|THURSDAY 16 SEPTEMBER 2021||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: StubHub has formally agreed that it will pay out an estimated $16 million in cash refunds to consumers in ten US states who were impacted by the ticket resale platform's decision to change its refunds policy as the COVID lockdown got underway last year. The secondary ticketing company has blamed cash flow issues and the UK regulatory investigation into its merger with Viagogo for that decision to alter its policies regarding refunds on cancelled shows... [READ MORE]|
StubHub settles with US Attorneys General over its COVID refunds policy
The whole ticketing sector faced big challenges in 2020, of course, as an unprecedented number of shows were cancelled and postponed as the COVID pandemic forced the shutdown of the live industry. This put the spotlight on the refund policies of different ticketing companies - and what consumer rights law says in different countries and states about the obligations of promoters and ticket sellers to provide cash refunds.
The challenges were arguably even bigger for ticket resale services like StubHub, because they are one step removed from the promoters who are cancelling or postponing the shows, their tickets coming from touts. Platforms like StubHub also tend to make a bigger deal about their refund guarantees, to overcome consumer concerns about buying tickets from unofficial sellers.
StubHub's efforts to tackle those challenges came into the spotlight when it was sued in the US in April 2020. In that lawsuit, it was claimed that StubHub's pre-COVID policy was to offer cash refunds to anyone who bought tickets from resellers on the secondary ticketing platform to a show that was then cancelled. However, as the COVID-19 shutdown kicked in, it started offering the option of taking a voucher worth 120% of the price of the cancelled ticket.
And then, on 25 Mar 2020, terms were changed on the resale firm’s website so that ticketholders could be forced to take the voucher instead of cash – at "StubHub's sole discretion" – unless the ticket was bought in a country where consumer rights law obliged the ticketing firm to provide a cash refund.
It was that change that led to the class action lawsuit in the US courts. That lawsuit stated: "As a result of defendants' abrupt and illegal about-face at least tens-of thousands of their customers have been and/or will be cheated out of refunds to which they are legally entitled for thousands of different events".
The change to StubHub's refunds policy was subsequently investigated by Attorneys General in multiple US states. Following those investigations, in May this year StubHub started to offer cash refunds to people who had bought tickets before 25 Mar 2020 for shows that were subsequently cancelled and who had previously been told that only vouchers were available as compensation.
This week a series of formal settlements with an assortment of Attorneys General across the US were published making StubHub's commitment to offer cash refunds to eligible ticket-buyers official.
Those settlements include a explanation as to why StubHub changed its refunds policy in March 2020, and why it couldn't turn to Viagogo - which bought the company for $4 billion shortly before the pandemic - for help when it hit cash flow problems as the number of cancellations started to spike.
The settlements state: "StubHub contends that it was unable to refund all eligible buyers prior to 3 May 2021 due to the unforeseen impact that the COVID-19 pandemic had on its business and the live in-person event industry, including a near complete loss of revenue, an inability to recoup cash refunds from ticket sellers, and an order from the United Kingdom's Competition & Markets Authority preventing StubHub from merging or even communicating about StubHub's business with its new parent company, Viagogo, which purchased StubHub in February 2020".
As the settlements were published, plenty of AGs took the opportunity to criticise StubHub's response to the challenges caused by the pandemic. Washington DC Attorney General Karl A Racine said: "By refusing to issue full refunds on cancelled events during the pandemic, StubHub not only violated its policy but also violated the trust of its consumers". Meanwhile Mark R Herring, AG in Virginia, added: "The COVID pandemic should not be used as an excuse to withhold refunds owed to customers for cancelled events".
For its part, a StubHub spokesperson told Law360: "Putting fans first has always been central to the StubHub business ... adjusting our refund policy for canceled events during the pandemic was a difficult decision, but a necessary one at the time. As soon as circumstances allowed, StubHub achieved its goal of providing impacted customers the choice to keep the 120% credit they were issued when their event was canceled or receive a cash refund".
"We appreciate the patience of our customers, partners and regulators as we worked toward providing that choice, and we appreciate the ongoing dialogue with the states as we worked to formalise the actions StubHub voluntarily took beginning in May 2021 through this multi-state agreement", the spokesperson added.
The CMA investigation into Viagogo's purchase of StubHub concluded last week. As part of a settlement with the regulator, Viagogo will sell all of StubHub's operations outside North America to Digital Fuel Capital.
Jury in R Kelly trial hear recordings of abuse
Jurors listened to the recordings through headphones, meaning press and members of the public in attendance, and R Kelly himself, did not get to hear what they contained.
However, when prosecutors sought permission to play the recordings from the judge earlier this week, they gave some insight into what jurors would hear in written documents. They said that, in one recording Kelly can be heard accusing an unidentified woman of lying to him, after which he assaults her, declaring: "If you lie to me, I'm going to fuck you up".
In the other recording, Kelly is heard accusing another woman from Florida of stealing a Rolex watch from him. He says: "You better not ever … take from me again or I will be in Florida and something will happen to you. You understand what I'm telling you?"
Prosecutors also told the judge that they had planned to call the women in the second recording as a witness, but that she "started to have panic attacks and appeared to have an emotional breakdown" while listening to the tape in preparation for her testimony. They added: "For the sake of her mental health, the government advised Jane Doe No 20 that it would not call her as a witness at the trial".
Kelly, of course, is accused of abusing numerous women and girls, and of running a sophisticated criminal enterprise so to give him access to new victims to abuse. The prosecution is expected to wrap up its case tomorrow, before the defence starts presenting its arguments next week.
Soundcloud says user-centric boosted the royalties for Portishead's SOS by 500%
Streaming is a revenue share business with services sharing their revenues with the music industry each month. That process begins by allocating a percentage of revenue to each track in the system, based on what portion of listening each track accounted for. That allocation is then shared with the label or distributor that controls the recording rights, and the publisher or collecting society that controls the accompanying song rights.
Under the current system employed by most services - sometimes called the 'pro-rata' system - revenues and usage data are pooled for each subscription type in each market. So if a track accounts for 0.1% of all listening by UK premium subscribers, it would be allocated 0.1% of all premium subscription revenues.
With user-centric the same system applies, but the maths is done at a user level. So if one track accounts for 0.1% of one subscriber's listening, it is allocated 0.1% of that user's subscription money. Some people argue that this is a fairer way of allocating monies to tracks, and/or it would benefit middle-level artists over superstars.
Earlier this year SoundCloud started using a user-centric system - what it calls 'fan-powered royalties' - for music which has been directly uploaded to its platform by independent creators. With tracks provided to SoundCloud by labels and distributors, monies are still allocated to tracks using the same system as everyone else.
Portishead originally recorded a cover of Abba's 'SOS' for the soundtrack to 2015 film 'High-Rise'. Although it has been on YouTube since 2016, it isn't available on streaming services like Spotify. The band said that they decided to post it to SoundCloud in July this year - in order to raise money for the charity Mind - because they supported the platform's fan-powered royalties scheme.
According to Pitchfork: "SoundCloud has now outlined how at least one song has fared under the fan-powered model in comparison with the traditional pro-rata pool system. In less than a month, 'SOS' earned more than six times the revenue it would have under a pro-rata model, according to a statistic SoundCloud provided to Pitchfork. In other words, it represents more than a 500% increase".
A rep for SoundCloud told Pitchfork that, given it has only been using the user-centric approach for a few months, it is still crunching the data regarding the wider impact, but that "the model is tracking as expected and the Portishead stat is a strong confirmation of the model’s design - fan engagement is driving meaningful revenue".
While the user-centric approach does seem fairer, some in the industry have raised concerns regarding the costs and complexities of switching to that model, while research has been generally inconclusive regarding the extent to which user-centric would actually result in middle-level artists getting bigger track allocations each month.
But Portishead's Geoff Barrow is a supporter. He told Pitchfork: “[The user-centric model] is a real opportunity for people who want to support artists. I didn't expect huge amounts of people to listen to ['SOS']. It was more about getting the idea out that you could stream music and it could make money... It's the difference between being able to order a pizza and someone actually paying the rent".
Trinidad's health minister says Nicki Minaj's COVID tweet will make efforts to vaccinate population "a little harder"
Minaj, who was born in Trinidad & Tobago, said earlier this week that she has not yet received her first dose of the vaccine and claimed on Twitter: "My cousin in Trinidad won't get the vaccine cuz his friend got it and became impotent. His testicles became swollen. His friend was weeks away from getting married, now the girl called off the wedding".
Back in Trinidad, the government is currently working hard to convince people to get vaccinated, but currently more than 60% of the population is yet to receive their first dose. At a press conference yesterday, Deyalsingh said that Minaj's tweet "certainly didn't help, and will make our job a little harder, which we don't need right now".
He added that, due to vaccine skepticism in the country, the government investigates all claims made about vaccinations in order to ensure that they are fully debunked. As a result, he went on, "we wasted so much time yesterday running down this false claim".
"We have to research [such claims], because suppose it was true - we don't want to be accused of just ignoring it", he went on. "But we spent a lot of time yesterday trying to track it down. So far, it has not proven to be true in Trinidad or ... anywhere else in the world, that this is a known side effect or adverse effect of vaccination. But her tweet certainly did not help, because people like her are social influencers and they do carry some sway".
Previously, the United States' top medical scientist Dr Anthony Fauci, when asked if there was any truth to Minaj's claim that COVID vaccines could cause impotence, said that "the answer to that is a resounding 'no'". Meanwhile, the UK's Chief Medical Officer Dr Chris Whitty said that Minaj and others who spread "untruths" about vaccines "should be ashamed".
Minaj, meanwhile, now says that she has been invited to the White House to discuss her questions about COVID vaccines. She tweeted: "The White House has invited me and I think it's a step in the right direction. Yes, I'm going. I'll be dressed in all pink like 'Legally Blonde' so they know I mean business. I'll ask questions on behalf of the people who have been made fun of for simply being human".
Public Enemy reunion tour being held up by Chuck D. Or Flavor Flav. One of them, anyway
"There's some things that Chuck D has to work out, and once he comes to the table and signs this partnership agreement then we can work", Flav tells TMZ. "Until he signs this partnership agreement we're not working. That's my boy and that's my family member, but business-wise, we're not seeing eye to eye".
"I'm trying to get Chuck to come and see eye to eye with me", he adds. "I'm not the hold up of this Public Enemy project. Chuck D is the hold up. I want everybody to know that Chuck D is the hold up and not Flavor Flav. Everybody tell Chuck D to sign the partnership agreement to Public Enemy [so we] can move! I need to move around".
In a statement to Stereogum, Chuck D responded: "Come on y’all. This is tired and stupid. Flav and I communicate on our own, so I normally don't address these things in public, but I'm tired of the circus of airing news that ain't news and am going to keep it factual here".
"Even after all the years of Flav giving the situation minimum while always asking for the maximum, I still work with him", he added. "But it's time to change. Everybody in the situation can't be burdened with picking up his slack. The key word in 'Brothers Gonna Work It Out' is the word 'work'. We're always gonna be brothers regardless, but Flav's gotta do the work and there ain't no getting down without the work. Simple as that".
So... Flav is the hold up? Whatever, this is all starting to feel like a repeat of last year's hoax/non-hoax. In February 2020, Flavor Flav sent a cease-and-desist letter to Public Enemy Radio - a Flavor-less line-up of Public Enemy that has been touring in recent years - complaining that their booking to play a Bernie Sanders fundraiser made it look like he also supported Sanders.
The group responded by saying that Flav had been fired from the main Public Enemy outfit, not due to his political beliefs (as Flav went on to claim), but because "he always chose to party over work".
So that all seemed very bitter. But then on 1 Apr, Public Enemy Radio released an album, which included a track billed as featuring Public Enemy on it - so including Flavor Flav. And this, claimed Chuck D, was all part of a big hoax. Flav hadn't been fired! They were just trying to promote this new collaboration. So that was all definitely very clear to everyone. Everyone except Flavor Flav, who said he knew nothing of any hoax and thought it was all in very poor taste.
But then, in September last year, Public Enemy itself released a new album - 'What You Gonna Do When the Grid Goes Down?' - which saw Chuck D and Flavor Flav patch up their differences for long enough to record seventeen whole tracks together.
If you want to see them tour that album though, Chuck D is going to have to sign that partnership agreement. Or Flavor Flav is going to have to buck up his ideas and get down to work. Or maybe both. Or maybe this is all a hoax and the tour is going to start tomorrow.
Sony Music Publishing has signed Tiago PZK to a worldwide agreement. "Tiago is a leading voice within the new generation of artists coming from Argentina and making their voices heard around the world", says Jorge Mejia, CEO of Sony Music Publishing US Latin and Latin America. "We couldn't be happier to be part of this journey, we can't wait to see where it takes us".
Downtown Music Services has signed five new labels to its roster: the UK's Homework Radio and Lofi Bloom, Germany's Effortless Audio, Canada’s Inner Oceans Records, and Sweden's Ninetofive. "I think a major reason why artists and labels choose DMS is because of the sense of 'family/community' that we have cultivated", says Rod Linnum, VP Sales at DMS.
The big skip of bullshit that currently runs this United Kingdom Of Great Britain And Northern Ireland was given a good old shake yesterday and - once complete - there was a new bucket of bullshit sitting at the top of the Department For Digital, Culture, Media & Sport. By which, we mean, the UK has a new Culture Secretary: Brexit lover and 'cancel culture' hater Nadine Dorries.
Chvrches have covered Gerard McMann's 'Cry Little Sister', best known as the theme song to 1987 movie 'The Lost Boys'. The Chvrches version will appear on the soundtrack of new Netflix movie 'Nightbrooks'. "We were so excited to work on this project as we are big fans of everyone involved", they say. "Cinema - horror in particular - has always been a big part of Chvrches behind the scenes. We have talked about covering 'Cry Little Sister' for years and this seemed like the perfect moment to do it".
Kehlani will release her third album, 'Blue Water Road', at some point this winter. Out right now is new single 'Altar'.
The recently renamed Sea Power have released new single 'Two Fingers'. "The song is 'fuck me, fuck you, fuck everything'", says the band's Jan Scott Wilkinson. "But it's also 'love me, love you, love everything' – exultation in the darkness. If you say 'fuck you' in the right way, it really can be cathartic, a new start".
With their new album coming out on 29 Oct, The War On Drugs have released its titled track, 'I Don't Live Here Anymore'. The band will also play the O2 Arena in London on 12 Apr.
Foxes has announced that she will release her debut album, 'The Kick', on 11 Feb. Here's new single 'Sister Ray', influenced by The Velvet Underground track of the same name. She says it "came from a wild part of me during lockdown that was craving a night of freedom and fun again, a longing to let go. The Velvet Underground reference is a nod to describing the most debauched night you could ever imagine but in its spirit, it's a celebration of the people you can have those indescribable times with. I wanted to encapsulate that energy in a song so I could imagine that feeling forever".
Pa Salieu has released new EP 'Afrikan Rebel'. "Fundamentally, 'Afrikan Rebel' is about being proud and loud about where you come from", he says. "For me that is Africa. I see the word 'rebel' only in the most positive sense. Those figures through history that have fought against the odds to stand up for what they believe in have always intrigued and inspired me. I hope I can encourage others to be vocal about their beliefs and stand up for what they feel is right".
Metronomy have released a new EP, titled 'Posse', which sees them collaborate with other artists - Pinty, Biig Piig, Spill Tab, Sorry, Brian Nasty and Folly Group. "I made the EP after finishing the new Metronomy album", says Joseph Mount. "Please consume it in the same spirit it was made; discover some new artists and share the music with your friends".
Snail Mail has announced her second album 'Valentine'. "I wanted to take as much time as possible with this record to make sure I was happy with every detail before unleashing it unto y'all", she says. "Referring to the process as the deepest level of catharsis and therapy I have ever experienced would be a huge understatement. 'Valentine' is my child!" Way to set some high expectations. The album's not out until 5 Nov, but you can listen to the title track now.
A new Grouper album is coming next month. 'Shade' will be released on 22 Oct. Here's new single 'Ode To The Blue'.
Kills Birds have released new single 'Glisten'. "This song is about loving the wrong people", says vocalist Nina Ljeti. "It was written after I experienced a profound betrayal, at the hands of a person who was unable to take accountability for their actions. The lyrics in the chorus - 'why don't you love me?' - are directed at the person in question. In retrospect, they're also questions I need to ask myself". The band's new album, 'Married', is out on 12 Nov.
Contributing to the latest run of the Sub Pop Singles Club, TV Priest have put out new track 'Lifesize'. Vocalist Charlie Drinkwater says of the song: "'Lifesize' is about the worship of the 'strong man' image often present in our political and cultural discourse. One where the patriarchal underpinnings of our society and political structure goes unchallenged. After a particularly gruelling year, when people have looked to leaders for strength, we've found instead empty gestures and contempt. We don't need more macho bravado; society needs empathy and compassion".
With their tenth album, 'Worthless Music', set for release on 3 Dec, The Scaramanga Six have released the second single from it, 'An Error Occurred'. The band's Steven Morricone says: "There is defiance in drudgery it seems. Passive-aggressive cleaning routines, give the mirror a talking-to by all means but keep your head down and your big nose clean – that'll show them. Amongst the cutlery drawer chaos, flecks of pride nestle alongside baked-on food particles".
GIGS & TOURS
BTS have announced a new online concert performance, 'Permission To Dance On Stage'. It's being released as a result of their world tour being cancelled because of that pandemic thing, thus denying them permission to dance on stage. You'll be able to watch in on 24 Oct at 6.30pm Korean time.
Injury Reserve will tour the UK and Ireland in January and February next year, in support of new album 'By The Time I Get To Phoenix', which is out now.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
American awards ceremonies are "horrible", says Ed Sheeran
The musician was speaking after last weekend's MTV VMAs - where he performed recent single 'Bad Habits' - the video for which was up for (but did not win) three prizes.
He tells Audacy: "The room is filled with resentment and hatred towards everyone else and it's quite an uncomfortable atmosphere. All the artists are sweet people, but they're surrounded by entourages that want them to win too, so it's one artist surrounded by ten people and another artist surrounded by ten people and everyone is kind of giving each other the side eye".
"It's nothing to do with MTV or [its] awards show, it's at all the other [American] awards shows [too]; Billboards, Grammys, AMAs", he adds. "It's just lots of people wanting other people to fail and I don't like that. In England, our award shows are just like, every one gets drunk and no one really cares who wins or loses, it's just sort of a good night out".
He's not the only person who feels this way, he goes on: "People get the same feeling as me at those award shows. I've spoke to people and they're like, 'I just felt really depressed afterwards'. The atmosphere is just not nice… It's a really, really horrible atmosphere to be in there. I always walk away feeling sad and I don't like it".
The VMAs, of course, is mainly an event where artists win awards for other people's hard work making their videos, so that probably adds another layer of awfulness to it all. Anyway, watch Sheeran perform to a load of hate-filled people who just want to see him fail here.