|FRIDAY 26 JUNE 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The UK's Competition & Markets Authority yesterday announced that it was launching a more in-depth phase two investigation into Viagogo's acquisition of StubHub. The regulator said Viagogo had not, as yet, addressed its concerns about the transaction... [READ MORE]|
UK regulator launches more in-depth investigation into Viagogo's StubHub acquisition
The often controversial secondary ticketing company Viagogo announced in November that it was buying rival StubHub from its previous owner eBay in a $4 billion deal. The 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 (so much so they have stayed separate worldwide).
A more formal phase one investigation into the deal was then launched by the CMA in April. Earlier this month, the regulator said it was giving Viagogo five days to address various concerns that had been raised during that process, adding that a "clear cut solution" was required.
With no such clear cut solution being proposed and the concerns therefore remaining, a more in-depth phase two investigation will now take place, which could result in the CMA demanding remedies or blocking the UK side of the deal entirely.
If you'd prefer that update expressed with some quality CMA legalese, here you go: "Pursuant to section 73A(1) of the act, on 18 Jun 2020, the merging parties offered undertakings to the CMA that might be accepted by the CMA under section 73(2) of the Enterprise Act 2004. Following an assessment of these undertakings, the CMA considers that the proposed undertakings offered by the parties are not a clear-cut solution to the competition concerns identified as arising from the merger".
"Accordingly", it goes on, "the CMA has decided not to exercise its discretion under section 73(2) of the act to accept undertakings in lieu of reference. Therefore, pursuant to sections 22(1) and 34ZA(2) of the act, the CMA has decided to refer the merger to its chair for the constitution of a group under Schedule 4 to the Enterprise And Regulatory Reform Act 2013 to conduct a phase two investigation".
The anti-touting campaign group FanFair welcomed the news of a phase two investigation. Campaign Manager Adam Webb said: "Over recent years, there have been major steps forward in the UK to eradicate the bad practices of sites like Viagogo and StubHub and those of the large-scale ticket touts who dominate their supply chain. They have agreed to reforms grudgingly. It took a court order and escalated warnings from the CMA to force Viagogo's compliance with a whole range of consumer protection laws. The company's treatment of UK audiences has been scandalous".
"Even in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, the thought of such a business monopolising 'for profit' secondary ticketing remains highly problematic", he went on. "Viagogo's predatory marketing practices and business model continue to endanger audiences, and its $4.05bn acquisition of StubHub raises acute competition concerns, particularly in the UK. Earlier this month, Viagogo was required to deliver a clear-cut solution to address these concerns. They have failed to do this. FanFair Alliance therefore welcomes the CMA's decision to refer the merger for an in-depth investigation".
Viagogo and StubHub told Reuters that they would continue to work with the regulator on the more in-depth phase two review, adding: "During this period, the StubHub and Viagogo brands and operations will continue to be held separate as agreed with the CMA".
Justin Bieber sues over sexual assault allegations
Earlier this week, Bieber posted a series of tweets denying a claim that he sexually assaulted a fan at the Four Seasons hotel in Austin, Texas in 2014. Saying that it was "factually impossible" for this to have happened, despite him being in the city at the time, he posted various documents supporting his defence.
The anonymous claim was posted by someone identifying themselves only as 'Danielle', and the Twitter account they used had been deleted before Bieber even responded.
As well as 'Danielle', a second defendant named Kadi is included in the lawsuit. After the original claim was posted, she posted a statement of her own. In it, she said that she believed 'Danielle' and wrote her own account of an alleged attack by Bieber in a hotel room. This was also later deleted.
Bieber says that Kadi is a superfan who has waited outside hotels for him on a number of occasions. Despite this, he says, they have never met. In fact, it is noted, she has posted a number of tweets since the date of her alleged attack saying that she has never met Bieber and one day hopes to.
In the lawsuit, Bieber says Kadi's claims are also impossible, because when that assault is alleged to have taken place he was at a Met Gala afterparty, and he has photographic evidence to prove it.
The lawsuit, according to TMZ, calls the second claim "an elaborate hoax" and an "impossibility - a poor, but damaging, fabrication". It also posits that Kadi was in fact also behind the original accusation, or that she is working in coordination with another fan in an effort to damage his reputation.
Bieber is seeking $20 million in damages.
Backed by TaP Music, Chicago house pioneers sue Trax Records
According to the lawsuit filed with the courts in Illinois, "this case involves an all-too familiar story of the early days of the music industry. Talented, but unrepresented, musicians hungry for their first break were lulled into a business relationship with an unscrupulous record company that made promises it never intended to keep and masqueraded as paternalistic benefactors for those artists – like a wolf in sheep's clothing".
"The musicians sometimes signed away valuable rights to their music for consideration that was not merely inadequate, but it was never paid", it goes on. "Even worse, the record company exploited the artists' other musical works with neither permission nor licence to further reap the fruits of their creative output".
It concludes: "Eventually, the artists were relegated to mere commodities whose professional names were slapped onto vinyl records or other goods exploited by the record company to lure consumers who understood that the artist's professional name was a sign of great value".
Chicago-based Trax Records was co-founded in 1984 by Larry Sherman, who died in April this year. When reporting on his death, the Chicago Sun-Times noted that while Sherman and his label were "instrumental in developing house music", he also "left a complex legacy within Chicago's house music community". Over the years multiple artists signed to the label had complained about their treatment and unpaid royalties.
Rachael Cain - who, after signing to the label as an artist, was involved in various business ventures with Sherman, later becoming President of Trax - acknowledged some of those controversies at the time of his death, telling the Sun-Times "he's a controversial figure". But she insisted that in recent years Sherman had been trying to sort out the payment of past royalties, partly via litigation with a former distribution partner.
Heard - aka Mr Fingers - worked with Trax in the mid-1980s. Along the way he signed a number of agreements with the label on the back of which Trax exploited various songs and recordings he had made, some of which were collaborations with Owens. The label also registered some of those works with the US Copyright Office.
However, the lawsuit argues, those agreements didn't cover all the tracks that the label has been exploiting, they only talked about the song copyrights and not any accompanying recording rights, and - although the documents were titled 'Assignment Of Copyright (Musical Composition) - at least two of them were in fact mechanical licensing agreements rather than contracts that transferred the ownership of any copyright.
Therefore, the lawsuit argues, not only has the label failed to pay Heard and Owens the royalties they are due, it never had to rights to exploit any of the recordings, nor many of the songs, nor to register itself as the owner of some of those works with the Copyright Office.
"At best, [these] documents were ambiguous", the lawsuit adds. "At worst, they constituted unconscionable contracts of adhesion which would result in decades of revenue streams flowing only to Trax (or other entities formed and operated by Sherman and Cain), with Heard deriving virtually no economic benefit from their exploitation by defendants".
Both Heard and Owens are now signed to the publishing division of London-based music firm TaP, who are supporting them in pursuing this somewhat late-in-the-day legal action against Trax.
Commenting on that support, TaP Music boss Ben Mawson says that he and his company's co-founder Ed Millett "have always been passionate about electronic music and signing two pioneers of house music, Larry and Robert, to TaP Music Publishing, is a source of great pride to us".
"We are delighted to be able to support their claim against Trax Records", he goes on, "who have behaved abominably over the years to many artists signed to them. We would ask any such affected artists to reach out to us and we will endeavour to support them however we can. Hopefully those in control at Trax now decide to do the right thing, after many years of shocking disregard for their artists".
Heard himself says of the litigation: "After doing several releases independently, it was so disappointing that my earliest ventures into the music business was with a label in the community that turned out to be dishonest, like with many other artists that we hear about all too often. We are simply seeking justice and fairness. Maybe our efforts will shed light on the many predatory practices that have been in place for a long time in this industry".
The aforementioned Cain is a defendant in the lawsuit. Asked about the litigation by Law360, her legal rep blamed the lost royalties on a Canadian company called Casablanca Trax Inc, which previously had a licensing and distribution deal with Trax Records.
There had been a long-running legal battle between those two companies, Cain's rep said. His client ultimately won that legal battle, but Casablanca is yet to pay up. "Rachael Cain has been fighting for a long time to get these artists paid", her lawyer argued. "She just hasn't received the monies from the parties responsible in order to pay them".
However, the lawyer leading on Heard and Owens' litigation dubbed that response "feeble". Robert Maloni of law firm Meloni & McCaffrey told CMU: "Rachael Cain's response to the damning allegations of this lawsuit is not unlike her saying the 'dog ate my homework'. Her feeble excuses just will not fly in the context of a federal litigation where Trax, for the first time in its history, will be forced to face the harsh light of truth. In the end, the facts - and Larry Heard and Robert Owens - will prevail".
Glastonbury "would seriously go bankrupt" if forced to cancel in 2021 too
The festival, Michael Eavis tells the Guardian, has financial reserves to see it through one cancellation – including covering its charitable commitments. However, he says, "we haven't got unlimited resources". And, while everyone hopes that the 2021 festival season will go ahead unhindered, no one really knows how long the impact of COVID-19 will continue to be felt.
"We have to run next year, otherwise we would seriously go bankrupt", he goes on. "It has to happen for us, we have to carry on. Otherwise it will be curtains. I don't think we could wait another year".
"We've navigated choppy waters so many times", adds Emily Eavis. "This festival has always evolved and found ways to survive, and I'm confident that we will again", she continued, adding that they have "drafted and modelled" four contingency plans if COVID-19 remains an issue next summer.
Many other events, artists and venues are facing much more urgent challenges as a result of COVID-19, she adds, before calling on the UK government to ensure that the live business does not collapse. Local authorities refunding licence fees for cancelled 2020 events, she says, "would offer a financial lifeline to many events".
Beyond that, she continues: "The UK government is going to need to step up and support the British arts more broadly. This country's venues, theatres, festivals, performers and crew bring so much to this country financially and culturally, but they need support now. Otherwise, I think we face the very real possibility of so many aspects of our culture disappearing forever".
Glastonbury, of course, should have been celebrating its 50th anniversary this weekend. Speaking on BBC Radio 6 Music yesterday morning, Emily Eavis said that plans for next year are to roll as much of this year's line-up over to 2021 as possible, while also squeezing in the things that were already planned for next year, resulting in a "double celebration".
"We're trying to transfer lots of the ideas and lots of the plans that we had to next year and in terms of areas I think we're in a really good place", she said. "Because we're rolling two festivals together for 2021 we've got a hell of a lot of surprises and things that we were planning for the 50th and I think we're going to try and get those things going for next year".
"So logistically it's a little bit complicated because we'd already pencilled in many, many of the acts for 2021", she concluded. "It was one of those very unusual years where we were quite far ahead - two years ahead on the line-up".
Marc Geiger confirms he is departing WME
"Under Marc's leadership, WME's music division has become a global powerhouse", Lloyd Braun of WME parent company Endeavor said yesterday. "During his tenure, Marc led countless agency initiatives and 'firsts' for the music industry, including the creation of festivals and EDM divisions and building out WME's leading London and Sydney music teams. We thank Marc for his countless contributions to WME and wish him all the best going forward".
Geiger himself added: "The past seventeen years have been an incredible ride, and I've been fortunate to work with some of the world's best artists and colleagues. I'm proud of all that we accomplished, most especially the team we built during my time with the agency. I know they will achieve great things in the future".
Geiger's departure isn't the only change at the top of WME's music division. Sara Newkirk Simon, who was one of a team of three agents with the title Head Of Music, will move over to a consulting role with the wider Endeavor group. UK-based Lucy Dickins, who joined WME from rival agency ITB last year, will now join that team of three music heads, alongside incumbents Scott Clayton and Kirk Sommer.
No reasons were given for Geiger exiting the company, although all the big talent agencies have been in a state of flux in recent months as the COVID-19 shutdown has had a major impact on their operations and revenues.
Dixie Chicks drop the Dixie, become The Chicks
Unlike with Lady Antebellum's name change to Lady A, the Dixie Chicks' announcement did not come with a lengthy statement about the decision. Or any statement at all, really. Simply, their new single, 'March, March', arrived yesterday and it was credited as being by The Chicks.
Like Lady Antebellum, the Dixie Chicks are switching to a new name that is already used by another artist. However, while 60s New Zealand-based sister duo The Chicks are no longer actively performing, the US band do seem to have at least asked for permission first.
Confirming this - and, by association, the name change - a spokesperson for The (Dixie) Chicks told Pitchfork: "A sincere and heartfelt thank you goes out to The Chicks of NZ for their gracious gesture in allowing us to share their name. We are honoured to co-exist together in the world with these exceptionally talented sisters. Chicks rock!"
The Dixie Chicks announced plans earlier this year to release their first album for fourteen years, 'Gaslighter'. It was after Lady Antebellum changed their name that Jeremy Helligar penned an op-ed for Variety, suggesting that the Dixie Chicks should follow suit.
The word 'dixie', he wrote, is "the epitome of white America, a celebration of a Southern tradition that is indivisible from black slaves and those grand plantations where they were forced to toil for free ... For many black people, it conjures a time and a place of bondage. If a 'Dixie'-loving Southerner today insists the word merely represents a deep appreciation of their homeland, they're probably white".
While the band haven't spoken about their reasoning for changing their name, the new single and its video do have a protest theme, so it seems likely that they took Helligar's words on board. Watch the video for 'March, March' here.
Max Richter announces new album based on the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights
"I like the idea of a piece of music as a place to think, and it is clear we all have some thinking to do at the moment", says Richter. "We live in a hugely challenging time and, looking around at the world we have made, it's easy to feel hopeless or angry. But, just as the problems we face are of our own making, so their solutions are within our reach, and the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights is something that offers us a way forward. Although it isn't a perfect document, the declaration does represent an inspiring vision for the possibility of a better and kinder world".
The Universal Declaration Of Human Rights was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948, following the Second World War. It was drafted by a group of philosophers, artists and other thinkers brought together by Eleanor Roosevelt. Her voice can be heard in a recording made the following year at the beginning of Richter's album.
Roosevelt's isn't the only voice that appears on the record. As well as drafting in actor Kiki Layne to provide narration throughout, in preparing for the recording Richter crowdsourced readings of the Declaration. He received submissions from all around the world, in more than 70 languages.
The piece received its world premiere at the Barbican in London in February this year, with twelve double basses, 24 cellos, six violas, eight violins and a harp being employed. "It came out of this idea of the world being turned upside down, our sense of what's normal being subverted, so I have turned the orchestra upside down in terms of the proportion of instruments", he explains.
Elsewhere in Max Richter news, he's also announced that his very successful 'Sleep' album is being turned into an app, five years after its original release. It sees the eight hour piece reworked into personalised sessions for chosen periods based on different themes. Richter has also written a new alarm sound to wake you up, and it features various planetary animations in the event that you want to stay awake and look at something.
"I'm happy that the 'Sleep' app is finally with us", says Richter. "It has been a labour of love for all involved and it has turned out beautifully. The way that the app allows listeners to make a unique and personal journey through the landscape of 'Sleep' is remarkable and conveys the spirit of the music in a completely new way".
The app is available now. 'Voices' is set for release on 31 Jul. You can hear a track from it, 'All Human Beings', here.
Universal Music has signed Chinese singer Sunnee - a former member of the girl group Rocket Girls 101 - to a global record deal. "Working with UMG, what hit me the most, is the uncompromising pursuit of high quality music", she says. "I feel so privileged that I'm able to collaborate with top producers and songwriters here, and what I want to express through music is becoming clearer and clearer". Her first single under the deal, 'By Your Side', is out now.
Pan-European collecting society grouping GESAC announced SACEM CEO Jean-Noël Tronc as its new President at its (virtual) AGM this week. "Under the current crisis, GESAC faces one of the greatest challenges of its existence, that demands steadfastness and determination, namely with the European Commission, in order to defend the authors, their societies and as well as culture itself", says outgoing President, José Jorge Letria. "The new board, which I am honoured to continue to be a part of, will have the ability, with Jean-Nöel Tronc as President, to find the best solutions and answers".
Bring Me The Horizon have released new single 'Parasite Eve'. The song "came from an idea to write a survival horror song, but as the pandemic started to develop, the parallels were so similar it felt so close to the bone we decided to shelve it", says frontman Oli Sykes. "As time went on, we started to feel how relevant it was and that instead of shying from it, that we should address the dark side, embrace it and process what's going on. 'Parasite Eve' is our message of hope, wrapped in sadness and anger".
Footage of Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen's final performances feature in a new short film, culled from two shows earlier this year promoting his recent 'Rejoice' album with Hugh Masekela. Speaking about the film prior to his death in April, Allen said: "I played two shows in London in March, which were meant to be the first of many 'Rejoice' shows this year. It was good to be playing these songs on stage so many years after the recording".
Dirty Projectors have put out new EP 'Flight Tower' and released the video for a song from it, 'Self Design'. In a statement accompanying the release, the band said: "Our time here is short and every day is precious. Black lives matter. Defund the police".
Jonas Blue has released new single 'Naked', featuring Max.
Fantastic Negrito has released new single 'I'm So Happy I Cry', featuring Tarriona 'Tank' Ball. "I was really inspired to write 'I'm So Happy I Cry' the day after reading of Juice Wrld's death", Negrito says. "There are so many young artists suffering from what I perceive as mental illness. Imagine having everything you want in the world and still feeling the need to medicate until it kills you ... I want to warn them that they are surrounded by people and companies who profit from the destruction of their mind, bodies, souls and ultimately their community".
Lapalux will release new EP 'Esravoinma' through Brainfeeder on 3 Jul, featuring three new tracks and reworkings of others from his 'Amnioverse' album. Here's one of the new ones, '51 Endless Pulse'.
KO has released new single 'Captain'.
Boris have announced that they will release new album 'No' on 11 Jul. From it, this is 'Loveless'.
GIGS & FESTIVALS
Trivium will perform a livestreamed show from Full Sail University in Florida on 10 Jul. Tickets are on sale here. "We had to get creative when we heard there was no touring this summer", say the band. "We held off on the Zoom concerts and asked our creative/production team to come up with the biggest real-time live metal streaming event of the summer and what we now have to present to you is our show called 'A Light Or A Distant Mirror'".
Lianne La Havas has announced that she will livestream a performance from the Roundhouse in London on 15 Jul at 8pm UK time. Tickets are available here. With her new eponymous album out on 17 Jul, she's also put out a cover of Radiohead's 'Weird Fishes'.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Sony Music launches virtual backgrounds for Zoom calls
One affect of all this not going outside, of course, has been a new rise of the video call, as people try to find ways to stay in touch with friends, colleagues, family and other pub quiz teams. And while we all had several video calling options already available on our phones, for some reason we all started downloading the previously little known Zoom to facilitate all this extra video calling. Why? Well, "you can change your background" was one of the things people would eagerly tell you.
Now, of course, lockdown restrictions are being lifted and people can start to see friends, family and - possibly - pub quiz teams in the real world again. Plus the novelty of changing those backgrounds for each call has long since worn off. So, I think you'd all agree, now is the perfect time for Sony Music to launch a range of music-themed video conferencing backgrounds for you all to download.
Though, that said, getting this gimmick off the ground doesn't appear to have involved all that heavy an investment in building a website or cropping the images to the right size - both of which appear to have taken around ten minutes. And Sony already owns all the artwork.
So, presumably, everyone in the digital marketing department has been too busy doing the online colouring thing they launched last month to spend too much time on this kind of thing.
The Rick Astley backdrop previously mentioned is actually one of the better ones. It places you against the location of the 'Never Gonna Give You Up' video, which you will know, but which might not be immediately obvious to others on the call. In fact, you could make it the first question in your pub quiz!
Others simply feature album artwork from artists such as Britney Spears, Judas Priest, Nas, Nsync, Willie Nelson and the Wu-Tang Clan. That is a festival I would go to. There are also no less than three different Baby Shark backgrounds. Get yours at the Iconic Music Backgrounds website now.