|TUESDAY 22 JUNE 2021||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Organisers of Kendal Calling yesterday hit out at the UK government's decision to delay the publication of the findings of its Events Research Programme - a delay allegedly instigated for PR rather than logistical reasons - confirming that that decision has forced the cancellation of the 2021 edition of the music festival... [READ MORE]|
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UK ministers refusing to published Events Research Programme results for PR reasons is causing more cancellations, says Kendal Calling
This year's Kendal Calling was due to take place from 29 Jul to 1 Aug, which is after the new target date for lifting the remaining COVID restrictions in England. However, it's the latest in a string of independent festivals due to take place in or after late July that has had to call off its 2021 edition.
That's partly because there is a risk of further delays in the lifting of COVID rules, which could result in a last minute cancellation, and there is currently no cancellation insurance available on the commercial market. UK ministers have repeatedly knocked back proposals that they follow the lead of a number of other governments and introduce state-backed cancellation insurance for the summer 2021 festival season.
However, it was another more recent decision by the UK government that Kendal Calling organisers specifically criticised when cancelling their 2021 show yesterday.
The Events Research Programme has been investigating what measures can be employed at full-capacity shows to reduce the risk of COVID infections. Initial indications were that researchers had successfully identified that certain safety measures did indeed mean that such shows could go ahead without any increase in COVID risks. But the government is yet to publish the findings of that research, and the accompanying guidance on what measures promoters should look to implement.
The Kendal Calling team stated yesterday: "Without this safety guidance, there are numerous aspects of the festival we cannot plan, and which could lay us wide open to last minute unforeseen regulations or requirements which could scupper an already built festival. Capacity or density restrictions, track and trace protocol, testing regime, COVID certification - a host of unknown actions required yet potentially requested too late to be implemented".
Ever since it became clear that remaining COVID restrictions in England would not be lifted on 21 Jun, as originally planned, the live sector has been calling on ministers to publish the full findings of the ERP. That's partly because - while there are certainly legitimate concerns about the new delta variant of the coronavirus - it's widely suspected that the government's own research about the impact of full capacity shows on COVID infections likely contradicts its current position that such shows need to be postponed for another month.
Kendal Calling said in its statement yesterday: "Our understanding is that the Department For Digital, Culture, Media And Sport are keen to publish the ERP findings and guidance, but that it now does not fit around Number Ten's communications plan. This is insulting to our entire industry, who have been awaiting the results of a pilot event that took place almost two months ago to inform our approach to staging events safely this summer".
The ERP continues, of course, with additional events now being added to the research programme. Being a participant in the ERP allows a promoter to run a fuller capacity show and also provides state-backed insurance. Kendal Calling revealed in its statement that last week it was invited to apply to take part in the programme, but that "on Saturday night we heard back that another camping festival was chosen - we have not been told the reasons why or exactly what the criteria was by the government".
With no official guidance available on COVID safety measures at full-capacity shows, the risk of new regulations having to be met at the last minute, and having been declined a place on the ongoing ERP initiative, promoters were forced to cancel Kendal Calling 2021. "Over the last day", they added, "we have had the grim undertaking of informing hundreds of talented and dedicated individuals that, yet again, we are unable to offer them the work they badly need".
"This has been a frankly devastating sixteen months for our industry", they went on. "If calls for a government-backed insurance scheme had been heeded - as recommended by the DCMS, emulating successful schemes now up and running in other countries - we could have potentially continued to plan and invest in the coming weeks. We take this opportunity to urge the government to re-appraise its approach and to listen to the recommendations of its own reports, as the continued lack of leadership hampers the recovery of our live event industry".
"Please believe me when I say that we tried our best", they added. "Despite Kendal Calling having been denied any aid from the Cultural Recovery Fund, Restart Grant or the Hospitality And Leisure Grant Fund, we have worked harder than ever with a clear goal in mind - to experience the joy and love that the fields we know so well are famous for".
"I think we speak for us all when I say - we needed this", they concluded. "Going two summers without a festival is devastating to all of us; we need the support of our audience now more than ever and retaining your tickets would go the longest way in helping us during this period".
Refunds are available to those unable to attend the new 28-31 Jul 2022 dates, although many people have opted to keep their tickets. In a subsequent post to Facebook, organisers stated: "It has been truly brilliant to see that despite the outcome for this year, our festival family remains stronger than ever. We cannot stress enough how grateful we are to each and every one of you retaining your tickets for next year. It goes an incredible way to helping us ensure the future of our beloved festival".
Endeavor execs depart Live Nation board because of US Department Of Justice concerns
As well as owning various talent and booking agencies - not least William Morris Endeavor - the wider Endeavour Group also has other interests across the sports and entertainment industries, including businesses involved in content and event production, and brand licensing. Though it seems to be the group's interests in ticketing which are deemed as being too close to Live Nation's interests by competition regulators at the DoJ.
In its statement, the government department explained that "an interlocking directorate is where one person - or an agent of one person or company - serves as an officer or director of two companies". US law, it added, "prohibits the same person or company from serving as an officer or director of two competing companies, except under certain defined safe harbours". And none of those safe harbours applies here.
"Endeavor and Live Nation compete closely in many sports and entertainment markets", the DoJ continued. "Both Live Nation and Endeavor, through its wholly owned and minority owned subsidiaries, promote and sell tickets and VIP packages that include tickets, lodging and travel accommodations, to live music, sporting and other entertainment events. Based on US revenues, the interlock did not qualify for any of the Section Eight safe harbours".
According to to Billboard's sources, of particular concern to DoJ regulators was the 2017 acquisition of a ticketing service that began life as Paciolan by sports marketing platform Learfield IMG College, a company co-owned by Endeavor via its IMG subsidiary. Paciolan was previously owned by Ticketmaster, which sold it in 2010 as part of the deal negotiated with the DoJ in order to get regulator approval of the big old Live Nation/Ticketmaster merger.
Though, given Emanuel and Shapiro have been on the Live Nation board since 2007 and 2008 respectively - and the Paciolan deal happened four years ago - it's not entirely clear why that would prompt the DoJ to act now. After all, the government department has been actively scrutinising the operations and governance of Live Nation in recent years amid allegations that it hadn't complied with the terms of that 2010 deal relating to the merger.
Other sources reckon that, while Paciolan may have been a contributing factor, the real problem is that the wider Endeavor Group has been steadily growing its interests in ticketing and, especially, the sale of VIP sport and entertainment packages. Sources speaking to Reuters cited in particular the purchase last year of On Location, an agency that sells luxury packages for sports and music events, as being a particular problem. Or maybe it's just a sign that the DoJ under President Joe Biden plans to be more strict on competition law issues.
Whatever, Acting Assistant Attorney General at the DoJ's Antitrust Division, Richard Powers, said: "These resignations ensure that Endeavor and Live Nation will compete independently. Executives are not permitted to hold board positions on companies that compete with each other. The division will enforce the antitrust laws to make sure that all companies compete on the merits".
Live Nation had already announced that Emanuel was leaving its board earlier this month. It is yet to comment on the DoJ's statement. However, a spokesperson for Endeavor said that, while there was no actual violation of the law in their senior execs sitting on a rival's board: "We understand and respect the DoJ's concerns regarding the current similarities of our businesses".
Sony Music Australia CEO suddenly exits amid investigation into toxic corporate culture
In a memo to staff, Stringer thanked Handlin for "his extraordinary contribution to the company and its artists", but stated: "It is time for a change in leadership. And I will be making further announcements in terms of the new direction of our business in Australia and New Zealand in due course".
As that memo was circulated, The Guardian published an article reporting that Handlin's sudden departure from Sony comes "a week after Guardian Australia approached Sony's head office with multiple complaints from former employees alleging a toxic work environment at the global company’s Australian operation".
Based on interviews with more than 20 former employees at Sony Music Australia, the newspaper reported widespread complaints that "are aimed broadly at the workplace culture rather than specific individuals [including] allegations of sexual harassment at work events, intimidating behaviour, alcohol abuse and the unfair treatment of women in the workplace".
Although no specific allegations of sexual harassment were made against Handlin himself, The Guardian said that its interviewees were "critical of the workplace culture at the company while Handlin was CEO".
Handlin had basically been with Sony Music in Australia for over five decades. He originally joined the Australian Record Company in 1970, which by then was a subsidiary of the CBS music business which Sony subsequently acquired in the late 1980s.
He was CEO of the Australian division even before the Sony acquisition, retaining and expanded on that role throughout the rebrand as Sony Music, the subsequent rebrand as Sony BMG in 2004, and the rebrand back to Sony Music a few years later. He was also a key player within the Australian record industry organisation ARIA, including having various stints as its Chair.
Commenting on the toxic culture at Sony Music Australia under Handlin's leadership, The Guardian quoted one former promotions manager as saying: "Sony was ruled by fear, like nowhere else I've ever worked". Meanwhile another former employee added: "They hire young people [who] walk into that culture and think that's normal because it's all they've ever known".
The newspaper also said that both Handlin and Sony Music Australia declined to respond to a series of detailed questions it sent them. However, after journalists approached Sony Music's global HQ in New York, the major issued the following statement...
"We take all allegations from our employees very seriously and investigate them vigorously. These claims only recently came to light and we are examining them expeditiously. Harassment, bullying and other inappropriate behaviour is not tolerated by Sony Music at any of our companies and we are committed to ensuring a safe and respectful workplace for our employees. Given our ongoing inquiries, we cannot comment further".
Prior to Stringer's memo and The Guardian's article yesterday, there had been reports in the Australian press earlier this month that an investigation was already underway into allegations of "discrimination, bullying and harassment" at Sony's Australian division, being led by HR execs from the US.
That followed the sacking in April of Sony Music Australia's VP Commercial Music, Tony Glover, over bullying and harassment allegations, although sources were clear that this new investigation was unrelated to that. Said investigation was seemingly focused on the wider complaints regarding the corporate culture at Sony under Handlin's leadership.
It remains to be seen what other changes are now made.
Sony's Kontraband secures rights for George Michael merch
Already on the list of things that will be coming up for sale are limited edition prints, stationery, apparel, figurines and flasks, plus special items by guest fashion designers. And who among us hasn't been hankering for a George Michael flask?
"We are delighted to collaborate with the team at Kontraband to curate an exciting collection that creatively sets the bar and offers George's loyal and new fans a unique range of merchandise he would be proud of", says the George Michael estate in a statement.
"We are THRILLED to be launching a brand new selection of products showcasing the legacy of George and giving fans the overdue opportunity to own much anticipated official merchandise", adds Kontraband General Manager Elliot Taylor.
The deal with Kontraband expands on the George Michael estate's existing partnership with Sony Music, which continues to manage many of his recordings. This is also the first official and exclusive deal for George Michael merch since 2011.
Easy Life to headline virtual O2 Arena within Fortnite
Showing off the Fortnite Creative platform, which allows users to design and share their own games and experiences within the Fortnite ecosystem, the O2 Arena has been painstakingly recreated as a virtual venue for the event. Not just that though, they've added new areas and experiences that can't be accessed in the physical venue.
While people watch Easy Life perform songs from their recent Island Records released 'Life's A Beach' album, the venue will change based on the music and lyrics of each track. There's also a brand new song from the band which will only be accessible within the virtual venue.
"Being the first UK act to ever perform in Fortnite Creative, and for that performance to take place inside a venue as iconic as The O2, is truly humbling", says Easy Life's Murray Matravers. "'Life's A Beach' is a deeply personal album that marks the culmination of our life's work and we can't wait to finally perform it for our fans. We're so excited for people to experience our music in the game - it promises to be a lot of fun and is just a taste of things to come ahead of our UK tour of O2 Academy venues later this year".
As well as The O2, the big virtual venue project also involves actual O2. As in, the venue's phone firm sponsor. Whose Head Of Brand And Consumer Marcomms, Simon Valcarcel, adds: "We couldn't be prouder to work alongside both Island Records and Epic Games to bring such an incredible experience to O2 customers and music fans all over the world via Fortnite Creative".
"O2 has a rich heritage in music", he waffles on, "and we're committed to providing music fans with unique experiences, so it's only fitting that we're bringing the world’s most popular entertainment venue into the world's biggest game. We know how much everyone - us included - has missed going to gigs, so we're excited to bring the UK's hottest up-and-coming band to music fans globally through Fortnite Creative".
Meanwhile, Nate Nanzer, Head Of Global Partnerships at Fortnite maker Epic Games, comments: "We were THRILLED when we were approached with the idea to bring The O2, one of the most iconic entertainment venues on the planet, to Fortnite Creative".
"We're always looking for exciting and authentic experiences to bring to our players, and we can't wait for them to get hands-on with this interactive musical journey", he adds. "We're excited to have the UK's breakout band Easy Life perform in the game and we think our players are really going to love exploring all that The O2 has to offer in Fortnite Creative over the next week".
The doors of the virtual O2 Arena will open at 8.30pm UK time on 24 Jun and remain accessible until 27 Jun. Those unable or unwilling to head into Fortnite itself will be able to watch the band's performance via YouTube from 28 Jun.
Lorde announces new album, tour dates
"The album is a celebration of the natural world, an attempt at immortalising the deep, transcendent feelings I have when I'm outdoors", she says. "In times of heartache, grief, deep love, or confusion, I look to the natural world for answers. I've learned to breathe out, and tune in. This is what came through".
"The first [single] - also called 'Solar Power' and written and produced by myself and Jack [Antonoff] - is the first of the rays", she adds of the aforementioned title track. "It's about that infectious, flirtatious summer energy that takes hold of us all come June".
As well as announcing the album, Lorde has also revealed worldwide tour dates, including a handful of shows in the UK next year, which are as follows:
26 May: Edinburgh, Usher Hall
Tickets for the UK shows go on sale on Friday. Watch the video for 'Solar Power' here.
Mute Song has signed Soft Cell's Dave Ball to a new publishing deal, also bringing Ball's partner in his other project The Grid, Richard Norris, along for the ride. By which I mean they've also signed him to a publishing deal. "Richard Norris and Dave Ball are two of the most important figures in British electronic music history and we are honoured to represent them both", says Mute boss Daniel Miller. A new Soft Cell album is incoming via BMG.
Joss Stone has signed with booking agency ICM Partners for worldwide representation.
Bucks Music Group has signed musician and YouTuber Emma Blackery to a worldwide publishing administration deal. "Not only is Emma a fantastically talented, genre-spanning music artist, she also has a very entertaining, engaging, authentic personality that has really struck a chord across social media and earned her a very loyal following", says Bucks A&R Director Sarah Liversedge Platz. "It's great to be in her corner, helping to propel her music career".
Alejandro Duque has been named as the next President of Warner Music Latin America. He will officially take up the role in October, replacing Iñigo Zabala. "I'm so excited to be joining Warner Music and have the opportunity to continue its success story", he says. "The incredible music coming out of Latin America continues to seize the imaginations of fans around the world. I want to do more to support talent from our region and help our artists claim their rightful place on the global stage".
Becky Hill has teamed up with David Guetta for new single 'Remember'. "My whole career has built up to this moment", says Hill. "I have a sure-fire single with David Guetta, and an album I've spent my whole adult life making finally coming out". Oh yes, don't forget Becky Hill's as-yet-untitled debut album, which will be out in due course and shouldn't be confused with the thirteen track collection of singles, 'Get To Know', that she released in 2019. That was not an album and don't you forget it.
Rudimental will release new album 'Ground Control' on 3 Sep. From it, this is first single 'Straight From The Heart', featuring Nørdskov.
Toddla T and Lady Leshurr have teamed up with new single '2gether Now'.
Ed Banger boss Busy P has released his first single in four years, 'Track Of Time', featuring Haich Ber Na and Shay Lia.
Everything Everything have released new single 'Mercury & Me', which will be included on a special ten-inch release being made available for next month's Record Store Day.
System Of A Down's Serj Tankian has released a 24 minute piano concerto, titled 'Disarming Time'.
Mew's Jonas Bjerre and Blue Foundation's Tobias Wilner have launched new project Tachys with their debut single 'When The World Wakes Up'.
Scalping have released the video for 'Empty Cascade' from their new EP, 'Flood'.
Eliza Shaddad has released new single 'The Man I Admire'. She will also be touring the UK in November.
To coincide with the summer solstice, Lunatraktors have released new album 'The Missing Star'. Yes, the summer solstice was yesterday, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't listen to it right now. Here it is on Bandcamp.
GIGS & TOURS
Beck has announced UK tour dates in June 2022, including rescheduled dates postponed due to the pandemic and two new shows in Edinburgh and London. Tickets for the new shows go on sale on Friday.
Girli has announced UK tour dates in November and December. "I am beyond excited to go on tour again", she says. "This will be my first tour in two years, and my first time performing the 'Ex Talk' and 'Damsel In Distress' [EPs] songs. Plus it's the first time I feel I have total creative control over my show".
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Marvin Gaye biopic in the works, with Dr Dre producing
"This is so personal for me", Hughes tells Deadline. "When I made my first film with my brother, we were fortunate to get 'What's Going On' into the trailer for 'Menace II Society', and it was a game changer in elevating the marketing of that film. Every film of mine, but the period film *'*From Hell', had some Marvin Gaye in it, and I've just always connected to him. He's the artist's artist, with this ethereal voice that just comes out of the heavens".
Commenting on the number of failed attempts to make a Marvin Gaye film over the years, Hughes adds: "You've heard of all these big-name directors that have tried for 35 years to consolidate these rights". This project began its more successful journey, he says, "with Dre, saying, 'let's do this together', and then Jimmy came on, and [third producer] Andrew Lazar, and we worked with the estate, with Motown, and some other things that needed to be tied down, and we got it done".
There's no word on who will play the lead yet, but the director says that whoever gets the role will not have to deal too much with the stress of trying to sing exactly like Gaye. "Marvin's voice is so singular that 90% of it has to be the real guy", he says. "But hopefully we can find an actor who can tie it up with ligamental scenes, and live stuff where you do a blend. Mostly I want to honour that singular voice, and I don't want to mimic it".
Having Dr Dre on board has apparently already been useful, with his knowledge as a music producer rather than a film producer helping the team work out how to build Gaye's original vocal recordings into the film. "There are techniques I've been exploring audio-wise in live performance and recording in the studio", says Hughes. "I've taken all those multi-tracks apart with Dr Dre and it has revealed a lot, but we don't want to play any tricks with what is probably the purest voice of all time".
Maybe they should just get Pharrell Williams in to help with all that, given his unique knowledge of the Marvin Gaye 'vibe'. Although, with the Gaye estate officially involved with the project, perhaps not.
The film is currently pencilled in for release in 2023.