|WEDNESDAY 4 AUGUST 2021||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: While COVID regulations are still fluctuating around the world and international travel restrictions remain in force - leading to more gig and festival cancellations in some markets - the live entertainment revival is now definitely underway. I mean, we knew that already, but Live Nation put some stats to that revival yesterday with its latest quarterly financial report, with the live music giant reporting 677% year-on-year revenue growth and talking up the opportunity that has been created by the "pent-up demand for live events"... [READ MORE]|
Live Nation says "pent-up demand for live events" creates great opportunities as COVID rules lift
"As communities reopen", Live nation boss Michael Rapino told his investors, "we're seeing the pent-up demand for live events play out as artists and fans are eager to re-connect in person. In the US and the UK, we are seeing strong ticket sales and the restart of our concerts and festivals, highlighted over the past weekends by Lollapalooza and Rolling Loud in the US and Latitude in the UK hosting a combined three quarters of a million fans. With vaccine rollouts increasing throughout Canada and Europe, we expect additional markets to open more broadly in the coming months".
Of course, the 677% revenue boost in Q2 this year follows a 98% decline in the live giant's revenues in the same quarter in 2020 - ie the quarter when the COVID shutdown really hit - and in that context, Live Nation's revenues are still being significantly hit by COVID. But then, throughout much of quarter two in much of the world, COVID regulations were still in place that limited either all shows or certainly full capacity shows. But that has obviously started to change in a number of markets.
And, Rapino added, now the revival is underway, things are rebuilding faster than anticipated, especially around ticket sales for shows taking place later this year. "The momentum for the return to live events has been building every month, with ticket sales and concert attendance pacing faster than expected, underscoring the strength and resiliency of the concert business and live events in general", he went on.
"This progress, combined with our cost discipline, has enabled us to deliver positive adjusted operating income for the second quarter, well ahead of where we thought we would for this quarter. We expect to see further ramp-up accelerate through the rest of the year, with improving operating income and all segments returning to adjusted operating income profitability for the second half of the year, setting us up for a full-scale 2022".
Using recent ticket sales stats as a justification for that optimism, Rapino added: "As we put more shows on-sale this year and next, ticket sales are the best early indicator for concerts and our overall business. To that end, June was Ticketmaster North America's fourth best month in history for transacted ticket volume driven in part by our US concerts division putting the highest number of shows on sale ever during a single month – 50% more than the next highest month back in March 2019".
"In concerts, our recovery this summer continues to be led by outdoor events at our festivals and amphitheaters", he continued. "We expect to have over six million fans attend our festivals during the second half of the year, with about two-thirds of our festivals increasing their attendance compared to 2019. Most of our festivals sold out in record time while average ticket prices have been 10% higher than 2019. While still early, we have delivered a strong double digit increase in average per fan revenue and in on-site spending versus 2019 at our amphitheater shows over the past few weeks".
And looking ahead, he went on: "Looking forward to 2022 and now also 2023, all our leading indicators continue to point to a roaring era for concerts and other live events. Starting with our concerts division, every major venue type – arenas, amphitheaters, and stadiums – have pipelines indicating double digit growth in show count and ticket sales relative to 2019 levels. In some cases our pipeline is so strong we are extending our planning into 2023 and even beginning to discuss tours that extend into 2024".
Concluding with some nitty gritty about why Live Nation in particular is well place to capitalise on the post-COVID revival, he added: "As our revenue is rebounding, we continue to evolve our business to maximise opportunities from the global recovery and strengthen our flywheel. We have structurally reduced our cost basis by $200 million, making us more nimble and converting more of our revenue to operating income and adjusted operating income".
"We have integrated our Ticketmaster team globally, enabling us to work toward a global product roadmap that will both reduce our costs and increase our flexibility and speed to deploy new client tools and improve our marketplace experience. Lastly, we continue to build our direct-to-consumer businesses, with initiatives ranging from streaming concerts to NFTs to artist merchandise, bringing more value to artists and deepening fan relationships".
"These enhancements", he concluded, "combined with the strongest supply and demand dynamics our industry has ever seen, are fuelling our core flywheel strategy and setting us up for multiple years of growth in attendance, revenue, operating income and adjusted operating income".
East London MP calls for MSG Sphere plans to be rejected
Plans to build an MSG Sphere alongside East London's Olympic Park were announced in 2018, the proposed building being very similar to another venue being built in Las Vegas, with a high tech set-up both inside and out. The London Sphere has proven controversial for a number of reasons, with rival live entertainment company AEG raising various objections - particularly safety and transport concerns due to the proposed new venue's proximity to its relatively nearby O2 Arena.
Most controversial, however, is the LED 'skin' that would cover the entire giant, spherical exterior of the building. This would display videos and adverts for as much as sixteen hours a day.
Network Rail previously raised concerns about the affect the glare from the outside of the venue could have on train drivers using adjacent railway lines - although its objections were withdrawn after plans were resubmitted in 2020. However, the concerns of local residents living in the area surrounding the site where it is proposed that the venue will be built have not been dampened.
"Many local residents have clear and serious objections to the light and noise pollution this development would cause, as well as the potential for increased antisocial behaviour and traffic", writes Brown in a new article for The Guardian. "The giant venue will beam bright lights into the surrounding area until 11pm on some days; beginning again at 6am or 7am, depending on the time of year. One constituent has predicted that it will be like living next to the surface of the sun. Many residents feel that living next to the site will be a nightmare".
The big problem, she says, is that residents have little recourse to object to the plans. While planning permission would normally be overseen by an elected local council - in this case the council of the London borough of Newham - this development comes under the remit of the London Legacy Development Corporation.
That organisation was set up by then London mayor 'Boris' Johnson as the planning authority for the area in and around the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park following the 2012 London Olympics.
"As the local MP, I have always made the case that new developments must meet local needs", says Brown in relation to the projects and developments instigated in East London following the Olympic games. "Almost a decade on from 2012, I don't think the LLDC has lived up to that promise. And, while the corporation has failed to deliver the positive changes that local residents need, I believe it is also removing the ability of local residents and their elected councils to have an effective say about what gets built in their communities".
"There is no qualified professional assessment of the effects that noise, light, moving images and distracting advertising [at the MSG Sphere] will have on the environment and local people, including vulnerable groups and children", she says. And raising transport concerns, she adds: "There's currently no commitment to cooperate with other big venues, such as the London Stadium [in the Olympic Park itself] and The O2, to avoid overwhelming the Jubilee tube line and other local transport".
There has been a "lengthy" public consultation, she admits, but "that doesn't make it adequate". A "drip-feed of extremely complex, technical submissions with more than 2000 separate documents" means that "the enormous scale of the submission has created huge barriers for residents, many of whom have had difficulty accessing the relevant information, properly understanding the implications or making an informed, democratic decision".
"Newham's residents have little power over the final outcome", she concludes. "Newham council only gets two representatives on the LLDC's planning committee out of a total of twelve members, including seven unelected committee members. I'm calling on the LLDC to refuse the application and protect Newham's residents from yet another inappropriate development. I would hope they would listen to and act on what elected representatives say. Securing some of the promised benefits of the Olympic legacy depends upon it".
A report prepared by planning consultancy DP9 plays down the potential affect of the new venue's exterior screens on residential properties near to the site of the venue, saying that it will "create visual interest and intrigue from these properties". Although it notes that "the visual experience and enhanced prominence at night time will depend as much on the personal preferences of the viewers as the content itself".
However, it goes on, "the brightness of the sphere facade and other digital displays will be restricted and subject to ongoing monitoring to ensure the level of light emitted to properties in [the neighbouring] New Garden Quarter complies with relevant Institution Of Lighting Professionals guidance".
A spokesperson for the LLDC tells The Guardian: "Like all local planning authorities, LLDC regularly discusses major strategic development sites with landowners, as is standard practice, works proactively with applicants to discuss development proposals and tries to resolve issues with developments prior to formal submission. The level of engagement with the applicant and other stakeholders through public consultation is entirely in-keeping with the scale and complexity of this particular application".
With a decision already delayed from last year, the LLDC planning committee is now set to convene to make a ruling on the MSG Sphere on 28 Sep. The final decision will then be referred to London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who was initially enthusiastic about the project in 2018. However, it remains to be seen if he will now side with those raising concerns over the project.
X-ray extends partnership with Yucaipa, announces alliance with AGI
Yucaipa has invested in various talent agencies over the years - sometimes via its Y Entertainment Group arm, which last year also entered into a joint venture with another London-based agency, K2. It has also partnered with US agency group Paradigm in the past - which is where its alliance with X-ray began back in 2017.
The companies say that the new alliance between X-ray, AGI and Y Entertainment will allow all parties to "expand on their unique position in the global agency business" as the live sector goes into recovery mode post-COVID. X-ray itself will continue to be led by its founding partners Ian Huffam, Martin Horne, Steve Strange and Scott Thomas. Long-standing agent Josh Javor has also been promoted to the management board.
Confirming all this, Huffam says: "This had been a long time coming and I know all of X-ray is excited by this strategic partnership with AGI and Y Entertainment. There will be many changes over the next few years but our proven collective track records offer artistes the best route forward to live success".
AGI founder and CEO Dennis Arfa adds: "I have long admired what the X-ray team led by Ian, Steve, Scott and Martin have built. We have wanted to work with X-ray for many years and are THRILLED to finally have the opportunity to do so".
And Yucaipa boss Ron Burkle chips in: "AGI and X-ray's leadership and innovation in the industry is unparalleled. The synergies between these companies creates even more opportunity for their clients. This is a perfect match both culturally and strategically and I look forward watching their collaboration as they continue to grow globally".
Artists on X-ray's 400+ roster include Coldplay, Eminem, Robbie Williams, Gorillaz, Queens Of The Stone Age, Linkin Park, Pixies, Stereophonics, Bombay Bicycle Club, Phoebe Bridgers, The Internet, The Offspring, Enter Shikari and Fever 333.
Spotify piloting mid-price subscription package with increased functionality and ads
It's long been argued that there needs to be more choice when it comes to music streaming, with more price points between free and the standard $10 (or £10 or 10 euros etc etc) a month subscription price, and not just by offering discounts to new subscribers and students, and bundling accounts together through family plans.
Obviously, $10 a month is incredibly good value for on-demand access to more than 70 million tracks. And even though subscription prices are now slowly starting to increase, those increases won't impact on the value of the proposition too much.
Except, of course, for more mainstream consumers $120 a year is still a lot to spend on recorded music, especially if you only actually want access to a few thousand - or even a few hundred - tracks. And converting more mainstream consumers into paying subscribers is now the main aim in many of the more mature music markets.
Various services have dabbled with having price points between free and $10 over the years, of course. Amazon is perhaps most active in this domain, with its cheaper options for Prime members and those happy to restrict their listening to Echo devices. But for any service looking to diversify the subscription offering, the key question is what do you put in lower-priced packages that is better than the free service but not as good as the $10 service.
With Spotify, other than annoying ads, the main difference between free and premium is that with the former you have only restricted functionality on mobile devices. According The Verge, the Spotify Plus package currently being tested would remove many of those restrictions, while ads would continue to play. It seems that experimenting with price point is also part of the pilot, with a monthly subscription as low as 99 cents among the propositions being tested.
A Spotify spokesperson told The Verge: "We're always working to enhance the Spotify experience and we routinely conduct tests to inform our decisions. We're currently conducting a test of an ad-supported subscription plan with a limited number of our users".
Cautioning that none of this means a mid-price Spotify package will be properly on the market anytime soon, the spokesperson added: "Some tests end up paving the way for new offerings or enhancements while others may only provide learnings - we don't have any additional information to share at this time".
For the music industry, continuing to grow the premium subscriber base for streaming in mature markets remains a key priority, and mid-price products will become an increasingly important part of that in the years ahead. Which makes this pilot interesting.
Although, obviously there are always fears that existing $10 a month subscribers might opt for the cheaper option if the benefits are too close to the full package, reducing the amount of money they put into the business each month. And then there's the tricky question of what impact a free/premium hybrid has on processing royalties, given that at the moment monies are shared out separately from the free services and the premium services.
It's also an interesting pilot for the advertising industry. With many digital content services making ad-free a key selling point of premium - and with some consumers now getting pretty much all of their news, music, TV and other video content via premium services of that kind - a segment of consumers has been created that is harder for advertisers to reach through traditional media channels.
That in turn increases the power of Google and Facebook within the advertising domain, as the companies with ad-funded products still likely being accessed by those consumers.
A mid-price premium product that still carries ads would mean consumers who go that route to access their music and other digital content would still be reachable by advertisers, ensuring brands have more options for connecting with consumers.
OfCom says no public interest test required for Radio 1 Relax, mainly because of a lack of public interest
The commercial radio sector has expressed concern about the BBC adding new thematic channels to its Sounds app - even when those channels simply re-aggregate existing content - reckoning that those additions are basically the publicly funded broadcaster going into competition with commercial players in a way that goes beyond its public service remit. And some reckon BBC Sounds needs to be more tightly regulated to ensure these additions comply with the Beeb's charter.
This all previously came up when the BBC launched its Radio 1 Dance channel on Sounds last year, with the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group On Commercial Radio in the UK Parliament - Andy Carter - kicking up a fuss on behalf of the commercial radio sector. But OfCom ultimately said that Radio 1 Dance didn't pose a threat to commercial dance stations. However, it did say that BBC Sounds at large probably did need a bit more scrutiny.
Radio 1 Relax arguably competes with some chill out stations run by commercial broadcasters, although it also features some "wellbeing-centred editorial" as well as a playlist of chilled out tunes. However, again OfCom has concluded that the new service is unlikely to have too big an impact on those commercial services.
According to Radio Today, in a letter to the BBC and commercial radio trade group Radiocentre, OfCom says that since its launch in April usage of Radio 1 Relax has been lower than expected, despite decent numbers of people subscribing to the channel.
The letter explains: "The stream’s average weekly listening hours are currently much smaller than the average weekly listening hours for the three largest commercial 'chill' stations for which we have listening data - Magic Chilled, Smooth Chill and Virgin Chilled - making up only around 1-2% of their total combined weekly listening hours".
Therefore, the regulator adds, it agrees with the BBC that Radio 1 Relax "does not constitute a material change" to the broadcaster's overall output. "We consider that the impact on competitors' services is likely to be low, particularly given that the uptake of the Radio 1 Relax stream has been modest and that we do not consider it is likely to grow substantially in the future. We will not, therefore, require the BBC to conduct a public interest test".
So, good news everybody, no stressful public interest test is going to interfere with the BBC's efforts to relax us all. Which means you can all start tuning in to Radio 1 Relax. You know, providing you don't all start tuning in to Radio 1 Relax.
DaBaby was dropped from Lollapalooza after failing to deliver video apology
When the rapper's Lollapalooza set was pulled, it started a run of festival performance cancellations. However, with Lollapalooza's decision being announced just hours before the rapper was due to take to the stage, many wondered why organisers had not acted sooner, given that the controversy had been growing - exacerbated by further comments made by DaBaby - as the previous week progressed.
On stage at Rolling Miami last month, of course, DaBaby told his audience: "If you didn't show up today with HIV, AIDS, or any of them deadly sexually transmitted diseases that'll make you die in two to three weeks, then put your cellphone lighter up. Ladies, if your pussy smell like water, put your cellphone lighter up! Fellas, if you ain't sucking dick in the parking lot, put your cellphone lighter up!"
Various attempts to address the controversy in the following days, including a half apology, only made matters worse. However, behind the scenes, according to Billboard, reps for the rapper had contacted several festivals where DaBaby was due to perform promising that a proper apology was on the way.
The big plan, apparently, was that DaBaby would screen a video featuring a sincere apology as the opening of his Lollapalooza set. However, as his stage time drew closer, no such video emerged, leading organisers to cancel his show entirely. Other festivals have also announced they are removing the rapper from their line-ups - many following Lollapalooza's decision - including Austin City Limits, iHeartRadio Music Festival, the Governors Ball and Day N Vegas, all in the US, plus Parklife in the UK.
Following the Lollapalooza cancellation - and as the other festival cancellations started to mount up - DaBaby did issue a new and proper apology, of course, albeit one that complained that the reaction on social media hadn't given him to to learn why what he said was wrong.
Universal Music has announced an ad sales partnership with media firm Condé Nast which will see the former include video content published by the latter in its Certified Video advertising programme. But there's more! Oh yes, this is only "the first element of an omni-channel partnership between the companies that will expand to include content and experience". What fun!
UK media firm Global has appointed Cilesta Van Doorn as its new Chief Marketing Officer. She joins from Virgin Media. "It's not often that an opportunity comes by that makes your heart skip a beat, and it became clear that Global has everything I could ever wish for, and more", she says. "I have loved working for Virgin Media and will miss my team dearly, but I feel incredibly grateful to be joining such a special company".
Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett have announced that they will release their second album together, 'Love For Sale', on 1 Oct. "The day we released [previous album] 'Cheek To Cheek' in 2014, [Bennett] called me and asked me if I wanted to record another album with him, this time celebrating the songs of Cole Porter", says Gaga. "I'm always honoured to sing with my friend Tony, so of course I accepted the invitation". Here's new single 'I Get A Kick Out Of You'.
Weezer have released a cover of Metallica's 'Enter Sandman'. The track is their contribution to upcoming Metallica tribute album 'The Metallica Blacklist'.
Public Service Broadcasting have released new single 'Blue Heaven', featuring Andreya Casablanca. Their new album, 'Bright Magic', is out on 24 Sep.
Hayden Thorpe has released new single 'Parallel Kingdom'. His new album, 'Moondust For My Diamond', is out on 15 Oct.
Goat have released new single 'Fill My Mouth'. Their new album, 'Headsoup', is out on 27 Aug.
Noga Erez has released 'Sunday', a track recorded during sessions for her latest album 'Kids'.
Kills Birds have announced that they will release their second album, 'Married', on 12 Nov. First single 'Rabbit' is out now. "Lyrically, 'Rabbit' is about the experience of being in an abusive relationship with a powerful person", says vocalist Nina Ljeti. "Like many people who share this experience, this particular relationship defined the majority of my young adulthood, and I'm still dealing with the emotional consequences of it".
GIGS & TOURS
Rudimental have announced five intimate live shows ahead of the release of their new album, 'Ground Control', on 3 Sep. They'll kick off with two shows at the Jazz Cafe in London on 24-25 Aug. More info here.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Donald Trump prepared for first Republican debate by offending Aerosmith's Joe Perry
Back in 2015, Donald Trump was still seen by many as something of a joke candidate. During the first Republican Party debate in August that year, the joke did seem like it was in particularly poor taste. But the debate also showed Trump's ability to draw attention away from everyone else with his antagonistic style, a tactic that would eventually help to put him in the White House.
So, how does someone like Donald Trump prepare for an event that would begin to define his approach to politics? Well, in an in-depth look back at that election campaign in Business Insider, campaign manager Corey Lewandowski recalls: "We had a little bit of downtime before we went over to the arena. We landed the plane in Cleveland and we got a phone call from Don McGahn, who was then our general counsel".
McGahn said on that call: "Hey, Aerosmith is close by. Do you mind if they bring their tour bus over and party with us for a little while?" And, Lewandowski goes on, "we said, '100% - bring Aerosmith over!' So we sat there with Aerosmith about an hour before the debate, swapping stories [about] Aerosmith as opposed to doing debate prep".
Gahn himself remembers it all slightly differently, however. While Aerosmith vocalist Steven Tyler was in the audience at the debate, it was only actually Joe Perry who turned up backstage.
"It wasn't the whole band", Gahn corrects Lewandowski. "It was Joe Perry. He was intrigued by the emerging Trump phenomenon. Remember, this was before there were any primary debates, and it was all new to everyone. Stuff that would be from Mars on any other campaign was perfectly normal for the Trump campaign".
The encounter also wasn't quite the jovial hour spent swapping stories that Lewandowski remembers, says Gahn. "By this point, Trump was getting ready for the debate, so Joe had to wait a little bit", he remembers.
"On the way out the door, Trump says something about 'rock stars have all the ladies', which apparently Perry got mad at, because he's been married for decades and takes all that stuff pretty seriously. After the debate, if you watch the film, Joe goes up on stage and finds Trump and proceeds to tell him that he's married and he doesn't sleep around".
As for why Perry was there at all, that all comes down to politics. Although possibly the politics of Aerosmith, rather than the USA.
"The subtext is that Steven Tyler already had tickets to the debate through some other wing of Trump Org", says Gahn. "Joe didn't want to be upstaged - [he] wanted to meet with Trump rather than just go to the debate. Apparently, there's a whole internal Aerosmith thing [surrounding] the political persuasion of the band".
Trump's campaign became further entwined with Aerosmith just a few months later, when Tyler threatened legal action over the use of one of his songs at Trump campaign rallies. He was also one of the few artists whose wishes Trump bowed to. Although with all the grace you would expect - Trump said he'd stop using Aerosmith song 'Dream On' because he had something "better" anyway.