|MONDAY 16 AUGUST 2021||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The UK's Competition & Markets Authority has recommended changes to the law in order to better regulate the secondary ticketing market, and also called for ticket resale platforms like Viagogo to be licensed... [READ MORE]|
CMA proposes new regulations to better regulate Viagogo and the secondary ticketing market
The competition regulator was one of two government agencies given a role in regulating the resale of tickets online after several new ticket touting rules were included in the 2015 Consumer Rights Act. National Trading Standards enforced the new rules against individual touts, while the CMA was tasked with ensuring that the resale platforms also complied with the law.
Two of those platforms - Live Nation-owned Seatwave and Get Me In! - ultimately closed down amid rising regulations and increased anti-touting sentiment within the music community. That left StubHub and Viagogo, which both ultimately made a number of changes to their sites to fall in line with UK law, although getting Viagogo to shift required legal action on the CMA's part.
Anti-touting campaigners argue that the rules continue to be routinely broken, meaning touts and the touting platforms need to be monitored and regulated on an ongoing basis. That would be easier to achieve, the CMA says in a new report today, if some further changes were made to the law.
The regulator adds in a statement: "Whilst the bulk-buying of tickets ahead of real fans by professional resellers – who then sell them at inflated prices – may be illegal, swift and effective action by authorities is not possible under the current law. Similar issues arise in relation to laws which prevent resellers advertising tickets using incorrect information or 'speculatively selling' tickets that they don't own".
Among the changes the CMA is proposing are a ban on platforms allowing resellers to sell more tickets for an event than they can legally buy from the primary market, and new rules ensuring platforms are fully responsible for incorrect information about tickets that are listed for sale on their websites.
It also proposes "a new system of licensing for platforms that sell secondary tickets that would enable an authority to act quickly and issue sanctions such as taking down websites, withdrawing a business's right to operate in the sector, and the imposition of substantial fines".
Commenting on the proposals, George Lusty, Senior Director For Consumer Protection at the CMA, says: "Over recent years we have taken strong action to protect people buying tickets from resellers online and the secondary ticket websites are now worlds apart from those we saw before the CMA took action".
However, he notes, "it is clear that concerns about the sector remain" but "there are limits to what the CMA and other enforcers can do with their current powers".
"With live music and sporting events starting back up we want the government to take action to strengthen the current laws and introduce a licensing regime for secondary ticketing platforms. If adopted, these proposals will help prevent people getting ripped off by unscrupulous resellers online and we stand ready to help the government to implement them".
The proposals have been welcomed by the anti-touting FanFair Alliance, whose Campaign Manager Adam Webb says: "With the steady return of live music events, this is a welcome and timely report from the Competition & Markets Authority. These proposed changes to regulating the so-called 'secondary ticketing' market could have far-reaching future benefits for music fans. We now need to fully digest the implications and viability of introducing their suggested measures".
However, Webb adds, the CMA should also continue to utilise its existing powers in this domain. "It's equally important that we’re not distracted from the here and now", he goes on. "Over the course of the pandemic, FanFair Alliance has continued to send substantial evidence to the CMA detailing a range of serious and current allegations about Viagogo in particular - from systematic breaches of consumer protection law to mass-scale fraud. This has gone on for far too long".
Noting CMA's past legal action against Viagogo - and its more recent ruling limiting the extent of Viagogo's merger with StubHub - Webb concludes: "The CMA still has a court order hanging over this company. Given Viagogo's wretched history of compliance and ongoing complications around their $4 billion merger with StubHub, it is now even more imperative that these allegations are investigated comprehensively and, if required, decisive enforcement action taken".
Nickelback fail to have song theft lawsuit dismissed
The judge said dismissal wasn't justified at this point because it was "possible" that a jury would agree that there are sufficient similarities between the band's song 'Rockstar' and an earlier song called 'Rock Star' to constitute copyright infringement.
Kirk Johnston, vocalist with the band Snowblind Revival, sued last year, claiming that Nickelback had ripped off his song when they wrote their 'Rockstar'. As well as suing Nickelback, he also named as co-defendants music publisher Warner Chappell and live music giant Live Nation - which, you might remember, signed a mega-bucks deal with the band covered recordings and merch as well as touring all the way back in 2008, three years after 'Rockstar' was released.
In his lawsuit, Johnston alleges that Nickelback lifted significant portions of his song for their own. As for how they came to hear his track, Johnson claims that it was performed for executives at EMI, who were working with the band at the time and could therefore have made it available to them.
Whether Johnston can produce evidence to prove this claim is "yet to be determined", said judge Susan Hightower. However, she went on, "these facts, taken as true, could have given the Nickelback defendants a reasonable opportunity to hear Johnston's copyrighted work".
She added: "Having listened to the works at issue, the court finds that it is possible for a reasonable juror to determine that the works share protectable elements".
As a result, she declined to dismiss the case at this early stage. However, she said that Live Nation should be removed as a defendant because the company would have had no way of knowing that the Nickelback song infringed any copyrights.
Ivors Academy calls for action to tackle the £500 million a year streaming black box
The study collates and reviews the available data regarding the processing and payment of streaming royalties to music publishers and songwriters in order to conservatively estimate the tangible impact of bad music rights data, a problem raised by organisations like The Ivors Academy during the recent Parliamentary inquiry into the economics of streaming.
This problem begins with the disconnect between recording rights and song rights. Streaming services obviously make available recordings of songs, but they license the different music rights through separate deals, with recordings licensed by record labels and music distributors, and songs by music publishers and collecting societies.
Labels and distributors then provide tracks to the streaming services complete with the data that allows the industry to identify each unique sound recording, that being the ISRC.
However, labels and distributors do not provide the data that allows the industry to identify each unique song, that being the ISWC. Meaning the streaming service doesn't know what song is contained in any one recording, let alone who controls the copyright in that song, which may well be co-owned by a combination of songwriters, music publishers and collecting societies.
As a result, every month each streaming service sends all of its licensing partners on the songs side a complete usage report with ever track streamed identified by its ISRC. Each licensing partner must then identify what song is contained in each recording, if it controls that song in that market, and - if so - what elements and percentage of the copyright it controls. Then it invoices for its royalties.
There is plenty of room for error in that process. An ISRC might not be matched to an ISWC. Or it might be matched to the wrong ISWC. Or different publishers and societies might match it differently. Even is a song and recording are accurately matched, in any one country it might not be clear who controls the copyright in the song. Or only 80% of the song might be claimed. Or, worse, 120% of it might be claimed by competing publishers and societies.
All of these factors can result in monies that the streaming services know they owe to the music industry - and which are ultimately due to music publishers and songwriters - not being accurately allocated to the specific songs that have been streamed.
These unallocated monies are often referred to as the streaming black box. In some cases the unallocated money stays with the streaming service, in other cases it is passed to a collecting society that then has to decide what to do with it. It is often then shared out across the industry based on market share.
It's not entirely clear quite how much money ends up in the streaming black box in this way, but the new Ivors study reckons that £500 million a year is a decent if conservative estimate.
Ivors CEO Graham Davies says: “As streaming has grown to become the dominant method of listening to music, we have also seen the growth of the song streaming data gap. Poor, insufficient and conflicting data has created a massive global challenge for the music industry and the size of the problem will continue to grow".
"We urgently need a new industry workflow based on new technologies and education of songwriters to close the data gap and ensure the right people are paid for their work", he adds.
The Academy proposed revisions to that workflow in its submission to the recent streaming inquiry undertaken by the UK Parliament's culture select committee.
Summarising its proposals this morning, the Academy calls on the music industry to "use technology to enable the attaching of authoritative creator metadata to recordings at the point of creation in order to facilitate correct creator credits and accurate, timely music royalty payments". To achieve that, it adds, there needs to be "industry-wide consensus on the minimum standards of metadata required before a music recording can be distributed and streamed".
The added complexities around the way song rights are licensed and song royalties paid in the streaming domain was previously highlighted in the 'Song Royalties Guide' published by the UK's Music Managers Forum and CMU Insights in 2019, which was also cited several times in the recent parliamentary report.
That guide called for full transparency from the music publishing sector regarding what monies are not accurately allocated to songs that have been streamed and what policies are employed in distributing black box income.
It also urged collecting societies and music publishers to clearly explain to songwriters how song royalties are processed, including sharing information on the 'royalty chains' that money flows down as it goes from a streaming service to a writer, explaining what delays, deductions and potential data issues occur at each link on the chain.
MMF CEO Annabella Coldrick has welcomed the new study on this issue from the Ivors Academy. She says: "The MMF published the 'Song Royalties Guide' over two years ago illustrating the serious structural issues with song royalty chains and the data problems, deductions and delays that the current system perpetrates. The division of this enormous 'black box' of unallocable royalties by market share creates little incentive for the big players and societies to seriously reform this opaque system".
"The MMF has spent the last two years trying and failing to map these song royalty chains so a writer can know how much money from their overseas streams should be making it back to their account so they can ask the right questions if it doesn't", she adds.
"There is absolutely zero transparency for writers. Alongside the DCMS recommendations, we welcome this release from the Ivors and its proposals which echo our own. We need to see the industry and societies urgently take action rather than continuously kick it back to writers to sort out their own data whilst benefiting from them not doing so".
Live Nation introduces US-wide vaccine or negative COVID test entry requirement
Artists, venues and promoters across the world have been considering what their entry requirement policies should be as COVID regulations have started to lift in various countries allowing full capacity shows to return. Options include insisting that audience members are vaccinated against COVID, or accepting both proof of vaccine or a negative COVID test, or having no requirements at all. In some places national or state laws might also impact on any industry-set requirements.
AEG last week announced that it will require proof of vaccination to access its US shows and venues as of October. The CEO of AEG Presents, Jay Marciano, said: "We have come to the conclusion that, as a market leader, it was up to us to take a real stand on vaccination status. We realise that some people might look at this as a dramatic step but it's the right one".
Under Live Nation's new company wide policy, a negative COVID test will also be accepted as an alternative to proof of vaccine. That's the policy the company employed at its recent Lollapalooza festival in Chicago, which - it reckons - was a success, both in restricting the spread of the coronavirus at the event and in encouraged ticket-buyers to get vaccinated.
Confirming that policy, Live Nation boss Michael Rapino said: "Vaccines are going to be your ticket back to shows, and as of 4 Oct we will be following the model we developed for Lollapalooza and requiring this for artists, fans and employees at Live Nation venues and festivals everywhere possible in the US".
Around 90% of those who attended Lollapalooza were vaccinated against COVID, with Live Nation saying that 12% of attendees actually got the vaccine in order to get into the festival.
Both live music companies will also require employees to be fully vaccinated when visiting any of their respective premises in the US.
Strawberries & Creem and UN Women UK partner on Safe Spaces Now initiative
In an open letter to the live sector and the wider music community last week, they and other signatories called for a rethink of how venues, festivals, studios and other music industry workplaces are set up, in order to ensure that they are more safe.
The letter cites research saying that 70% of women in the UK have been sexually harassed, while more than 40% of women under 40 have been harassed at a live music event. More than 95% of incidents go unreported, they add, highlighting the need for change as the industry reopens following the COVID-19 pandemic.
"As live events return following the COVID pandemic, women and marginalised people everywhere are not only thinking about staying safe from the virus – they want to be able to enjoy their right to music, arts and culture without constant fears of violence and harassment", says Claire Barnett, Executive Director of UN Women UK. "We have a unique opportunity as we return from lockdown to reconsider the way we construct and use our public spaces to be safer for the long term".
Set to take place in September, the 2021 edition of Strawberries & Creem will double up as a Safe Spaces Now pilot event, putting into practice numerous solutions UN Women UK has identified for making live events safer and more inclusive.
Chris Jammer, co-founder of Strawberries & Creem, says: "We're passionate about ensuring our events are welcoming, inclusive and safe spaces for people to enjoy music together. Festivals should offer joy and hope to everyone, and they are absolutely no place for harassment or abuse of any form. Equality and diversity are values close to our hearts, and we're proud to have a gender-balanced line-up this year, as well as to be working with UN Women UK on this crucial initiative".
"We hope that together", he adds, "we can set a blueprint for what safe spaces should look like for festivals moving forward – for all of our audience, as well as our artists and staff".
Other signatories of the open letter include Glastonbury's Emily Eavis, The Eden Project, Dice, Clara Amfo, Anne-Marie, MNEK, Rudimental, Paloma Faith and Holly Humberstone.
Nanci Griffith dies
Her death was confirmed by her management company, Gold Mountain Entertainment. No cause of death has yet been given, the company saying in its brief announcement: "It was Nanci's wish that no further formal statement or press release happen for a week following her passing".
Known for her narrative style of songwriting, her best known songs include 'Love At The Five And Dime' and 'Outbound Plane'. She is also known for her version of 'From A Distance', written by Julie Gold, which was later also recorded by Bette Midler.
Griffith learned to play guitar as a child from a PBS TV show and performed live for the first time aged twelve. She released her first album, 'There's A Light Beyond These Woods', in 1978, while working as a primary school teacher in Austin, Texas. She later moved to Nashville, signing her first major record deal, with MCA, in 1985.
She won the 1994 Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album for a collection of covers, 'Other Voices, Other Rooms', which was also her most successful album in the UK. Her 20th and final album, 'Intersection', was released in 2012.
Kanye West producer denies quitting Donda
Dean posted various tweets yesterday, including saying that it was "good to be at the house", having seemingly left West's makeshift studio at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. He also said that he would be focussing on an upcoming solo live show for the next week.
'Donda' of course, was scheduled for release last month, following a listening event at the stadium. However, instead, West and his team remained in the venue for two weeks to continue working on the project. A second listening event took place earlier this month, and again plans to release the record the following day did not come to fruition. Since then, the release date has been moved back and forth regularly, with an iTunes pre-order page currently listing it as 20 Aug.
Dean also reportedly tweeted, "I left Monday. Secretly. Had to get away". And, replying to a message from a fan saying that the whole 'Donda' rollout seemed "toxic", he said (and subsequently deleted): "Toxic. That's it".
Later he tweeted: "I haven’t quit anything. The album continues. People read too much into tweets".
As for the "toxic" comment, he added: "I mean toxic fans asking questions you moron writers. Jesus. People take shit out of context".
Some fans are taking all this as a positive sign that recording on the album is now complete, making Dean's presence no longer required. It is speculated that mixing is now the hold up.
Though, if he's only just got going with the mix, West is probably going to struggle to make that 20 Aug deadline. But, whatever, let's assume this record will be released someday, and in the meantime everyone just needs to be a bit more patient.
Ed Sheeran's move into metal could be on the way, with the help of Cradle Of Filth
This follows a recent throwaway comment by Sheeran saying that he "would not be opposed" to recording a bit of metal one day. "I was really into death metal as a kid", he told The Sun. "I listened to Cradle Of Filth and Slipknot and all that stuff. I'm not saying I could ever step into that world. [But] I learnt all those riffs on guitar as a kid".
Filth responded by saying "I'll believe it when I see it", and now it seems he may get that opportunity sooner rather than later. "I've actually been emailing with him", he told Kerrang! Radio backstage at the Bloodstock festival this weekend.
Rightly met with disbelief, he continued: "No no, it's true! He actually touched base with me. I've been invited up to his place. Well, he said he could come down to mine, but I pointed out to him that I don't own my own bar or village, and it'd be better if I went there. He said he'd do anything. Quite literally. He said he's a massive fan. He seems like a genuinely very nice guy actually".
As for a possible negative reaction to the idea of his band working with Sheeran (and vice versa), he went on: "If someone tells us not to do something, then we'll do it. That's been our prerogative the whole time. So, in that respect, I think it - the Ed Sheeran collaboration - would be great fun".
"I think it'd be great if we did it for charity, because at least it would bring a bit of credibility to it", he added. "Because obviously to his public, it'd be like, 'Oh my god, he's got this weird comical guy', and to my public it'd be like, 'Oh my god, this is a bit weird, isn't it?' But I think that sort of thing nowadays works".
So, we'll see if this actually happens, but it could be fun. Maybe it'll inspire Sheeran to completely change his musical direction. Who knows, perhaps he'll be headlining Bloodstock next year.