|TUESDAY 14 JULY 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Live Nation has hit back at efforts by aggrieved ticket-buyers to access usage data from its ticketing websites arguing that said efforts are an irrelevant "fishing expedition". In the legal sense of course. No one - and we can't stress this enough - is accusing anyone of planning a sea adventure in a bid to demonstrate Live Nation and its Ticketmaster subsidiary abuse their market dominance. Though that does sound like more fun... [READ MORE]|
Live Nation hits back at legal claim seeking access to Ticketmaster website data
This all relates to a lawsuit filed by ticket-buyers Olivia Van Iderstine and Mitch Oberstein who accuse Live Nation and Ticketmaster of abusing their market dominance to charge "extraordinarily high fees" whenever people buy tickets for events. You know, back in those long-forgotten days when there were events.
Live Nation's first response to the lawsuit was that Van Iderstine and Oberstein had both agreed to the live music giant's terms and conditions when buying their respective tickets, and that those terms clearly state that any future grievances must be pursued through an arbitration process rather than a court of law. Therefore Van Iderstine and Oberstein should take their complaint to Live Nation's chosen arbitrator, not the US District Court of California.
The duo of ticket-buyers are currently trying to avoid having to go the arbitration route by arguing that Live Nation buries things like the arbitration obligation on its ticketing websites in the middle of a load of hard-to-find tedious legalese, and therefore that obligation should not be binding.
Is was as part of that argument that Van Iderstine and Oberstein recently asked the courts to force Live Nation to share a load of data relating to its livenation.com and ticketmaster.com websites. The plaintiffs want to show that no one ever clicks on Live Nation's terms and conditions, presumably to suggest that the live music company and its ticketing division deliberately try to hide all those commitments from its customers.
But Van Iderstine and Oberstein can just fuck off with their discovery motion bid to access a load of web traffic data from Live Nation, the live firm has now unsurprisingly stated. Well, what it actually said was: "Plaintiffs' discovery motion is a fishing expedition that has no bearing on defendants' pending motion to compel arbitration. It should be denied".
This is by no means the first time the forced arbitration clause and the "but nobody reads the terms!" argument have come up in disputes between ticket-buyers and Live Nation. The same arguments were made in two relatively recent lawsuits relating to Live Nation's secondary ticketing operations in the US. Which is something Live Nation was keen to stress in its latest legal filing, because in both those cases the court rejected the "but nobody reads the terms!" line and forced arbitration.
The new legal filing says that in the case Lee v Ticketmaster, the Ninth Circuit court very recently confirmed "the blackletter principle" that Live Nation's arbitration clause stands. "In affirming arbitration based on the same Ticketmaster website that is at issue here", it said, "the Ninth Circuit reaffirmed that a plaintiff 'cannot avoid the terms of [the] contract on the ground that he ... failed to read it before signing, especially when he had a legitimate opportunity to review it".
And in the case Dickey v Ticketmaster LLC, "this court reached the same conclusion and compelled arbitration based on nearly identical evidence to what is before the court here, recognising that 'constructive notice is generally clear where the user is actually required to, and does, click a button explicitly agreeing to the terms of the contract, even if the user does not actually read the terms of service'".
Which does seem like pretty solid precedent to back up Live Nation's arguments here. But we'll see if the court sides with the live music firm this time around, or whether it will consider forcing the sharing of Live Nation and Ticketmaster web traffic data to better inform the debate.
US trademark board backs Beyonce in Blue Ivy Carter trademark squabble
Beyonce's BGK Trademark Holdings began the process of trademarking the 'Blue Ivy Carter' brand almost as soon as Blue Ivy Carter was born in 2012. At the time it was speculated that either Beyonce and husband Jay-Z were planning a range of children's clothing or baby products using their newly born child's name or that they were actually seeking to register the trademark to stop other opportunists from doing something similar.
The following year Jay-Z said it was the latter in an interview with Vanity Fair. The magazine quoted the rapper as saying: "People wanted to make products based on our child's name, and you don't want anybody trying to benefit off your baby's name". He added: "For somebody to say - this person had a kid - I'm gonna make a fucking stroller with that kid's name, it's, like, where's the humanity?"
Those comments then became a key part of the trademark squabble that followed. Veronica Morales - who runs a "lifestyle event planning company" called Blue Ivy - opposed Beyonce's trademark application partly on the basis that the musician failed to meet a key criteria for registering a trademark in the US: that being that a registrant must either be currently using or have a "bona fide intention" to use whatever name they are trademarking in whatever sectors they seek protection.
It's a pretty sensible requirement that stops companies from just randomly registering trademarks for a plethora of generic words in all areas of business, either because they might want to use those words at some point in the future or because they want to stop other people from using them now. Or possibly so that they can extort money out of any other company that decides it wants to launch a product or service using those words.
Because of that requirement and Jay-Z's remarks, Morales argued, Beyonce's trademark application should be rejected, even it Trademark Office officials were sympathetic to her attempts to stop people from trying to profit off her daughter's name.
However, Beyonce's company countered that Morales's argument regarding bona fide intent was based entirely on that 2013 Vanity Fair interview, and that the quotes attributed to Jay-Z in said interview were mere "hearsay" that were not sufficient to prove a lack of intent.
The trademark board has basically concurred, noting that Jay-Z himself is not involved in the trademark application and that the Jay-Z remarks included in Morales's claim were based on a journalist's write up of a conversation, rather than direct statements.
In a decision published last week, it noted: "Because [Jay-Z's] statements were made to a reporter, who then wrote and published an article purportedly based on those statements, [his] statements are not only hearsay, they are also a classic example of hearsay within hearsay (multiple hearsay) and therefore are particularly unreliable".
Elsewhere the board also rejected an argument that consumers would confuse Morales's events company Blue Ivy with any Blue Ivy Carter products Beyonce and Jay-Z - or Blue Ivy Carter herself for that matter - may decide to launch in the future.
The decision should allow Beyonce's incredibly long-running trademark application to proceed, unless Morales decides to appeal. Though it doesn't stop Morales from continuing to trade as Blue Ivy or her concurrent attempts to trademark the Blue Ivy brand.
Steve Aoki launches new Latin imprint of Dim Mak
"My fans and friends across Latin America have embraced me with open arms and I'm honoured to be part of a platform for the next generation of Latinx artists", says Aoki. "There are so many unique hybrid sounds brewing up right now, pushing music culture forward".
"Aquihayaquihay are the real deal and they capture what we're trying to do here at Dim Mak En Fuego", he adds. "I'm hyped to announce them as our first official signing to Dim Mak En Fuego".
The new label's Head Of Marketing, Bryan Linares, comments: "As a Salvadorean American who has been a part of Dim Mak for over a decade, it is truly amazing to launch Dim Mak En Fuego".
"The Latin community is in the middle of a creative revolution", he goes on, "having grown up with the internet, technology and immediate access to global culture, younger generations are creating more art and music than ever before. We are in the midst of an unprecedented abundance of talent, and it's an honour to have the opportunity to be a part of this evolution of Latin music, working alongside today and tomorrow's influential artists".
Aquihayaquihay's first single for the new label, 'Ya No Es Igual', was released last week. Watch the video here.
SiriusXM buys Stitcher
The Stitcher deal follows SiriusXM's purchase of podcast distribution network Simplecast last month, while the online advertising company it acquired in 2018 - Adwizz - is also active in the podcasting domain. By buying Stitcher, Sirius XM gets itself another significant podcast aggregator as well as podcast production business and another ad sales network.
The new deal is worth $325 million, albeit with $60 million of that being contingent on certain performance targets being met. Current owner EW Scripps Co paid $4.5 million when it bought the main Stitcher business off Deezer back in 2016, although the ad network part of the company - aka Midroll Media - actually came from an earlier acquisition that cost $55 million. But still, that's a pretty decent mark up for media firm Scripps.
"The addition of Stitcher is an important next step as we continue to develop and strengthen our offering in the fast-growing podcasting market", SiriusXM CEO Jim Meyer declared yesterday. "With Stitcher, we will expand our digital audio advertising presence and look to generate new ways for creators to find and connect with their audiences. Stitcher has a talented team with deep experience in the podcast space, and we look forward to working with them to better meet the needs of creators, advertisers and listeners".
BBC Children In Need matches Stormzy's £10 million pledge to fight racial inequality
"Further to making my pledge last month, I'm happy to hear that the BBC have also taken up my plea for others to pledge", says the rapper. "I'm also pleased to know of their commitment to allow young black people to decide where the money will be spent and I believe this decision is an imperative factor in supporting and strengthening the young black community. We continue to urge others to join us in pledging".
The Children In Need funding will be available as grants to young social entrepreneurs working on projects in their local communities. BBC Radio 1Xtra will support the project, in part by telling the stories of those who receive funding. The BBC's Controller Of Pop Lorna Clarke adds that the broadcaster's other pop music stations are also "committed to telling authentic stories of young 'hard to ignore' lives across the country".
Simon Antrobus, Chief Executive of BBC Children In Need, says of the new funding: "As a charity, we exist to unlock and celebrate the talent in every child and young person; in order to do this, we need to support them to overcome any barriers that stand in their way, including racial injustice".
"Recent events have been a stark reminder that we all have a responsibility to act", he goes on. "BBC Children In Need is committed to playing our part in addressing these issues and creating a fairer society in which young people can thrive. I'm delighted that we will be working alongside Stormzy to make a real difference to young black lives right across the UK".
Full details of the fund and how to apply are yet to be announced.
Tickets go on sale for The Great Escape 2021
CMU will return to curate the TGE delegate programme for the tenth time, with the core CMU+TGE Conference taking place from 12-14 May, each day putting the spotlight on another aspect of the modern music business. Delegates will also have access to a programme of panels and networking events presented by the festival's industry partners, while the professional development programme for early-career music people, TGE Elevate, will also return.
On the festival side, more than 450 acts will perform in more than 30 venues across Brighton, with the usual diverse mix of artists and bands from all of the world, and some extra surprises for the fifteen birthday celebrations.
Announcing that tickets are now on sale for 2021, Rory Bett of TGE promoter MAMA Festivals says: "We are absolutely delighted to be returning to the beautiful Brighton seaside to celebrate The Great Escape's fifteenth birthday next year. Once again, we will be curating a line-up of the best in new music, and a conference schedule like no other. We look forward to welcoming back new and old fans alike to make our 2021 edition truly unforgettable!'
Festival tickets are currently available at the early bird rate of £70, while delegate passes - getting people access to the full conference programme as well as priority access to the festival - are currently available for £180.
Bucks Music Group has signed an administration agreement with the band Gene. "We are very excited to be working with these incredible songs", says Bucks Head Of Sync Jonathan Tester.
Warner Music UK has promoted Victor Aroldoss to Senior Vice President, International Marketing. "Victor is a creative and strategic thinker, with an immense passion for music, and there's no one better placed to champion our artists on an international stage", says Warner UK boss Tony Harlow.
Sony Music Group - which unites the global labels and music publishing businesses of Sony Corp - has appointed Towalame Austin as Executive Vice President, Philanthropy And Social Impact. "It is an honour to join Sony Music Group and deliver on their promise to meaningfully support communities in need", she says. "I look forward to bringing my expertise to the company to help develop its philanthropic and advocacy efforts globally".
Dua Lipa has released the video for 'Hallucinate', from her 'Future Nostalgia' album.
Becky G has released new single 'My Man'. "I always loved the perspective Jenni Rivera sang from on 'La Gran Señora' and thought that it was so different", she says. "It's a unique perspective that is never really shared in songs, so I thought it would be dope to bring an upbeat 2020 Becky G flow to a concept story like that with my Spanglish style".
Kaytranda has released new single 'Look Easy', featuring Lucky Daye.
Influenced by the impressive combination of the Dixie Cups, Salt N Pepa, Bollywood soundtracks and William Onyeabor, The Go! Team are back with new single 'Cookie Scene'. "I wanted to mix the street corner with the intergalactic, to take Detroit to outer space", says the band's Ian Parton.
Kim Petras has released new single 'Broken Glass', featuring Kygo.
Bob Mould has released new single 'Forecast Of Rain'. "I recognise the importance of religion for those who believe", he says of the inspiration for the song. "But right now, I'm having a hard time understanding how certain religious sectarians can support the behaviour of those who occupy the People's House ... I'm not good at quoting scripture, but I can manage two words: Jesus wept".
GIGS & TOURS
Nick Cave has released a trailer for his upcoming solo, audience-less performance at Alexandra Palace in London. The show will be broadcast online on 23 Jul. Tickets are available now.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Billboard updates album bundle rules (again), and cuts off CD single chart boost ruse
Having made drastic changes to how it counts the sales of albums bundled with merch and tickets at the beginning of the year, it's now decided it would probably be better if it didn't count them at all. Sort of. It has also attempted to halt a ruse to boost first week single sales by selling limited edition CD singles that don't actually exist.
Under the new bundling rules, which affect all of Billboard's song and album charts, records bundled with another product as a single priced sale will not be counted. Noting that it's not actually very long since it last updated the rules in this area, the company says it's making these new changes "in an acknowledgement that those measures have fallen short of the intended goal of accurately reflecting consumer intent".
Announced in November last year, the changes put in place in January were implemented to combat the practice of artists simply chucking in a digital album with a ticket purchase and submitting it as a chart eligible sale. There were complaints - notably from Nicki Minaj - that such bundles didn't reflect a fans desire to own an album.
In an effort to ensure some certainty that fans who purchased these bundles actually wanted the album download that was part of the deal, Billboard stated that such bundles must cost at least $3.49 more than the piece of merch or ticket on offer when bought on its own.
It said then that it would also only count bundles sold via an artist's direct-to-fan channels, not via third party sites. The piece of merch or ticket, and the album itself, would also have to be on sale separately too, thank you very much. What's more, the music would only become chart eligible when the download was actually redeemed, not just when the purchase was completed.
Billboard clearly thought that this slightly complicated updating of its rules would get on top of issues surrounding bundles and the various accusations that artists were gaming the system - ie knowing that sales count for more than streams, they artificially boost sales in release week through bundling.
Apparently not though, because Billboard has now thrown up its arms and just said it's not counting bundles at all anymore. Kind of. Well, nearly. But not quite. Because somehow Billboard has managed to make this seemingly simple change slightly complicated again.
Bundles are still allowed, see, but only if presented in a specific way. Basically, to be counted, the bundled album has to be promoted as an add-on to the ticket or merch purchase.
If both items are advertised and sold as single bundle with a single price, that's not going to have any impact on the chart. But if an artist says to a fan who is buying a ticket or some merch "hey, would you like to add a discounted album download to that", then it's chart boost party time. By which I mean, that sale will count towards the chart. Billboard says it believes "that the resulting charts will more accurately reflect consumer choice". Yeah, maybe.
On why bundling has become such a controversial subject, it adds: "Though the sales strategy of bundling albums goes back decades, more recently it has been employed by artists and labels to try and boost album sales, which have been continually falling over the last several years but are worth considerably more than streams on the charts. In 2019, overall album sales dropped 18.7%, making it the fourth year in a row where album sales dropped by at least 10%".
Billboard there is simply confirming a trend that was already pretty apparent. Basically that the extra chart weight of sales versus streams combined with album sales being in free fall has led to many artists simply giving away albums with other sales in order to bump up their chart position. And that doesn't seem like a very accurate reflection of a record's popularity.
You could argue that, if an artist is selling lots of tickets and t-shirts, that does actually mean they are popular, and so an artist's popularity is actually being accurately reflected. But the main Billboard charts are about recordings not artists. Plus it has a separate chart that tallies the popularity of individual artists including merch and ticket sales - and that is not affected by the new rules.
As for why Billboard is making these tweaks now, don't worry, you've not missed a recent bundling bust up between competing artists. It's been quite a while since Nicki Minaj went on the radio and threatened to start a fight with a baby over such things. Basically, this seems to be Billboard tweaking things to close up some loopholes that the previous update uncovered.
Because, of course, it's another tactic used by artists to manipulate the charts that has been in the news more recently, and Billboard is closing that one right up too. Again taking advantage of the added weight of sales over streams in Billboard's chart calculations - and with download sales having slumped to nearly nothing in the US - some artists have begun selling direct-to-fan limited edition CD singles during the first week of a track's release in order to push its debut chart position higher.
This was recently highlighted by 6ix9ine, who was angry that his comeback track 'Gooba' had been denied the US number one by a charity single released by Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber. He actually came up with a convoluted conspiracy theory about why that had happened. Possibly because both he and Grande/Bieber had been running limited edition CD single ruses to try to top the charts. But it just turned out Grande and Bieber had run a better ruse.
In that instance, Bieber and Grande had put on sale a signed CD single that was only available in the final 24 hours before that week's chart cut off. Promoted by both artists through their social media channels, sales were limited to - and arguably fans were encouraged to buy - four copies each. That being the maximum number of sales to an individual that Billboard will allow to be counted towards the chart.
You could argue that was a clear manipulation of chart rules, even though Bieber - hitting back at 6ix9ine's conspiracy theories - dubbed it "strategy". And it seems Billboard reckons it's all a bit sneaky too. Although it's not making such sales chart ineligible, it is now changing the rules so that such "spontaneous" items will only count towards the chart in the week they ship, rather than the week when the sale is made.
This is because, Billboard says, although these items are put on sale to boost first-week chart position, they are usually not shipped until weeks, and sometimes months, later.
Of course, that change might mean that tracks suddenly get a weird late-in-the-day chart boost when the CD singles are sent out. But more likely it's an extra complication that will see the limited edition CD single chart ruse fall out of favour. Which is good for the charts. And also for the environment, if it means that tens of thousands of mostly unwanted CDs are no longer being mailed out to a relatively small number of fans.
"Billboard is implementing these changes to address widespread concerns that an accurate measure of consumer intent - which has been the basis of the Billboard charts since their inception - is being undermined by increasingly-common bundling practices", says the company. "The new guidelines will better ensure that Billboard chart rankings more accurately reflect the conscious purchasing decisions of consumers and level the playing field for all artists".
So that's nice. Although, with such regular charges to Billboard's chart rules, it does get harder and harder to know what a legitimate number one on the charts actually looks like.