TODAY'S TOP STORY: The UK government has published more data from its Events Research Programme showing that, generally speaking, the number of people who contracted COVID-19 at any one show that took place as part of the scheme was pretty much in line with general infection rates at the time said events occurred. The conclusion is that "mass participation events can be conducted safely, but caution must still be taken around specific aspects of event participation"... [READ MORE]

TOP STORIES New stats from the Events Research Programme further confirms full capacity shows can be COVID safe
LEGAL Former tour manager claims he faked the IDs for R Kelly's 1994 marriage to Aaliyah
Iron Maiden settles with e-commerce company over frozen PayPal account
DIGITAL & D2F SERVICES Spotify announces another share buy-back scheme
MEDIA Bauer Media completes Imagine Radio acquisition, allowing further expansion of Greatest Hits Radio
ARTIST NEWS Don Everly dies
Blackground Records owner comments on Aaliyah's One In A Million finally arriving on streaming services
AND FINALLY... Social media refresh doesn't mean a Destiny's Child reunion is on the cards
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New stats from the Events Research Programme further confirms full capacity shows can be COVID safe
The UK government has published more data from its Events Research Programme showing that, generally speaking, the number of people who contracted COVID-19 at any one show that took place as part of the scheme was pretty much in line with general infection rates at the time said events occurred. The conclusion is that "mass participation events can be conducted safely, but caution must still be taken around specific aspects of event participation".

A series of events were held earlier this year as part of the ERP, most taking place when full capacity shows - or any shows at all - were not allowed under COVID regulations. The aim was to confirm that full capacity shows could safely return - and to identify what measures venues and promoters could employ to reduce the risk of the coronavirus spreading at their events.

The latest stats released from the programme look at how many COVID cases were recorded by the NHS Test And Trace system following each ERP event. Generally speaking the number of people contracting COVID was in line with - or below - community infection rates at the time any one event took place.

Obviously community infection rates have been in flux over that time, which impacts on infections at any one event.

So both the Latitude and Tramlines festivals recorded over 1000 infections each, while the Wimbledon Championships recorded 881 COVID cases despite having a much bigger audience over the two weeks of the event. However, the music festivals took place after the lifting of most COVID regulations in England, meaning that community infection rates were higher at the time those events occurred.

It's also important to note that where people tested positive for COVID after attending an ERP event, it doesn't necessarily mean that that's where they contracted the virus. ERP researchers have tried to account for that in their review of the Test And Trace stats.

It has to be said, the new figures from the ERP pretty much confirm what we already knew. Including that, although shows, concerts and sporting events can go ahead without causing significant COVID spikes, there are various measures that should be instigated to mitigate the risk of infection.

Alongside its release of the new stats, the government said on Friday: "A cautious approach should be taken at unstructured events involving attendees being in close proximity for extended periods of time, when spectators are at high-density pinch points at venues, when travelling to and from events, and when mixing indoors before, during and after events".

Commenting on the latest release of ERP stats, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden says: "We've shown that we can reintroduce mass sports and cultural events safely but it is important that people remain cautious when mixing in very crowded settings. So that we can keep the football season, theatres and gigs safe with full crowds this winter, I urge sport, music and culture fans to get the vaccine as this is the safest way we can get big events firing on all cylinders once more".

Meanwhile Health Minister James Bethell adds: "Data is our greatest weapon in the fight against the pandemic, and these pilots inform our approach to mass events, now and in the future".

"These events and the passion of supporters brought joy to millions of people across the country", he goes on. "But the reports make it clear that they also reinforce the need for us to not let our guard down. We all need to comply with the advice accompanying major events to keep everyone safe and so everyone can safely enjoy these important occasions. We can all keep doing our bit by getting tested regularly and getting the vaccine".


Former tour manager claims he faked the IDs for R Kelly's 1994 marriage to Aaliyah
The R Kelly trial continued in New York on Friday, with the standout testimony relating to the accused star's short-lived marriage to Aaliyah in 1994.

Kelly, of course, faces a stack of charges in multiple US states relating to allegations of sexual abuse, including against minors, and other alleged crimes, all of which he denies.

The current trial centres on charges that were filed in New York state, and - beyond the specific testimonies of various alleged victims - prosecutors are keen to show the jury how Kelly and his inner circle built and ran a decades-long criminal enterprise designed to allow the musician to control and abuse numerous young women, while constantly covering up his actions and silencing his accusers.

It's alleged that in 1994 Kelly, aged 27, was led to believe that he had got his then fifteen year old protege Aaliyah pregnant. Fearing that could lead to charges of sexually abusing a minor, Kelly decided to marry Aaliyah, because under US law a wife cannot be forced to testify against her husband. With the couple married in secret, and without the knowledge of her parents, papers were forged to show that Aaliyah was eighteen.

On Friday the court heard from one of Kelly's former tour managers who claims it was him who arranged for the fake IDs. Demetrius Smith said that, while working on one of Kelly's tours in 1994, the musician told him that "Aaliyah was in trouble", but that her uncle Barry Hankerson - who was working with Kelly at the time, as well as running the label that released his niece's music - shouldn't be told.

Smith added that Kelly then said that his business manager Daryl McDavid was already arranging the marriage, in order to ensure the musician was "protected". Although Smith initially said he thought the marriage was a bad idea, he subsequently offered to obtain the fake IDs, fearing that he would be pushed out of the star's inner circle if he wasn't seen to be supporting the plan.

Smith told the court that he bribed a clerk at the Illinois Department Of Human Services to get one fake ID, while the other came from a mail courier company. Kelly and Aaliyah then went to city hall in the Chicago suburb of Maywood to get a marriage licence. The marriage was subsequently annulled.

The former tour manager became agitated at various points during his testimony on Friday, especially when it was pointed out the IDs he'd described faking wouldn't normally be accepted for the processing of a marriage licence.

At one point he told the judge that he wasn't comfortable talking about these things, especially without Aaliyah's mother being present. Smith's testimony is due to continue later today.

Elsewhere during Friday's proceedings, the court also heard from one of Kelly's former assistants, who worked at the musician's home and studio for two years in the late 2000s. Anthony Navarro said that, although he never witnessed Kelly sexually abusing anyone, the musician enforced strict rules at his home.

While working there, Navarro was told not to talk to any of the girls who came to Kelly's property, but to report it to his superiors if those girls ever left the rooms they had been escorted to. And sometimes, he claimed, girls who wanted to leave Kelly's home couldn't, because they couldn't get hold of the musician.

Navarro - who ultimately fell out with Kelly over allegedly unpaid wages - said he enjoyed any studio-based activities during his time working for the star, but that "all the other stuff was kind of strange - it was almost like the twilight zone - it was just a strange place".

The trial continues.


Iron Maiden settles with e-commerce company over frozen PayPal account
Iron Maiden have settled a lawsuit that was filed against them in Florida by an American e-commerce platform called Viral Style which accused one of the metal band's companies - and a law firm they worked with - of grabbing $200,000 from its PayPal account without permission in an act that was "akin to a high-tech and sophisticated bank robbery".

The dispute between Viral Style and Iron Maiden first began in the courts in Illinois, with the former getting caught up in a load of legal action pursued by the latter against a plethora of merch and clothing companies that were accused of infringing the band's intellectual property.

Two of those accused infringers - Beatee and 89artshirt - used Viral Style's platform to sell their infringing products. However, Viral Style got itself removed from the band's litigation by successfully arguing that it was not actively involved in the production or distribution of any of its clients' merchandise, and as a passive platform had safe harbour protection from any liability for any infringement.

However, Viral Style said in its lawsuit in February, despite being removed from all that legal action in Illinois, its PayPal account was still frozen by Maiden's company and AMS Law, and - subsequently - $200,000 was taken from said account. That action seemingly occurred because it was claimed that Viral Style shared a PayPal account with its two clients, something the e-commerce firm strongly denied.

With all that PayPal shenanigans allegedly causing inconvenience, lost sales and reputation damage to Viral Style, it specifically sued Iron Maiden Holdings and AMS Law for fraud, tortious interference and civil conspiracy, seeking repayment of the $200,000 and damages.

In April, the band and the lawyers called for Viral Style's litigation to be dismissed, claiming that the lawsuit was "riddled with inconsistencies and contradictions". They also argued that the Florida courts didn't have jurisdiction over the dispute, because Maiden themselves are based in the UK, and AMS Law is located in Illinois, where the original legal action against Beatee and 89artshirt was instigated.

Talks to settle the dispute had been ongoing in recent weeks and - while at one point it looked like those negotiations had faltered - on Friday the judge overseeing the lawsuit confirmed a settlement had now been reached.

A court filing stated: "Magistrate Judge Amanda Arnold Sansone announces a settlement of this action. Under Local Rule 3.09(b), this action is dismissed subject to the right of any party within sixty days (1) to submit a stipulated form of final order or judgment or (2) to move to vacate the dismissal for good cause".

Terms of the settlement are not known.


Spotify announces another share buy-back scheme
Spotify announced another share buy-back programme on Friday, which could see the streaming firm spending $1 billion to buy back anything up to 10 million of its own shares.

Although, this share buying programme is authorised by the company's general meeting and board through to April 2026, so there's no major rush to get those shares bought up and, I quote, "the timing and actual number of shares repurchased will depend on a variety of factors, including price, general business and market conditions, and alternative investment opportunities".

A very similar scheme was announced by Spotify back in November 2018, seven months after the streaming business was first listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Among other things, buy-back programmes of this kind help boost a company's share price, by reducing the total number of shares in circulation. And that's something many remaining shareholders obviously appreciate.

Confirming the latest buy-back programme, Spotify's CFO Paul Vogel said on Friday: "This announcement demonstrates our confidence in Spotify's business and the growth opportunities we see over the long term. We believe this is an attractive use of capital, and based on the strength of our balance sheet, we continue to see ample opportunity to invest and grow our business".

Spotify's share price spiked earlier this year to $364.59, but has since been slipping back down to summer 2020 levels. Although confirmation of the new buy-back scheme resulted in a modest uplift on Friday, to $216.64 per share.

But will CMU be selling back its single solitary Spotify share as part of this scheme? Well, it's currently propping up a wobbly table, so, probably not. Unless there's another $350+ spike. Though, it's unlikely Spotify will be doing any buy-back nonsense if that happens.


Bauer Media completes Imagine Radio acquisition, allowing further expansion of Greatest Hits Radio
Bauer Media has completed its acquisition of Stockport-based Imagine Radio, meaning yet another expansion of the firm's Greatest Hits Radio network will now take place at the start of next month. First announced in June, this is the latest in a series of acquisitions of local radio stations by Bauer, most of which have been used to expand the reach of its Greatest Hits Radio brand.

Previously owned by Like Media Group, Imagine Radio itself had previously expanded its reach through acquisition. Originally broadcasting in North Cheshire and South Manchester, it expanded into the Peak District and Derbyshire Dales by buying and then re-branding what were previously known as High Peak Radio and Ashbourne Radio.

All of those frequencies will switch to Greatest Hits Radio on 1 Sep, airing mainly national programming but with a regional afternoon show. Meanwhile, Bauer added when confirming the acquisition had been completed last week, "listeners will continue to be served news bulletins carrying locally gathered stories along with local traffic bulletins and information".

Commenting on this latest expansion of Greatest Hits Radio, Bauer's Graham Bryce said: "Greatest Hits Radio is fast becoming one of the UK's most loved radio networks providing local connections that we know our listeners highly value, along with our team of legendary broadcasters and a hugely popular classic hit format".

"We're so pleased to be able to bring the station to even more of our listeners in Greater Manchester and Derbyshire", he added, "expanding access to the station across all broadcast platforms and ensuring a seamless experience whilst on the move".


Don Everly dies
Don Everly, one half of The Everly Brothers, has died aged 84, his family have confirmed.

The family's statement read: "Don lived by what he felt in his heart. Don expressed his appreciation for the ability to live his dreams ... with his soulmate and wife, Adela, and sharing the music that made him an Everly Brother".

Don, and his younger brother Phil, first performed as children on their father's radio show in Iowa in the 1940s. But it was after the Everly family moved to Nashville in the mid 1950s that the brothers were able to properly launch a music career. The first hit came in 1957 with 'Bye Bye Love' topping the country charts, while the next single 'Wake Up Little Susie' topped the overall charts.

They had fifteen top ten hits in the US in the next five years, and also quickly built a following elsewhere in the world, topping the charts in places like Australia, Canada and the UK. Indeed, as the 1960s progressed, they enjoyed more chart success in the UK than in their home country.

Over the years, though, tensions built between the brothers, with their act imploding in 1972, resulting in a ten year period when they didn't speak. Both put out solo releases during that time, before they reunited as a duo in 1983. A few more albums then followed in the 1980s, alongside collaborations with some of the other artists they had influenced, including Paul McCartney and Paul Simon.

In the following decades the brothers occasionally performed together again until Phil's death in 2014. Meanwhile Don's last live performance was during a Paul Simon show in Nashville in 2018.


Blackground Records owner comments on Aaliyah's One In A Million finally arriving on streaming services
After Aaliyah's 1996 album 'One In A Million' finally arrived on the streaming services on Friday, her uncle - and the owner of the label that owns the rights in the record - posted a statement on Instagram this weekend.

Barry Hankerson's Blackground Records announced earlier this month a new partnership with artist services firm Empire that would result in albums and soundtracks controlled by the label being reissued and distributed to all the digital platforms.

That announcement was most noteworthy, of course, because it included his late niece's albums, most of which have never been officially available to stream.

It's long been speculated as to why much of Aaliyah's catalogue wasn't on the digital services, with tensions between Hankerson and his sister Diane Haughton, who oversees her daughter's estate, often blamed.

In a recent interview with Billboard, Hankerson said: "Since the death of my niece, I don't have the same relationship I used to have with my sister". But, he added, "there was a conversation we had that she didn't want the music out, and whatever my sister told me, I tried to do what she wanted me to do".

Shortly after Blackground Records announced its Empire deal, the singer's estate issued a statement that seemed to imply there were still tensions between the label and the estate, and by association Hankerson and his sister.

That statement read: "Protecting Aaliyah's legacy is and will always be our focus. For 20 years, we have battled behind the scenes, enduring shadowy tactics of deception with unauthorised projects targeted to tarnish. We have always been confused as to why there is such a tenacity in causing more pain alongside what we already have to cope with for the rest of our lives".

However, the estate didn't outright say that it intended to block the newly announced plans to make Aaliyah's albums available to stream, adding: "Now, in this 20th year [since Aaliyah's death], this unscrupulous endeavour to release Aaliyah's music without any transparency or full accounting to the estate compels our hearts to express a word – forgiveness".

In a seemingly diplomatic Instagram post on Saturday, Hankerson specifically thanked his sister and her late husband Michael Haughton - as well Aaliyah's cousin Jomo Hankerson - all of whom played a role in managing her career. He also sought to clarify his own role in relation to Aaliyah's business affairs.

"As the owner of Aaliyah's catalogue and label Blackground Records, I want to thank you all for allowing 'One In A Million' to chart number three in the world", he wrote. "I can not take the credit for managing Aaliyah as that was never a title I held. That title belonged to Diane Haughton and her husband, who managed Aaliyah from the start of her career until her passing".

"I want to thank Diane, Aaliyah's manager, for allowing and choosing Blackground Records to become her label", he added. "I want to thank Jomo Hankerson for being an integral part of the whole process. We created a signature sound, images, and visuals that will live forever. After 25 years, we are still charting high numbers".

He concluded: "Thank you to all of her many fans for keeping her music alive. I'm sorry it took so long, but when you lose a family member so unexpectedly, it takes time to deal with that type of grief. I decided to release Aaliyah's music in order to keep her legacy alive".


Social media refresh doesn't mean a Destiny's Child reunion is on the cards
When the social media profiles of Destiny's Child are updated with new imagery does that mean [a] that a super exciting reunion is about to be announced or [b] someone at the label who controls the social media felt a refresh was needed?

If you answered [b], well done, you get a prize. But that prize is some new Destiny's Child branding to look at. Not a reunion.

Or at least that's according to Beyonce's dad Mathew Knowles, who also managed the group. He has confirmed to TMZ that the social media updates are just routine label-led changes. He was approached by the gossip site after some online speculation that the new social media imagery might be a sign that a reunion of some sorts was in the pipeline.

Though, Knowles added, the flurry of fan speculation about a possible reunion demonstrates there is definitely a demand for such a thing which is, and I quote, "great". So now you know. No Destiny's Child reunion is on the cards. But the fact that some people would like such a thing is "great".


ANDY MALT | Editor
Andy heads up the team, overseeing the CMU Daily, website and Setlist podcast, managing social channels, reporting on artist and business stories, and writing the CMU Approved column. (except press releases, see below)
CHRIS COOKE | Co-Founder & MD
Chris provides music business coverage, writing key business news and CMU Trends. He also leads the CMU Insights consultancy unit and the CMU:DIY future talent programme, as well as heading up CMU publisher 3CM UnLimited. (except press releases, see below)
SAM TAYLOR | Commercial Manager
Sam oversees the commercial side of the CMU media, leading on sales and sponsorship, and also heads up business development at CMU Insights and CMU:DIY. or call 020 7099 9060
CARO MOSES | Co-Publisher
Caro helps oversee the CMU media as a Director of 3CM UnLimited, as well as heading up the company's other two titles ThisWeek London and ThreeWeeks Edinburgh, and supporting other parts of the business.
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