|FRIDAY 6 NOVEMBER 2020||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Live Nation yesterday used an investor update to big up the enduring demand for live entertainment; talk about some plans, systems and technologies that will help get live music back up and running next year; and then - in a super reassuring tone - make some statements about liquidity and cost management. Though what most people would have taken away from the update is that the live giant's quarter three revenues were down 95% year-on-year, resulting in losses of about $319 million... [READ MORE]|
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Live Nation summer revenues down 95%, but company talks of cautious optimism and being prepared
Of course, those headline stats are in no way surprising, simply hammering home the impact of COVID-19 on live entertainment. As Live Nation boss Michael Rapino mused in his investor update: "There have been no major changes in our business conditions or outlook over the past three months, and while we see signs of promise around the world as some live events return, most regions we operate in continue to have various restrictions on live events".
The quarter three figures were slightly less bad than quarter two, when revenues were down 98% with losses of $568 million. Though the slight improvements in quarter three probably aren't really worth bragging about. And Live Nation didn't. Instead, the stats Rapino was most keen to share related to how many music fans have chosen to keep hold of tickets for postponed shows and how well ticket sales were doing for the 2021 editions of the company's music festivals.
Fan demand for live entertainment remained high, he said. "Our sales and survey data tell us fan demand will be there when the time is right. Our refund rate on rescheduled shows remains consistently low, with 83% of fans globally keeping their tickets. Our recent global survey indicates that 95% of fans are planning to return to live music events when restrictions are lifted, the highest point of confidence since the start of the pandemic".
On the festivals front, he went on: "Festival on-sales for next year have been strong, with EDC Las Vegas 2021 sold out in less than 24 hours at a higher capacity than last year, and with ticket sales for Reading, Creamfields and Isle of Wight festivals in the UK all pacing ahead of last year at this time".
He also shared some albeit cautious optimism about when live entertainment will be able to resume, despite the current second surge of COVID in many countries. "We are encouraged by progress on testing technology, treatments and vaccines, which helps us build our plans", he said. "We still expect shows at scale next summer, but recognise that the exact timeline of this return will vary by region, and so we continue to focus on remaining flexible".
That partly means getting ready to run shows with extra restrictions, for when COVID rules are sufficiently relaxed to allow commercially viable concerts, but some extra regulations are still in place. Rapino talked about the technology solutions being developed by Live Nation's ticketing business Ticketmaster, and the 'set of standards' being honed by the company's promoters and venues so that they are ready to go during that viable-but-still-restricted phase.
"We are collaborating with health experts to create show guidelines that put in place procedures which can adapt to various situations, across all regions", he told investors. "From venue sanitation procedures to fan-friendly policies on ticket purchases and the latest testing options, we are setting standards that will give fans, crews and artists peace of mind before, during and after the show".
So, the preparations have been made, the tech is ready to go. But now, like the entire live sector, Live Nation has to sit and wait, and tackle the uncertainty of when, exactly, things will start to return to something nearing normal, on both a country by country and global basis.
Music and night-time industries welcome extension of COVID furlough, but say issues still need to be addressed
There are two main schemes, one for employees usually referred to as the furlough scheme, and one for the self-employed called the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme. Employers in the UK live music and night-time entertainment sectors have relied heavily on the furlough scheme to date, while many of the high number of freelancers in the music community have also utilised SEISS (or, at least, those that qualify for it have).
The two schemes have evolved since the original lockdown began in March, becoming less generous as the months have gone by. Replacement schemes were then due to kick in this month reducing the available subsidy yet again (albeit to a lesser extent than originally planned after a bit of a backlash).
However, when it was confirmed last week that a new national four week lockdown would go into force across England in a bid to tackle a second surge in COVID cases, it was announced that the original more generous furlough and SIESS programmes would be reinstated for the month of November.
Those more generous programmes have now been extended further, with furlough available until 31 Mar and a higher level of SEISS funding applying for the next three months, not just this month.
Given that the live music and night-time entertainment sectors are still likely to be facing huge challenges even if the current more strict lockdown in England does end after four weeks, representatives for both industries have welcomed the extension. However, they add, more needs to be done.
Michael Kill, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association, said last night: "While the crisis deepens and we move into a national lockdown for 28 days, we welcome the somewhat belated furlough update until March next year. The furlough scheme will absolutely help preserve jobs within the sector".
However, he added, many night-time businesses face other challenges beyond paying wages, with rent a particular concern. Other COVID-related rules stop landlords from taking action over unpaid rent until the end of the year, but that doesn't stop those businesses from having to deal with ever-mounting rent-related debts, Kill pointed out.
"We appreciate that safety is paramount", he added, "but at some point we've got to consider the human element here and the immense pressure that individuals, venues owners, staff and freelancers are under at the moment given the current financial, economic, cultural and social wellbeing environments that are being presented by government, particularly around our sector".
Meanwhile, Deborah Annetts of the Incorporated Society Of Musicians also welcomed the latest extensions. "We are delighted that the government has extended the coronavirus job retention scheme until the end of March and is increasing support for the self-employed to 80% of trading profits across the November to January period", she said.
"Today's announcement is the third change to SEISS in a short period", she then noted, "following the ISM's tireless campaigning on this issue. We told the government that their initial approach was insufficient and they have listened, benefitting thousands of musicians who cannot work while performance venues remain closed".
That said, a key issue remains that many music industry organisations have been campaigning on ever since the COVID shutdown began, that being all the freelancers who do not qualify for SEISS, either because of the way they have structured their self-employment or because of a relatively recent change in circumstances.
"As we have said each time the government changes the level of SEISS", Annetts added, "the grant only benefits those able to receive it. An estimated three million self-employed workers continue to be excluded from receiving it at all, so expanding the eligibility criteria remains essential for preventing an exodus of highly skilled talent from our world-leading arts sector".
Google told to stop selling keywords to unofficial ticket sellers in France
Those opposed to secondary ticketing have long criticised search engines, and especially Google, for their role in helping touts and resale platforms unofficially sell tickets to shows.
Platforms like Viagogo and StubHub have traditionally spent a lot of money with Google buying so called 'keywords'. This often means that when people search for an artist's name and the word "tickets" on the search engine, a Viagogo or StubHub page where touts are selling those tickets will come at the top of the search list.
Because many consumers don't realise that the top listing on Google is often there because a company paid for it to be there, they are likely to assume that whichever website comes top of the list is the official seller of tickets for any one show. But, of course, if it's a Viagogo or StubHub page that comes top, that's definitely not the case.
Google itself has sought to overcome this confusion to an extent by mandating that secondary ticketing sites buying keywords must make it clear to customers that they are marketplaces for resellers, and not official primary ticketing agents.
Those rules have had some impact on some resale sites in terms of them better communicating their marketplace status. And at times Google has refused to sell keywords to Viagogo because it is not properly complying with the rules. However, many secondary ticketing critics would argue Google's rules don't go far enough and/or are not effectively enforced.
Anyway, back to France, which is notable for being a country that introduced pretty strict regulations of secondary ticketing all the way back in 2012. Under French law, it is illegal to sell tickets without the permission of an event's promoter.
However, the question posed by French live industry trade group PRODISS in its recent legal battle with Google was as follows: does that law mean that the search engine is legally obliged to refuse to sell keywords to websites that are selling or reselling tickets to French events without the permission of the promoters?
Which is to say, did the web giant need to enforce the laws of France as well as the laws of Google when doing business with secondary ticketing companies?
In a judgement confirmed this week, a court in Paris answered that question with simple "oui". Google is not allowed to sell keywords to advertisers selling or reselling tickets to French shows without a promoter's permission. And that's the rule whether the advertiser is based in France or not. Google now has a month to execute the ruling.
The French court also ruled that Google was liable for reputational damage in relation to people and companies operating in the live music business, as consumers may have been given the false impression that promoters and artists were benefiting from the price hikes that are common on the secondary ticketing market.
Commenting on the outcome of the PRODISS-led case, the pan-European campaign against for-profit ticket touting, FEAT, said the ruling "is significant as it is an acknowledgement of the role that advertising platforms play in illegal sales: far from being viewed as passive, they must accept responsibility for their role in facilitating illegal activity".
AEG calls reworked planning application for MSG Sphere venue "hopelessly inadequate"
The MSG Sphere will be - if planning is approved - the Madison Square Garden Company's first major venue outside the US, and it aims to be particularly eye-catching. The design of the building includes an LED 'skin' covering its visible area entirely, which can be used to display images and video, including adverts.
This skin formed part of a number of objections to the proposed new venue put forward by railway operator Network Rail in September. It raised concerns about the effect the glare from the building would have on the drivers of trains using nearby railway lines. Network Rail also brought up issues relating to safety at Stratford Station. However, after MSG's plans were recently resubmitted, the rail operator withdrew its objections.
Now AEG has submitted its own objections to the revised plans, with transport still a key issue. It states that the "safe and efficient movement of visitors to and from The O2 relies heavily on there being sufficient capacity on Jubilee Line trains when they reach North Greenwich".
The problem, argues AEG, is that "MSG Sphere passengers will depart Stratford heading west [towards Greenwich] at the same time as visitors departing from events at The O2". And, in "worst case scenarios", audiences from events at the also Stratford-based London Stadium could also be flowing onto the local transport system as well.
"This would leave no capacity on the trains at North Greenwich for the arena's visitors", it says, "leading to transport chaos and the risk of [audience members] missing onward connections home and becoming stranded".
AEG also takes aim at the glare from a building completely covered in lights, saying that no proper assessment has been made regarding the implications of this on nearby residents. It says that independent experts should be brought in to assess this.
"MSG's additional planning submissions are hopelessly inadequate", it claims in a statement reckoning that AEG, which is also building a Sphere venue in Las Vegas, hasn't taken into account issues relating to constructing such a venue in London, let alone "the specific constraints of the Stratford Site". As a result, it is "breaching planning policy in several areas".
Again insisting that "we do not oppose competition in the live entertainment sector, or another large music venue in London", the statement goes on to say that this one should not be built so close to The O2, the aforementioned London Stadium, and its neighbouring Copper Box venue.
"It is imperative that [MSG's venue] does not add to congestion or overcrowding in this area of the city, or on the public transport network, especially the Jubilee Line which is critical for the movement of guests to and from The O2", the statement goes on.
"We believe that MSG's scheme is fundamentally the wrong proposal, in the wrong location, and is technically seriously flawed", AEG goes on. "It appears far from being conceived to reflect its locality, MSG have taken their original concept developed for downtown Las Vegas and transposed it directly onto a tight and constrained site overlooked by hundreds of residential properties in Stratford".
"As proposed the Sphere would directly negatively impact the safe operation of The O2, and the health and wellbeing of local residents", it continues. "Eighteen months since first being lodged, and despite dozens of additional planning application documents, MSG have failed to address conflicting reports, or substantiate and justify the wider impacts of the development, despite objections from statutory consultees and the London Legacy Development Corporation's requests for further information".
"On this basis, AEG requests that the application should be withdrawn", it concludes, "and the applicant asked to reconsider their plans for the site".
Plans for the MSG venue were first announced in February 2018. It is planned to have a capacity of between 17,500 and 21,500, and as well as the LED skin MSG promises other technological innovations including super high-quality audio and some virtual reality stuff.
When the initial request for planning permission was submitted in March last year, AEG immediately piped up with concerns. Many of those concerns remain unchanged now - it said way back then that it wasn't opposed to competition, but felt that this venue would be too close to The O2, and thus impact on transport congestion in the area.
UK livestreaming platform Driift announces international expansion
Formally launched in August by Ric Salmon and Brian Message of ATC Management, the company has already put on ticketed livestream shows from artists including Nick Cave, Laura Marling, Biffy Clyro, Dermot Kennedy, Lianne La Havas and Sleaford Mods. This weekend it is set to host performances from Kylie Minogue and Niall Horan.
Announcing the international expansion, Salmon says: "In what's been a tough year, the growth of paid-for livestreaming has provided our industry with one of its few shoots of optimism. At Driift, we believe this is a format with enormous untapped potential, and one where the pandemic has unlocked previously unforeseen demand for unique, one-off, artist-led events".
"That demand has been strongly evident across Australia and New Zealand, which made expanding our operations down under an obvious step", he goes on. "With Nick and Kylie, Driift has already worked with two iconic Australians, and by bringing the experience of Sloanie onto the team we look forward to working with many more over the coming weeks and months. There's some exciting announcements ahead".
Who's Sloanie? Well, that's Paul Sloan, who will lead Driift's Australian business and who says: "In this weird year I've been horrified by the amount of artists dropping their pants, literally and financially, by offering free, poorly produced livestreams in their underwear. What the industry needs now is another mechanism other than live performance to ensure artists and all their connected industry partners can still connect with fans and survive in a world where physical shows are just so uncertain and unreliable".
"I was so relieved to see Driift enter the market and to solve this problem with a model that honours the music and the art, and that is artist-centric, with strong creative direction and high production values", he goes on. "I hate things that ignore the fact we are in a business about feelings, so am very proud to be involved with Driift as an enterprise that leans towards the artists, respects the music and delivers worthwhile and memorable streaming experiences".
"I think this curated approach will become one of the primary tools the artists and industry use to navigate us through these dark times - and beyond", he concludes. "I'm looking forward to seeing some great stuff happen with this great team".
The company's first Australia and New Zealand-based shows will be announced in the coming weeks.
Radio 1 announces loads of presenter changes
"I've had two years of being called a part-timer by the listeners for deserting them on Fridays so it's time I actually put a shift in and be with them all week", says James. "And in any case, I'd only be at home looking for stupid things online so I might as well go and share the nonsense with everyone".
But there's more. Sian Eleri takes over Radio 1's 'Chillest Show', Gemma Bradley will host 'Introducing', Arielle Free gets 'Radio 1 Dance' and 'Early Breakfast' Monday to Thursday, Adele Roberts goes to 'Weekend Early Breakfast', while Matt Edmondson and Mollie King will co-host 1pm-4pm Friday to Sunday. Friday's 'Early Breakfast' is being handed to a rotating cast of emerging presenters: Joel Mitchell, Mollie Finn and Fee Mak.
"This is a really exciting time for Radio 1 as we prepare to welcome the next generation of talent", says Head of Radio 1, Aled Haydn Jones. "Sian and Gemma are going to bring some brilliant energy to our weekend line-up, and with our new Friday morning rotation we're going to be hearing from some fantastic new presenters over the coming months".
"The listener is at the heart of everything we do at Radio 1, and we look forward to introducing a fresh new schedule as we continue to deliver the entertainment, escapism and new music that our audiences know and love", he goes on.
It's not all new presenters taking things over, though. Some people are leaving too. Huw Stephens, Phil Taggart and Dev have all announced that they are leaving the station at the end of the year. None of them have yet announced their future plans, but we will find out if they're going to Apple or Spotify in due course.
UK Music Video Awards presented at virtual ceremony
The big winner of the night was the video for DJ Shadow's 'Rocket Fuel', directed by Sam Piling. It took the Best International Hip Hop/Grime/Rap Video and Video Of The Year prizes, while editor Ellie Johnson took Best Editing and colourist Thomas Mangham took Best Colour Grading.
The Weeknd took two prizes. The video for his track 'Blinding Light', directed by Anton Tammi, was named Best International Pop Video and Alex Lill's live video for 'Heartless' – shot backstage at 'The Late Show With Stephen Colbert' – won Best Live Video. Anton Tamm also won Director Of The Year.
"A UKMVAs awards ceremony like no other - hosted by Becca Dudley from a studio in West London rather than the usual big event at The Roundhouse - was still a huge celebration of the creativity and craft of music videos of the past year", says UKMVA editorial director David Knight. "Becca spoke to winners in London, Paris, LA and elsewhere - mostly in their homes, although Matt Walker was out for a drive with Skepta when he found out he'd won his award! Congrats to all the winners, and here's to a proper party next year".
I think they might have just inadvertently outing some lockdown rule-flouting there, but hey, speaking of which, what was the Best Lockdown Video? Well, take a look for yourself. I mean, here are all the winners:
Best Production Design: Tommy Cash – Sdubid (Production designer: Taivi Lippmaa) Best Styling: Beyoncé, Shatta Wale, Major Lazer – Already (Stylist: Zerina Akers)
Best Director: Anton Tammi
Video Of The Year: DJ Shadow feat De La Soul – Rocket Fuel (Director: Sam Pilling)
LABELS & PUBLISHERS
DJ and producer Oliver Heldens has announced a new record label, OH2, that will operate alongside his existing Heldeep Records, to focus on commercial dance music. "I haven't really been able to focus on the more dance/pop side of things with [the more club-orientated] Heldeep, so my team and I decided to expand the Heldeep label group and launch OH2 Records, which will focus on the more melodic and dance/pop-leaning music".
The Chair and CEO of Universal's Capitol Music Group in the US, Steve Barnett, has announced that he is retiring. Current President of Capitol Records, Jeff Vaughn, will become CMG Chair and CEO, while current CMG COO Michelle Jubelirer will take the extra title of President. "This has been an incredible journey, and I've been tremendously fortunate to work with such amazing people along the way", says Barnett. Byeeeeeeee!
B2B streaming platform and service provider Tuned Global has appointed Andrew Stess to the newly created role of Head Of Sales And Business Development for the USA. "It's an honour to join Tuned Global at such an exciting point in the company's history", says Stess. "I believe that they have a unique product to offer, and so I'm delighted to be playing a key role as they reshape the B2B music tech space in the USA and beyond".
Little Mix have released their brand new single 'Confetti'. Oh, and also their brand new album 'Confetti', their first since crowbarring themselves away from the control of Simon Cowell.
Miley Cyrus has released a mashup of her recent single 'Midnight Sky' and Steve Nicks's 'Edge Of Seventeen', featuring new vocals from Nicks, called 'Edge Of Midnight'.
System Of A Down have released their first new music for fifteen year with two songs, 'Protect The Land' and 'Genocidal Humanoidz'. Proceeds from sales on Bandcamp will be donated to the Armenia Fund.
Gorillaz have released the video for 'Song Machine' track 'The Valley Of The Pagans', featuring Beck.
Bugzy Malone has released new single, 'Doe'd Up'.
Sega Bodega and Låpsley have got together for new single 'Make U Stay'. "We wrote this track together in my Tottenham studio the first time we ever met", says Låpsley. "It came so quickly; he showed me the track and I was immediately hooked from the strings, and then within the hour the top line was recorded. I thought the bombastic strings needed some intense lyrics, so it's all about jealousy".
Jade Bird has released new single 'Headstart'.
Larry The Pink Human have released a new single featuring Idles' Joe Talbot, titled 'Wasted Days (Inbetweens)'. "It's a track about not knowing the magic til the magic is behind us", says Talbot.
BiSH have released new single 'Story Of Duty', which ties in with the release of the new 'Call Of Duty' video game, 'Call Of Duty: Black Ops Cold War'. It's worth knowing that before you watch the video, although even then it's quite a thing.
Hello Cosmos have released new single 'Dream Harder'.
Fable has released new single 'Thirsty', the first track taken from up debut album which is set for release next year.
Mallard The Wonderdog has released new album 'Cookery Tips For The Apocalypse'. His first album since 2017, it was recorded in (and about) lockdown. "I wasn't planning to make another album but then the old global pandemic hit and I did", he explains.
GIGS & TOURS
The Cribs will perform live from The Cavern Club in Liverpool on 21 Nov, and you will be able to watch them from your lockdown bunker on that internet thing. Tickets will cost you £10 and are available here.
Slipknot have announced Pulse Of The Maggots Fest - an online event featuring performances from 20 emerging bands. Taking place on 13 Nov, with an 8pm start UK time, the line-up will feature Hacktivist, October Ends, PRXJEK, Cerberus, Orbit Culture, Tallah, dEMOTIONAL, Vended, Scarlet, Year Of The Knife, Introtyl, Wargasm, Diamond Construct, VCTMS, Death Blooms, Death Tour, Thrown into Exile, Once Awake, 156 Silence and I Revolt. More information is a thing that you will find here.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Chilly Gonzales to release minor key Christmas album
Gonzales has long included minor key versions of pop songs in his performances and this new album - 'A Very Chilly Christmas' - applies that approach to popular Christmas songs. So, you get sad versions of Mariah Carey's 'All I Want For Christmas Is You' and Wham's 'Last Christmas', as well as standards like 'Silent Night' and 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen'. There's also a minor key version of 'Auld Lang Syne', so you can ring in the new year on a downer too.
"Christmas is a time of very mixed intense emotion for me, and the existing canon often sounds like a forced smile", says Gonzales. "Christmas is a typical time for superficial happiness, but also a time for reflection and mourning the sad events throughout the year, and to play the songs in a minor key makes Christmas more authentic and realistic".
The album features contributions from regular Gonzales collaborators Feist and Jarvis Cocker. From it, this is 'Silent Night'.