract".
It goes on: "Ultra also purports to reserve to itself the right to 'modify, add, remove, supplement, amend, update or revise any of [the] terms and conditions, without advanced notification to' the customer. Ultra failed to provide any limitations on its right to modify the contract with consumers, thereby rendering the [terms] illusory and void in their entirety".
It remains to be seen how Ultra responds. As noted, the also cancelled South By Southwest has been similarly sued over its enforcement of terms that allow it to offer replacement tickets to a future event rather than a cash refund.
Responding to that lawsuit, a spokesperson for the Austin-based showcase festival insisted that the company was acting legally in accordance with the terms of its ticket sales. They also added that the huge financial pressure the festival company was under as a result of the COVID-19 caused cancellation meant it had no choice but to enforce the no cash refunds term.
In addition to festivals being directly sued, lawsuits have also been filed in the US over alleged changes to refund policies made by ticketing companies Ticketmaster and StubHub in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.
For its part, Live Nation's Ticketmaster insists that it is issuing refunds on cancelled and most postponed shows, although the latter is ultimately at the discretion of its client, ie each event's promoter. StubHub, meanwhile, is offering vouchers instead of cash in some countries, leading to litigation in Canada as well as the US.
Guy Oseary steps back from Maverick
Announcing his reduced role at Maverick, Oseary said that he wants to focus more on his actual artist management work and other business interests, including investing in new tech companies through the venture capaital firm he co-founded with Ashton Kutcher.
"I'm ready for my new chapter and welcome the opportunity to have more time to focus on management of Madonna and U2 while furthering my passion for identifying and incubating revolutionary businesses", he adds.
Rapino chips in: "Guy built an incredible team at Maverick and his work with U2 and Madonna is unmatched. Live Nation has always been about putting the artist first and no one knows that better than Guy. I look forward to continuing our work together on projects including U2, Madonna and beyond".
Oseary joined the original Maverick record company, co-founded by Madonna as a Warner Music subsidiary in 1992, while he was still a teenager.
By the late 90s, he owned a large stake in the company and had become its CEO. However, Madonna's business partnership with Warner fell apart after a legal dispute in 2004, with the label ultimately be wound down.
There was also a Maverick Films company that Oseary continued to run, but then - in 2008 - he left that too, taking the Maverick name with him for his artist management business.
It was in 2013 that he first allied with Live Nation, which had been slowly growing its interest in artist management in the preceding years, having acquired a significant management business as part of its 2010 merger with Ticketmaster.
The following year, in 2014, Live Nation rebranded some - although not all - of its somewhat disparate network of management companies under the Maverick banner, with Oseary given the task of promoting more collaboration between the managers operating within the wider Live Nation group.
Instagram begins testing monetisation options for creators
Live videos on Instagram saw a 70% increase between February and March as lockdown measures were introduced, says the company. Many artists and creators who have livestreamed over the Instagram platform have experimented with ways to monetise such activity, but to date there has been no direct option within the Instagram app itself. Now the company is testing a new thing called 'badges', which are digital badges fans can purchase during a livestream.
"Badges will appear next to a person's name throughout the live video", says the company in a blog post. "Fans who have purchased badges in Live will stand out in the comments and unlock additional features, including placement on a creator's list of badge holders and access to a special heart".
So, that all sounds a bit pointless. But people like that sort of nonsense, don't they? So pointless for the fools that spend money on the new badges feature, but not for the artists and creators who get access to that cash.
Elsewhere, Instagram is moving into more traditional online advertising, placing pre-rolls on videos on IGTV and then sharing ad revenues with creators whose videos carry them.
"IGTV ads will initially appear when people click to watch IGTV videos from previews in their feed", it says. "The video ads will be built for mobile and up to fifteen seconds long. We'll test various experiences within IGTV ads throughout the year - such as the ability to skip an ad - to make sure the final result works well for people, creators and advertisers".
Although Instagram has long been a popular platform for creators of many kinds, including musicians, to date monetisation options have been limited - consisting mainly of different ways to encourage and allow followers to click through to third party sites where items can be purchased. The same is kind of true of sister social network Facebook, of course, which also recently announced plans to help artists monetise live streaming activity.
Of course, if Instagram and Facebook both begin to allow musicians to monetise their livestreams, that will add further complications to the already unclear picture around if and when music is covered by the licences Facebook and other platforms have from the music industry.
Currently, with the boom in artists using livestreaming for home performances, a blind eye is largely being turned to this question, and to those livestreaming platforms that are unlicensed or half licensed. However, if livestreaming becomes an established activity - and particularly one that makes money for artists and social media companies - that eye's going to become a lot more focussed.
Bauer Media announces big radio rejig that will see many local brands disappear
Bauer extended its portfolio of stations around the UK through four deals in early 2019, acquiring stations and AM/FM/DAB frequencies from Celador Radio, Lincs FM Group, UKRD and the Wireless Group. Those deals only got competition regulator approval in March this year, though the main delay on that related to Bauer getting half of advertising company First Radio Sales via its UKRD deal.
With all the deals now approved, most of the local stations the media firm acquired will become outposts of Greatest Hits Radio, the service Bauer launched last year which already occupies a number of AM and FM frequencies in various regions, in addition to being available on the DAB network and online.
As a result local radio brands like The Breeze, Eagle Radio, KLFM, Minster FM, Peak FM, Spire FM, Swansea Sound, Tower FM, Radio Wave, Wessex FM and Yorkshire Coast Radio will all disappear.
This loss of a load of local radio brands is, of course, part of a long-running trend in the UK radio industry, where several rounds of consolidation have resulted in more national networking of programmes and the replacement of local station names with what have ultimately become national brands.
Though - unlike its rival Global - Bauer has kept some local brands going in some regions via what it calls its Hits Radio Network. Although all the local stations in that network share most of their programming, so far only one has actually rebranded as Hits Radio (what was Piccadilly Key 103 in Manchester). The rest use local brand names that often pre-date consolidation.
Four of its new acquisitions will become part of this Hits Radio Network, keeping their local brands but taking more national programming. That includes Pulse in Bradford and Huddersfield, Signal in Stoke-On-Trent, The Wave in Swansea and Fire Radio in Bournemouth.
In addition to that, three of the acquired stations - Lincs FM in Lincolnshire, Pirate FM in Cornwall and Sam FM in Bristol - will stay as standalone operations with much more of their programmes made locally.
Some of the old Celador radio stations and one of the Lincs FM stations were actually sold to another company called Nation Broadcasting last year, rather than Bauer, because of competition issues in those local markets.
However, Nation has deals with Bauer to license programmes for all of those newly acquired outlets and - as a result - they will also rebrand. Versions of The Breeze in Portsmouth, Southampton and Winchester will become Hits Radio, while Sam FM in the Solent area and KCFM in Hull will both become Greatest Hits Radio.
Announcing all this yesterday, Bauer was keen to stress how the big re-jig would create the "largest commercial radio network in the UK".
Bauer Radio's Group MD Dee Ford said: "Audiences love and trust radio. Expanding the Hits Radio Brand Network will ensure listeners to these acquired stations benefit from multi-platform digital distribution meaning they can continue to broadcast in an increasingly competitive, digital and voice-activated world. This ensures the provision of local news and information, traffic and travel as well as access for advertisers to highly valued audiences".
The company added in its official statement: "These changes do unfortunately mean that some roles will be put into consultation and freelance contracts reviewed. Bauer Media is fully committed to supporting all affected employees throughout this period and will be working closely with them over the months ahead. A period of consultation with employees potentially affected will commence today".
Radio Today has done some maths and reckons the changes could result in the cutting of 160 on-air staff.
Ellie Goulding announces new album, Brightest Blue
The album is split into two parts. The first - actually called 'Brightest Blue' - holds the bulk of the album's eighteen tracks and, Goulding says, "reflects my vulnerability. It acknowledges a complex world where relationships still dictate our happiness and heartbreak and can still be the most painful thing in the world, no matter how enlightened you are. The tracks also symbolise growing up and becoming a woman".
The five track second part, called 'Eg.0', "encapsulates my confident, brave and fearless side and features all my recent collaborations", she goes on. "I often find myself writing about my thoughts and emotions in a way that I know will be catchy and memorable. I will always seek to use my voice in ways that no one would ever expect and look to collaborate with the least likely, exciting and eclectic group of other artists".
That second part is also heavy on collaborations, with contributions from Diplo, Swae Lee, Blackbear, Lauv and Juice Wrld.
The album is out on 17 Jul. From it, this is new single 'Power'.
Rival Consoles announces new album, Articulation
Said track is "about articulation and playfulness with shape and time", he says. "Its structure is very machine-like, but I was really interested in how melody and sense of story could develop out of this, and it became an exploration of mathematical structures - patterns and shapes having a conversation".
"I love that something on paper can appear rigid and calculated, but then take on new meaning based on the context that surrounds it or how it changes over time", he adds.
"I find electronic music is often battling to say something with integrity because technology and production can easily get in the way", he goes on. "I think the goal of a lot of electronic composers is to find a balance between the vision of the idea and the power of possibilities on the computer".
He concludes: "With a pen and paper sketch you can compose and rethink ideas without technology getting in the way, so for me it acts as a very helpful tool to refresh the process".
The album is out on 31 Jul through Erased Tapes. Listen to 'Articulation' here.
Music publisher Sony/ATV has appointed Peter Brodsky to General Counsel and Executive Vice President, Business Affairs. And why the hell not? "Peter is a key member of Sony/ATV's leadership team, and his invaluable counsel is integral to our success", says CEO Jon Platt. Brodsky, by the way, is "THRILLED".
LABELS & PUBLISHERS
Sony's distribution and label services business The Orchard has added extra functionality to its mobile app for labels and artists, known as OrchardGo, which will "enable artists and their teams to strategically release new music based on an artist's social landscape". It basically allows an artist to monitor the various social media platforms and identify their biggest fans in order to better engage with them and sell them stuff.
Have you ever wondered what Halsey and Marshmello are thinking? Sure you have. Don't pretend you haven't. Well, now you can find out. Until 2 Jun you'll be able to shout at your Alexa device "Alexa, what's Halsey's thought of the day?" and it'll tell you. Same for Marshmello. What a time... to... be... urgh.
Melanie C has released new single 'Blame It On Me'.
Bright Eyes have released new track 'One And Done' from their upcoming new album.
The Lemon Twigs are back with new single 'Moon'. Their delayed third album 'Songs For The General Public' will be out through 4AD on 21 Aug.
Celeste has released new single 'I Can't See The Change', produced by Finneas. Of writing the song, she says: "I was feeling flat. I felt disconnected from myself and the world around me, so I knew something needed to change. Ultimately the song is about hope and change but knowing that to obtain this requires effort, patience and conviction".
Widowspeak have released new single 'Breadwinner'. "Now feels like the only time we could possibly let this song into the world, when everyone is trying to figure out life beyond the way we earn a living, and how we'll earn anything going forward", says the duo's Molly Hamilton. "So, without wanting to capitalise on the heavy realities we're all facing, we hope it brings some comfort or at least entertainment to people at home".
Lotic has signed to Houndstooth and released new single 'Burn A Print'.
Saxophonist and composer Nubya Garcia has announced her signing to Concord Jazz with the release of new single 'Pace'. The track is co-produced by Kwes.
Song Sung have released new single 'Telling Tales', and announced that their debut album, 'This Ascension Is Ours', out on 31 Jul through Night Time Stories.
GIGS & TOURS
Slipknot's Knotfest touring festival has relaunched its website as a "global meeting place under the banner of heavy culture". There will be news, interviews, videos and more. It will also be broadcasting live performances and interviews from Slipknot, Underoath and Code Orange this Friday at 11pm UK time.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Lady Gaga overcomes COVID-19 transport issues by making like Santa and delivering physical albums herself
"Delivering 'Chromatica' myself to every retailer around the world", tweeted the musician last night, replete with images of both the truck she planned to carry out the work in and herself in a branded facemask. Safety first.
Of course, this all seems rather unlikely, but I see no reason why we shouldn't take her at her word. After all, she adds, "in Chromatica, time and distance do not exist".
This doesn't explain how she's going to fit all those CDs and slabs of vinyl in such a small truck, but I guess if time and distance are of no issue then she could make several trips back to the warehouse.
Her announcement also adds significant weight to the longstanding rumour that she is a direct descendent of the original Santa Claus and that she will one day quit music to take on the role of delivering presents to children around the world on Christmas Eve. I guess this is some sort of practice run.
Gaga is not the first pop star to use a truck to promote their new album. Although she did not handle global distribution of her 2013 release 'Prism' personally, Katy Perry sent out a large truck to travel around the US announcing the title and release date to Americans one by one. Despite it being massive and gold, a drunk driver still managed to crash into said truck on its journey.
A number of fans on Twitter have expressed concern that Gaga doesn't have a driving licence following last night's announcement. She did actually pass her test in 2016 though. Presumably the size of her truck is related to restrictions of that licence. She may not be bound by the laws of physics, but the laws of the land still stand.
Have I thought of enough reasons to avoid suggesting that this is a fairly weak, hastily thrown together marketing idea, after all other plans were blown out of the window by COVID-19, yet?