|MONDAY 28 JUNE 2021||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The UK government finally published the findings of the first phase of its Events Research Programme on Friday afternoon. Having previously resisted calls to make those findings public with immediate effect - only offering non-committal timelines about future publication when questioned by MPs and journalists - the sudden splurge of ERP data followed legal action by the live music and theatre industries... [READ MORE]|
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Government finally publishes Events Research Programme findings, live sector calls for confirmation of 19 Jul re-opening
The Events Research Programme has been investigating how to safely stage higher capacity shows as COVID restrictions ease. A number of events have taken part in the programme in recent months, with ever increasing capacities, to see whether such events increase the risk of new COVID infections, and also what logistical measures can be employed to reduce any such risk.
Initial reports suggested that researchers had found that certain logistical measures could indeed be employed to reduce the risk of COVID transmissions, meaning that attending a full capacity show was no more risky than going to a restaurant or shopping centre. However, the live industry became increasingly frustrated that no official findings were being published, meaning they couldn't factor said findings into their production plans.
Rumours circulated that the Department For Digital, Culture, Media & Sport was actually ready to publish some initial findings, but that the office of Prime Minister 'Boris' Johnson was delaying publication, because the results of the ERP contradicted current government policy that full capacity shows could not return until at least mid-July.
Increasingly frustrated by the delays, reps for the live music and theatre sectors began legal action to force publication on Thursday. And lo and behold, publication neatly followed on Friday.
Although the ERP continues and the government says that it has not yet made a final decision on when full capacity shows can return, initial findings do show that with "mitigating factors, such as social distancing at pinch points, face coverings and staggered entry and exit times, events can be conducted more safely at increased capacities while maintaining a low risk of transmission".
Running through some key conclusions, the government states that "both indoor and outdoor events carry levels of transmission risk but 'pinch points' in venues where attendees may congregate for extended periods carry greater transmission risk. Large indoor events with high crowd density and proximity may pose a higher potential risk of transmission as a result of close proximity and poor ventilation".
But on the up side, "nearly all CO2 levels recorded at the pilot events were within the bounds of reasonable ventilation benchmarks, with outdoor spaces clearly better for ventilation than indoors". And "mitigations such as face coverings, ventilation, testing, restrictions on food and drink, and social distancing/capacity caps all contribute to reducing transmission risk".
As for the willingness of audience members to comply with any restrictions, it adds: "Compliance with social distancing, face covering and testing requirements was generally high across all events where they were required (96.2% of people in sampled areas were observed wearing face coverings correctly while seated during the event), particularly in indoor environments (98.3%) in comparison to events conducted outdoors or with a substantial open air element (92.1%)".
With regard to COVID infections, the published findings confirm what had been suggested previously by ministers in media interviews. Only 28 cases of COVID-19 were recorded among attendees following the first nine events in the programme, which together were attended by 58,000 people.
However, possibly to justify that current government policy of delaying the return of full capacity shows until at least mid-July, the ERP report does have some caveats.
The government notes that: "The report acknowledges that these [impressive] numbers reflect the rigorous testing regime in place for attendance at each event and relatively low levels of community prevalence of COVID-19 at the time of running the first phase of pilots. It also acknowledges that uptake of post event PCR tests, used to measure transmission, was also low".
That latter point relates to the fact that, while attendees were obliged to take a so called lateral flow test to prove that they did not have COVID-19 prior to entering an event, they were also encouraged to take a separate PCR test both before and after the show. However there was "low uptake of PCR testing before and after events", which "meant evidence of direct transmission at events was challenging to determine".
Either way, the music industry argues that the findings published on Friday mainly confirm what it had already heard on the grapevine, that providing certain logistical measures are employed, it is safe for full capacity shows to return.
To that end, various reps for the sector have called on ministers to confirm that such shows will definitely return on 19 Jul, by moving England into stage four of the government's COVID road map on that date. They also want formal guidance on what measures government will expect events to implement, and assurances that ministers won't just keep extending the ERP, so to allow certain popular events to go ahead while the sector at large is still in shutdown.
UK Music boss Jamie Njoku-Goodwin says: "It's welcome that the government has responded to our calls to publish this vital data on the pilot events. This is a critical step towards getting the live music industry up and running. The music industry has been working flat out to make gigs, concerts and festivals safe and reduce the risk of COVID transmission at events. The Events Research Programme data vindicates the massive efforts and innovations our sector has made to restart the live music industry. Now we have evidence showing events can take place safely, the government must now give the green light for events to go ahead without social distancing from 19 Jul".
Noting that a number of upcoming sporting events have been given the go ahead - albeit by adding them to the latest phase of the Events Research Programme - Njoku-Goodwin goes on: "With 60,000 fans expected at Wembley for the Euros, thousands at Wimbledon and a capacity crowd of 140,000 at the Silverstone Grand Prix, it is only right that major live music events are also able to proceed safely. We will continue talking to the government to get as many live events back on stage as possible from the expected 19 Jul reopening date to deliver a great British summer of music".
Meanwhile Paul Reed, CEO of the Association Of Independent Festivals, says: “We welcome the government finally publishing the findings of the ERP phase one pilot events. Although wide ranging, in many respects, the report tells us what we already know: Most significantly, that there were no substantial outbreaks at these events, with 28 cases across nine events and 58,000 attendees. Additionally, outdoor spaces are generally lower risk than indoor, mitigation measures can reduce and manage risk, and audiences will comply with pre-event testing and other measures to attend an event".
"Following this positive outcome", he adds, "what we need now is clear guidance from government on exactly what the expectations are for festivals around testing regimes and other protocols this summer. We are actively engaging with government on this. For festivals who are still planning, it is clearly not a conversation that can wait until 19 Jul. We welcome further festival pilot events as an opportunity for the ERP to scale up and develop the knowledge base around reopening safely, but we also simply cannot get stuck in endless rounds of pilots. The objective must be to reopen festivals safely with the right mitigations in place at step four".
Echoing those concerns about a never-ending ERP - as well as criticising the measures that had to be taken to get these findings published - Greg Parmley of live sector trade group LIVE says: "We are pleased that the government has finally published some of the ERP research but it is incredibly disappointing that it took the live music and the theatre industry launching legal action to force them to do so".
"We will of course read the report with interest but we are pleased that there were no COVID outbreaks associated with any of the pilots detected, either by testing or by a general increase in community incidence. It is also pleasing to see that the air quality of the indoor events was, in almost all cases, the same or better than being in an office for a short working day".
However, he adds, "it is completely unfair that our industry finds itself stuck in seemingly-interminable rounds of research before we can open when no such research is being done for other places, such as restaurants, shops or public transport. With sensible mitigations, including simple COVID-certification, there is no reason why we should not be able to reopen on 19 Jul".
Kanye West sues Walmart over sale of knock-off Yeezy-esque shoes
“Consumers are purchasing the imitation Yeezy Foam Runner footwear from Walmart on the mistaken belief that the shoes are associated with West and the Yeezy brand", a lawsuit filed in the LA courts last week stated. By selling the knock off shoes, it then claimed, the retailer had violated California’s Unfair Competition Law.
However, Walmart has since distanced itself from the rip off footwear which, it says, was being sold on its online marketplace by a third party seller, not the supermarket firm itself.
A spokesperson told TMZ: "The product referenced in the complaint is not sold by Walmart, but rather by third party marketplace sellers. We take allegations like this seriously and are reviewing the claim. We will respond in court as appropriate after we have been served with the complaint".
That explanation from Walmart would add another layer of debate if this case proceeds to court. Aside from deciding whether or not the knock off shoes violate Californian law, the court would also need to consider whether Walmart itself should be liable for allowing the knock offs to be sold on its website. Online marketplaces have been able to circumvent such liability in the past, though whether that should be possible remains a big talking point.
It's the second legal bust up between West and Walmart this year. A couple of months back the supermarket reportedly objected to the rapper's attempts to trademark a new Yeezy logo which, it claimed, was too close to its logo.
Rihanna sued over slogan used by her lingerie brand
In a legal filing in California, Adore Me says that it has gone legal because of Savage X Fenty's "blatant and wilful trading upon Adore Me's goodwill and infringing Adore Me's intellectual property, including through defendant's unauthorised use of a mark or marks confusingly similar to Adore Me's 'Adore Me' mark in connection with clothing products such as lingerie and related online retail services".
"In particular", it goes on, "Savage has advertised its own goods and services using 'Adore Us', which is confusingly similar to 'Adore Me', by prominently displaying the mark in sponsored ads on search engines such as Google for its own line of lingerie. Contrary to what such advertising suggests, Savage's clothing products and retail services are not authorised by, sponsored by, or affiliated with Adore Me".
Adore Me says that it sent cease and desist letters to Savage X Fenty in relation to its recent advertising slogan, but that it received no response. And while at one point it looked like its rival had dropped the slogan, it is now being used again.
Seeking an injunction banning Savage X Fenty from using the 'Adore Us' slogan - as well as damages - the lawsuit states: "Unless defendant is enjoined from infringing Adore Me's intellectual property rights and otherwise deceiving the consuming public and appropriating Adore Me's goodwill, Adore Me will continue to suffer substantial damage and ongoing and irreparable harm".
Sony Music ignored formal complaints about toxic culture at its Australian division as far back as 1998, new report claims
Sony Music last week announced that Handlin - who had run its Australian division for decades - was leaving the company with immediate effect. The announcement coincided with an initial report from The Guardian - based on interviews with more than 20 former employees at Sony Music Australia - which included allegations of sexual harassment at work events, intimidating behaviour, alcohol abuse and the unfair treatment of women in the workplace.
Handlin himself was not accused of harassment, however many of the interviewees were critical of the outgoing CEO for overseeing such a toxic working environment.
In a new report, the newspaper says that back in 1998 the major's New York HQ questioned ten executives from its Australian division following serious complaints about bullying and alcohol abuse at its Sydney office. Those execs were flown to the US to discuss the complaints.
Around about the same time Handlin took a few months off which, a Billboard report from 1999 noted, led to much speculation about his future at the company. However, after his return the Sony Music Australia chief told the US trade mag that he'd been away from the business because he had been "run down, due to a punishing work ethic and an obsession with Sony's performance". His bosses in New York had been "very supportive", he added.
Commenting on the 1998 investigation, a former exec - who was among those interviewed as part of it - is quoted by The Guardian in its new article as saying: "New York was alerted back in 1998 to problems with Handlin's management style, resulting in him being suspended for about three months. It was common knowledge in the music industry at the time".
"On the day it was announced he was coming back, there was a sense of grievance and mistrust and let down that New York had allowed this guy back in the company", another former employee told the paper. "[Handlin] went through a process of apologies to senior executives around the country ... it was pathetic because we all knew it wouldn’t last".
Reacting to The Guardian's initial report on its Australian division last week, Sony Music's HQ said: "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".
However, one of the ex-staff members speaking to paper has said: "New York may be seen to be doing the right thing now, but they've known about Denis and the culture in Sydney for a very long time, and could have brought it to a head over 20 years ago. They have a lot to answer for".
Responding to the latest Guardian report, Handlin himself says that some of the information provided to the newspaper regarding the 1998 investigation is "simply incorrect", adding "there was a full and lengthy inquiry at the time that saw me reinstated".
Meanwhile, a spokesperson at Sony HQ adds: "We are not in a position to comment further on allegations concerning matters which occurred over 20 years ago, particularly given that the persons involved at that time are no longer at the company. To the extent these matters have been raised, Sony Music will be reviewing them".
The new investigation into the corporate culture at Sony Music Australia continues, with two more senior execs there, Mark Stebnicki and Handlin's son Pat, reportedly now on indefinite leave. Like Handlin Senior, neither Stebnicki nor Handlin Junior have been directly accused of harassment.
In addition to the ongoing internal investigation at Sony Music Australia, a Sydney-based law firm last week said that it was now talking to a number of former employees at the major about possible legal action.
51% of UK festivals have now cancelled in 2021, says AIF
The trade body estimates that 51% of UK festivals with a capacity of more than 5000 people have now decided not to go ahead in 2021. Meanwhile, 78% of those yet to cancel are unsure if they will be able to take place, as COVID restrictions extend, but are holding on to the last possible moment before making a decision.
A key concern remains the lack of state-backed cancellation insurance. With no such insurance available on the commercial market, several governments around the world have stepped in to provide a safety net to large-scale events. But the UK government has resisted calls for such a scheme.
This has led to festivals that were due to take place in late July, August and September - after the current date when COVID restrictions could lift, 19 Jul - to cancel their 2021 editions. Because, without insurance, they can't risk having to call off the show at the last minute, having already laid out for much of their production costs.
At this stage in the year, says the AIF, its members have spent an average of £451,500 on planning for their 2021 editions - although actual money spent ranges from £5000 to £4 million. On average, organisers have spent 25% of their total costs.
"This is a milestone that nobody wanted to reach", says AIF CEO Paul Reed of the 51% figure. "Unfortunately, it has seemed inevitable for some time now thanks to the government's inaction and refusal to give organisers any kind of safety net that would allow them to continue to invest in their businesses and the supply chain with confidence".
"Make no mistake", he adds, "these cancellations were entirely avoidable, and government must now change its position of reviewing insurance [only after COVID restrictions are lifted], as it will be far too late for most UK festivals. At this point, every day counts. If government has any confidence in 19 Jul as a terminus date, they will back this now".
"There are still a number of festivals that could take place after the intended final lifting of lockdown on 19 Jul but, as we have seen with the likes of Kendal Calling and Truck Festival cancelling [last] week, that number is rapidly declining", he goes on. "This is an existential issue; the 2021 season is collapsing without decisive government action and there is a real risk of these festivals not returning".
Whether these gloomy stats can persuade the government to provide proper support to festivals to help them go ahead - or at least to not go out of business if they are unable to - remains to be seen. Maybe don't hold your breath though.
Elton John says the government "tossed away" the arts when negotiating Brexit trade deal
John has been outspoken about the lack of any visa-free touring provision in the UK's new post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union, which was hastily rushed together at the end of last year. He has spoken to various politicians on the matter over the last six months, and earlier this month sent a statement to a select committee hearing in Parliament warning of a "looming catastrophe" in the British arts if musicians and others are unable to easily perform in Europe.
Speaking to the Observer this weekend, he said: "I'm so angry. I'm livid about what the government did when Brexit happened. They made no provision for the entertainment business, and not just for musicians, actors and film directors, but for the crews, the dancers, the people who earn a living by going to Europe".
"People like me can afford to go to Europe because we can get people to fill in the forms and get visas done", he went on. "But what makes me crazy is that the entertainment business brings in £111 billion a year to this country and we were just tossed away".
"The fishing industry – which they still fucked up – brings in £1.4 billion", he added. "And I'm all for the fishermen, but we're talking about over a hundred billion pounds of difference here, and we weren't even thought about. 'Oh well, the arts: they don't matter'. To young people just starting a career, it's crucifying".
John also said that one of the politicians he has met with to discuss these issues was chief UK-EU trade deal negotiator David Frost, "but we didn’t really get anywhere with him".
The parliamentary select committee investigation into what is being done to resolve the EU touring problem hasn't got very far with Frost either. Earlier this month he failed to appear at a hearing where he was set to be quizzed about how he failed to deliver something that was promised to the creative community repeatedly pre-Brexit, and also what is being done to fix the problem.
Frost is now set to appear at a rescheduled hearing tomorrow. Culture select committee chair Julian Knight MP has already said that there could be "no acceptable reason" for Frost to miss this hearing. Assuming Frost agrees, we can look forward to finding out tomorrow just how little progress has been made on the matter.
Becky Hill and David Guetta have released the video for their new single 'Remember'.
Rudimental have released the video for new single 'Straight From The Heart', featuring Norskøv.
Ski Mask The Slump God has released new mixtape 'Sin City'.
Lady London has released new single 'Never'. "I bled my soul on this record", she says. "I speak of my journey through this vicious industry. I speak on the horrors of social media notoriety and even my past relationship. God placed his hand on this record because, for the very first time, I made it for me".
Knight$ has released new single 'Boom Bang Boom!' "Since the last album I've written a lot, and I can't hold this song back any longer", he says.
GIGS & TOURS
After selling out three nights at the Roundhouse in London, Lorde has added a show up the road at Alexandra Palace on 28 Jun 2022 to her next round of tour dates.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Olly Alexander rumoured to be the next Doctor Who
According to the tabloid, Alexander's negotiations to take on the role are at an "advanced stage". The story goes that he was championed for the job by former 'Doctor Who' show-runner Russell T Davies, with whom he worked on the Channel 4 series 'It's A Sin'.
A Sun source claims: "Olly is on the verge of being announced as the new Doctor. Negotiations are at an advanced stage. He's been heavily promoted for the role by Russell - who he's worked closely with on other projects. Russell was impressed with his work and felt he was a great fit for the Doctor".
It's probably worth noting that Whittaker hasn't actually formally announced any plans to leave the role yet. She will star in a new series of the show this year, as well as two specials set for broadcast in 2022. Word is though, she'll be out after that.
The "regeneration" of the Doctor into a new form is a big part of the series, of course. Whittaker took on the role in 2018, becoming the first female actor to ever play the part.
Whenever an actor leaves the show, their replacement is a closely guarded secret. Before Whittaker was announced as the new Doctor, the favourites to succeed her predecessor Peter Capaldi included Ben Whishaw, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Kris Marshall and Tilda Swinton.
Until The Sun's big proclamation about Alexander yesterday, Kris Marshall was the favourite again. Michaela Cole and Richard Ayoade have also been tipped to take up residence in the Tardis. In the end, it'll probably be none of them. But this little round of speculation passed the time, didn't it?