|FRIDAY 12 JUNE 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The UK's Competition & Markets Authority has said that Viagogo must propose a "clear-cut solution" to overcome its concerns regarding the StubHub acquisition, otherwise the regulator will launch a more detailed investigation into the transaction... [READ MORE]|
CMA demands "clear-cut solution" from Viagogo for its concerns over StubHub deal
Often controversial secondary ticketing company Viagogo announced plans back in November to buy rival StubHub from its previous owner eBay in a $4 billion deal.
That transaction was completed in February, but by that point the CMA had already confirmed it was looking into the merger, meaning that the two companies couldn't formally come together within the UK. Because of that, Viagogo and StubHub have remained as separate businesses on a global basis, even as both have dealt with the unique challenges created by the COVID-19 shutdown.
A more formal CMA investigation into the merger was then announced in April. Yesterday the competition regulator confirmed it was "concerned that the loss of competition brought about by the merger could result in customers who buy and resell tickets losing out as a result of higher prices and fewer options".
Although there are a number of smaller ticket resale sites active in the UK - and Viagogo claims it also competes with primary ticketing platforms - when it comes to secondary ticketing a combined Viagogo/StubHub would totally dominate the UK market. The firms previously also competed with two Live Nation-owned platforms - Seatwave and Get Me In! - but the live entertainment giant shut down all its European resale sites in 2018.
CMA's statement yesterday went on: "After completing its initial phase one investigation, the CMA found that Viagogo and StubHub are close competitors in an already very concentrated market with limited alternatives. It is particularly concerned that the merger would raise the prices for customers, including fans, who resell and buy secondary tickets to live events".
The regulator did note the challenges faced by the entire ticketing sector as a result of COVID-19, but said "it anticipates Viagogo and StubHub will remain important competitors in the online secondary ticketing market in the longer term. The CMA has seen no evidence that either company would be more adversely affected by the current market climate in comparison to other competitors".
With all that in mind, the CMA stated: "Viagogo now has five working days to address the CMA's concerns by offering remedial undertakings in lieu of a reference to a 'phase two' investigation. For the CMA to accept undertakings, Viagogo would need to deliver a clear-cut solution that will preserve effective competition in the UK market. If Viagogo is unable to do so, the deal will be referred for an in-depth (phase two) investigation".
CMA's Executive Director For Markets And Mergers, Andrea Gomes Da Silva, added: "Viagogo is already the largest secondary ticketing company in the UK by some considerable margin and has purchased an established rival, with no other significant competitors in the market. We are therefore concerned that this transaction could lead to customers losing out through higher prices, less innovation and a lack of real choice".
The CMA already has particularly in-depth knowledge of Viagogo and StubHub's operations, of course, as a result of its other role ensuring that secondary ticketing platforms are compliant with UK consumer rights law. At one point the CMA took Viagogo to court to force it to comply with those laws, while it made new demands of StubHub in January, despite it having previously voluntarily met the regulator's requirements.
Adam Webb from anti-ticket-touting campaign group FanFair welcomed yesterday's CMA announcement and said he hoped "it leads the way to an in-depth phase two investigation".
He added: "Viagogo remains a highly controversial business. The company has widely flouted consumer protection law in the UK and remains under investigation in numerous other countries. Even today, amidst this terrible crisis that has decimated live music, Viagogo's suppliers are attempting to sell tickets to cancelled events".
"Such a company, that has created thousands of consumer victims, should not be allowed to monopolise for-profit 'secondary ticketing'. That outcome would raise significant competition concerns in the UK and threaten to reverse hard-won reforms to prevent abuses in this market".
Meanwhile, in an interview with Sky News, Viagogo Managing Director Cris Miller said that "it's always a requirement of a transaction this size that you need to get regulator approval" and that the company will work "collaboratively with [the CMA] and answer the questions and concerns that they might have". He added that Viagogo remains "optimistic" the deal will be approved because it can "very clearly see all the benefits that the consumer will have" as a result of the two companies combining.
As for all the ongoing concerns about consumer protection on the Viagogo platform, he said: "I went around to regulators all over the world and listened to their concerns and tried to make the adjustments accordingly to the website. The reality is we've done more than what has been asked of us. We actually believe we're the leader in consumer protection and transparency in the resale market and we're very comfortable with where we are going forward. Combining that with the platform in the United States and with StubHub there, there's no change in that. In fact, there's going to be only more".
BMG launches review of contracts to weed out racial bias
In a memo to artists and managers, the company noted that, while the current version of BMG has only existed for a little over a decade, its rapid growth during that time through the acquisition of older catalogues from other music companies makes it likely that there are some issues with how legacy artists are treated.
"We are determined that last week's [Black Out Tuesday] action is more than a black square in a social media post or a series of slogans", it said. "We need to play our part in addressing historical injustices inflicted on black people. Last Wednesday we embarked on a journey designed to make lasting change. We know we cannot change the world by ourselves, but we are determined to change our part of it. For the better".
"Mindful of the music industry's record of shameful treatment of black artists, we have begun a review of all historic record contracts", it went on. "While BMG only began operations in 2008, we have acquired many older catalogues. If there are any inequities or anomalies, we will create a plan to address them. Within 30 days".
As well as that initiative, the memo added that the company's workforce is "not as diverse as [it] could be", saying that "despite numerous initiatives over the years, we have not made sufficient progress".
In an effort to address this, it says that BMG bosses will now "produce a plan" to ensure that progress is made, while each of the company's twelve international offices will also produce a strategy to fight wider injustice in society. Both, like its contract review, will be done within 30 days.
HMV announces plans for re-opening as COVID-19 shutdown rules are relaxed
Those measures include hand sanitiser stations that customers will be required to use before handling any product in each shop, and extra staff training in a bid to encourage better hygiene and social distancing within the entertainment retail chain's stores.
Two new services are also being added to reduce the time customers need to spend on the premises. 'List And Leave' will allow customers to drop off a list of the products they require. Staff members will then gather up and pack those products which the customer can pick up later in the day.
An alternative 'Ring And Reserve' service means customers can also phone in their list, meanwhile 'Click And Collect' is set to return to the retailer's website. So, good news all round for fans of alliteration.
When customers use one of those services, staff will also recommend other products that might be of interest, in a bid to ensure all-important impulse buying remains part of the high street experience.
All of HMV's 92 stores in England - including four Fopp stores - are re-opening, as is the retailer's Belfast branch. Shops in Scotland and Wales will remain closed for the time being due to different COVID-19 rules being in force there.
Commenting on the big re-opening, HMV owner Doug Putman said: "Our teams have been working on plans to re-open since the day we had to close our doors. We've redesigned our store layouts so that customers can make their way through the stores, buy what they want and pay seamlessly, while [still providing] spaces for those who want to browse while maintaining social distancing".
He added: "We've sought to keep as much of what people love about the HMV and Fopp experience intact and build on the experience whilst ensuring that customers can shop with us comfortably and confidently".
Stormzy pledges £10 million to fight racial inequality
In a statement, the rapper says: "The uncomfortable truth that our country continuously fails to recognise and admit, is that black people in the UK have been at a constant disadvantage in every aspect of life - simply due to the colour of our skin".
"I'm lucky enough to be in the position I'm in and I've heard people often dismiss the idea of racism existing in Britain by saying, 'if the country's so racist how have you become a success?'" he continues.
"I reject that with this: I am not the UK's shining example of what supposedly happens when a black person works hard", he counters. "There are millions of us. We are not far and few. We have to fight against the odds of a racist system stacked against us and designed for us to fail from before we are even born".
"Black people have been playing on an uneven field for far too long and this pledge is a continuation in the fight to finally try and even it", he says.
Further details of how the money will be spent will be announced in the coming days, and Stormzy has urged others in a position to do so to make similar commitments.
Lady Antebellum change name due to association with slave trade
The antebellum era in the US was a period of rapid economic growth in the southern states during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, aided in large part by a reliance on slavery. While the band say that they were not named in direct reference to this period of US history, they add that they are now "regretful and embarrassed" that they chose the word nonetheless.
"After much personal reflection, band discussion, prayer and many honest conversations with some of our closest black friends and colleagues", say the band in a statement, "we have decided to drop the word 'antebellum' from our name and move forward as Lady A, the nickname our fans gave us almost from the start".
"When we set out together almost fourteen years ago, we named our band after the southern 'antebellum' style home where we took our first photos", they explain. "As musicians, it reminded us of all the music born in the south that influenced us - southern rock, blues, R&B, gospel and of course country. But we are regretful and embarrassed to say that we did not take into account the associations that weigh down this word referring to the period of history before the [American] Civil War, which includes slavery".
"We are deeply sorry for the hurt this has caused and for anyone who has felt unsafe, unseen or unvalued", they go on. "Causing pain was never our hearts' intention, but it doesn't change the fact that indeed, it did just that. So today, we speak up and make a change. We hope you will dig in and join us".
The band have also committed to make a charitable donation to the Equal Justice Initiative through their own charitable organisation LadyAID.
Tricky announces new album, Fall To Pieces
"With most of my stuff, there's nothing else like it around," he says. "But with 'Fall Please' I've managed to do something I've never been able to before, which is that everyone can feel it - even people who don't know my music. It's my version of pop music, the closest I've got to making pop".
For many of the tracks on the album - including 'Fall Please' - Tricky is joined by vocalist Marta Złakowska who he discovered on a European tour when he found himself without a singer on the opening night. "I can tell when someone is humble and down to earth", he says. "Marta doesn't care about being famous, she just wants to sing".
The album is out on 4 Sep. Watch the video for 'Fall Please' here.
COVID-19 SUPPORT INITIATIVES
The Independent Label Market has announced an online version of its usually market stall-based event, in partnership with Bandcamp. On 3 Jul, Bandcamp will waive its fees for participating independent record labels. There will be various exclusives, limited editions, signed records, discounts and a line-up of DJs and artists who will be streaming live for 24 hours on the ILM Bandcamp page.
YouTube has launched a $100 million fund "dedicated to amplifying and developing the voices of black creators and artists and their stories", CEO Susan Wojcicki announced yesterday. "We're committed to doing better as a platform to centre and amplify black voices and perspectives", she said, adding that the company would also do more to limit hate speech and harassment on the YouTube platform.
6ix9ine and Nicki Minaj have revisited their controversial partnership on new track 'Trollz'. Minaj said yesterday that a portion of proceeds from merch related to the track would be donated to The Bail Project.
Sigma and John Newman have released new collaboration 'High On You'.
K-pop superstars BTS have announced that they will release new Japanese language album 'Map Of The Soul 7: The Journey' on 14 Jul. In addition to Japanese versions of tracks from their 'Map Of The Soul 7' record, released in February, it will also feature two new songs, 'Stay Gold' and 'Your Eyes Tell'.
Lil Baby has released new track 'The Bigger Picture', in response to the recent Black Lives Matter protests.
Jarvis Cocker's Jarv Is project have released a new single, 'Save The Whale'. The song was inspired, says Cocker, by a childhood hallucination: "I would hear the murmuring of a large crowd accompanied by a visual image of a line-drawing in which all the objects switched rapidly between being smooth and bulbous and then thin and wrinkly", he says. "It used to absolutely terrify me".
Aluna has released new single 'Warrior', featuring SG Lewis. "'Warrior' is a portrait of a woman in the shadows", she says. "She has to see herself, instead of waiting for others, by calling on that Warrior spirit, the one that makes us fearless enough to be ourselves".
Benin City have released new single 'Hostiles'. All proceeds from the track will be donated to Black Lives Matter UK. "We've been emboldened by the protests, in the US and globally, even in the face of rampant police aggression", say the band. "We're a band, what we do best is music, so we're putting this song out, 'Hostiles' is our attempt to put our emotions to art in these shiitake-mushroom times".
Brad Mehldau has released a new album of piano compositions written during and inspired by the COVID-19 lockdown, titled 'Suite: April 2020'. It is, he says, "a musical snapshot of life the last month in the world in which we've all found ourselves. I've tried to portray on the piano some experiences and feelings that are both new and common to many of us". From it, this is 'Remembering Before All This'.
Falle Nioke and Ghost Culture have released a new track from their upcoming EP, 'Youkounkoun', called 'Loneliness'. "I wrote this song because I have felt loneliness", says Nioke. "It's about a man whose wife leaves the village to go to the big city to see family. Since experiencing city life she can't face returning to the quiet village. He can't sleep and any footsteps he hears he is looking for her. Yet when he goes to the door, all he sees is the moon and the stars". The EP is out on PRAH on 10 Jul.
Jonah Yano has released new single 'Strawberry!' The track is taken from his debut album, 'Souvenir', which is out on 21 Jun.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Ed Sheeran sued again over Let's Get It On song-theft claim, plaintiff hopes sneaky trick will strengthen their case
Back in 2016 the heirs of 'Let's Get It On' co-writer Ed Townsend sued Sheeran through the US courts over allegations that he had ripped off the "melody, harmony and rhythm compositions" of the Gaye classic on his 2014 record 'Thinking Out Loud'. A company called Structured Asset Sale then filed its own litigation over the same allegations on the basis it also had a stake in the 'Let's Get It On' copyright.
Both cases have been slowly ambling their way through the legal process ever since. However, the Townsend estate was dealt a knockback in March in the wake of the headline-grabbing ruling in the Ninth Circuit appeals court regarding the 'Stairway To Heaven' song-theft case.
That knockback all relates to the aforementioned copyright technicality. It's generally agreed that under US law songs are only protected by copyright in the form that they were originally registered with the US Copyright Office.
For cases involving older songs this has sometimes proven problematic, because prior to a change in US copyright law in the 1970s, only sheet music could be deposited with the Copyright Office. Which means those older songs are only protected as presented in that sheet music. Any additions made to the song in the studio when it was first recorded are therefore not protected.
That is annoying for the owners of old songs who reckon that upstart pop stars - like that pesky Sheeran chap - have ripped off their work. Because often the elements shared between the old song and the new song in disputes of that kind aren't in the sheet music, but do appear in the original recording of the older work.
After judges in the Led Zep case confirmed that courts must respect this rule in song-theft disputes involving old songs, the judge in the Ed v Ed litigation said that he was now unlikely to allow the Townsend side to play any recordings of 'Let's Get It On' to the jury once the case gets to court. Because jurors must only consider the Gaye song as shown in the original sheet music.
Concerned that this would negatively impact on its case too, Structured Asset Sale came up with a sneaky plan. What if it re-registered the song with the US Copyright Office, this time submitting the original sound recording as the deposit version rather than the sheet music? Then the studio-added elements would be protected by copyright too and they could play the Gaye track in court.
Whether or not that sneaky ruse will work remains to be seen. Structured Asset Sale originally asked to amend its original lawsuit to reference the new copyright registration, but the judge wouldn't let that happen. Hence why it filed a brand new lawsuit earlier this week.
We will now watch with interest how that sneaky trick works out.