TODAY'S TOP STORY: A criminal investigation has been launched and three lawsuits already filed in relation to a crowd surge at Travis Scott's Astroworld festival in Houston, Texas this weekend which left eight people dead and at least dozens more injured... [READ MORE]

TOP STORIES Travis Scott's Astroworld festival subject to criminal investigation and civil action, after eight people killed during crowd surge
LEGAL Universal Music investor hits back at lawsuit against his SPAC
DEALS BandLab buys ReverbNation
Deezer announces partnership with German broadcaster RTL Deutschland

ARTIST NEWS UB40's Astro dies
Wargasm call for action from The Scala following backstage assault

Mastodon apologise for homophonic slur in interview

AND FINALLY... Ed Sheeran = 1
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Travis Scott's Astroworld festival subject to criminal investigation and civil action, after eight people killed during crowd surge
A criminal investigation has been launched and three lawsuits already filed in relation to a crowd surge at Travis Scott's Astroworld festival in Houston, Texas this weekend which left eight people dead and at least dozens more injured.

While the exact circumstances which led to the tragedy that occurred during Scott's headline set on Friday evening at Houston's NRG Park are not yet known, various media organisations have tried to map out what happened based on eye witness reports and footage posted to social media as events unfolded.

Some reports suggest that pressure caused by the crowd pushing forward - and the resulting panic - started to create dangerous conditions about fifteen minutes into Scott's performance, which began shortly after 9pm local time.

According to the Houston Chronicle, emergency services were aware that some fans had started collapsing by 9.30pm and then declared a "mass casualty event" at around 9.40pm, although Scott's performance seemingly continued until about 10.15pm, with Drake joining him on stage for part of the set.

Scott did pause his show at least twice as these events unfolded, initially to urge fans to make way for an ambulance that had appeared amid the crowd, and later to seek help for an audience member who had visibly collapsed near the front of the stage.

However, seemingly under the impression that these were isolated incidents, on both occasions the musician continued, unaware something much more significant and much more severe was occurring within the crowd. Although his show was ultimately cut short, that happened more than half an hour after officials first became aware of the scale of the problem.

A number of those who experienced the crowd surge first hand have posted harrowing accounts, pictures and footage to social media. One video that has circulated shows two audience members desperately shouting at a camera operator filming the show - which was livestreamed by Apple Music - begging him to formally raise the alarm and ask for the performance to be halted. However, the camera operator ignores them.

In addition to this, at least two other witnesses with medical training have claimed that stewards on site did not have the required first aid skills or equipment to deal with the emergency as the number of people who had collapsed as a result of the crowd surge began to increase.

This will all presumably be scrutinised as part of the criminal investigation that has now been launched. Others have questioned whether footage of fans rushing onto the festival site as it opened earlier on Friday - pushing over security barriers in the process - resulted in significant numbers of people without tickets gaining access, increasing overall capacity.

All of these questions and allegations will also factor in the flood of civil litigation that is expected to be filed in the days ahead, most likely targeting Scott and his Cactus Jack company, as well as the festival's promoters ScoreMore and Live Nation.

As of Monday morning, three lawsuits have already been filed. The first was instigated by Manuel Souza, who was one of those injured at the festival. His legal papers claim that the tragedy that occurred on Friday night was the direct result of "a motivation for profit at the expense of concertgoers' health and safety” and the "encouragement of violence".

The latter claim relates to allegations that Scott has a history of encouraging his audiences to behave recklessly during his shows, the musician having been charged twice for inciting dangerous behaviour during past festival performances.

He was also sued in 2017 by an audience member who claimed he was knocked off the balcony at a New York venue after Scott encouraged fans on the first floor of the show to jump into the arms of audience members below in a form of extreme crowdsurfing.

Souza's new lawsuit also notes how, earlier on Friday, "concertgoers breached a security gate around the park, stampeded into the premises, and trampled over one another", arguing that this was a warning sign of problems ahead that organisers chose to ignore.

It then hones in on the fact that Scott's performance continued even once a "mass casualty event" had been declared. The event's organisers, the lawsuit states, "made the conscious decision to let the show go on, despite the extreme risk of harm to concertgoers that was escalating by the moment".

"Eventually", it adds, "due to defendants' active decision to let the show go on, the scene devolved into a complete melee, resulting in the needless, untimely death of at least eight people and injuries to scores of others".

A key reason for Souza's lawyers rush filing the lawsuit is the accompanying request for an injunction preventing any destruction of evidence. Meanwhile, the main lawsuit accuses Scott, Cactus Jack, ScoreMore and Live Nation of negligence and gross negligence, seeking at least $1 million in damages.

This year's Astroworld was meant to be a two day event, but the Saturday proceedings were cancelled once the scale of Friday night's tragedy became clear. Then, on Saturday, both Scott and Live Nation issued statements.

Scott said: "I'm absolutely devastated by what took place last night. My prayers go out to the families and all those impacted by what happened at Astroworld Festival. Houston Police Department has my total support as they continue to look into the tragic loss of life. I am committed to working together with the Houston community to heal and support the families in need. Thank you to Houston PD, Fire Department and NRG Park for their immediate response and support. Love you all".

In a subsequent video statement on Instagram he again reaffirmed that he and his team were working with the emergency services to "figure this out", urging any fans with information that could assist with those investigations to come forward.

Live Nation, meanwhile, stated: "Heartbroken for those lost and impacted at Astroworld last night. We will continue working to provide as much information and assistance as possible to the local authorities as they investigate the situation".


Universal Music investor hits back at lawsuit against his SPAC
The special purpose acquisition company that tried to buy 10% of the Universal Music Group has hit back at a lawsuit that claims the business is actually a more conventional investment firm and should be regulated as such. Pershing Square Tontine Holdings says that lawsuit is based on a "fundamentally mistaken" understanding of how special purpose acquisition companies - or SPACs - actually work.

PSTH, led by hedge fund manager Bill Ackman, announced in June that it would buy 10% of Universal Music from its then owner Vivendi. The transaction was meant to take place before Vivendi spun off its music division as a standalone business listed on the Dutch stock exchange.

However, that SPAC deal was somewhat unusual. SPACs – sometimes also known as blank cheque companies – are businesses with no active operations that raise money on the investment markets with the intent of using that cash to buy a privately-owned business outright. In doing so, the bought business basically gets a back-door stock market listing, without having to go through the tedious rigmarole of a full-on Initial Public Offering.

But Ackman's SPAC plan saw PSTH simply buying 10% of a company that was already about to list on a different stock market. Concerns were raised about that arrangement by both the SPAC's investors and the US regulator the Securities And Exchange Commission. So much so, Ackman ultimately abandoned the whole thing, and instead bought 10% of UMG via other investment funds he controls.

But that didn't stop one investor in PSTH from going legal. In the wake of the proposed Universal Music deal, George Assad sued, arguing that PSTH was being run as a more conventional investment company – buying and selling investment securities like shares and bonds – rather than an entity that exists to acquire a privately owned business outright.

That’s important because, if it was an investment firm, PSTH would be subject to extra regulation under law, including over the fees it pays its advisors, which includes another Ackman-controlled business.

Assad's lawsuit stated: "From the time of its formation, PSTH has invested all of its assets in securities, and it has spent nearly all of its time negotiating a transaction that would have invested those assets in still more securities", by which it meant the abandoned UMG share purchase.

However, in a legal filing submitted last week, PSTH argues that Assad's lawsuit is "fatally flawed from top to bottom". The SPAC has fully complied with SEC rules, it says, and those rules are clear that SPACs are not investment companies governed by the US Investment Company Act.

The legal filing also basically argues that the lawyers leading on Assad's litigation - who are both law professors - are actually pursuing the case not because PSTH broke the rules, but because said professors don't like the rules and want to use this dispute to force a change to SEC regulations. Mainly because of the recent increase in the use of SPACs to take private business public.

The filing states: "Plaintiff's counsel has admitted publicly that these are issues for the SEC to decide and that this case is just a tool to try to prod the SEC into upending the settled regulatory framework for SPACs, a framework with which [PSTH] has fully complied and upon which countless market participants and investors have relied for decades".


BandLab buys ReverbNation
BandLab - which provides various creator tools and services, in addition to owning music media like NME - has bought direct-to-fan platform ReverbNation. It further ramps up BandLab's efforts to help creators not only make music, but also to get that music out into the world and to build a fanbase, it having also recently added distribution and subscription services for artists.

Having launched in 2006, ReverbNation was an early provider of direct-to-fan services for music-makers, providing various tools to help artists market and distribute their music, manage their online and social activity, and ultimately to directly monetise the fanbase.

Announcing the acquisition, BandLab Technologies CEO Meng Kuok said: "We are very excited to welcome ReverbNation's community to BandLab. We have a clear vision of the role BandLab plays in supporting creators worldwide, today, and into the future".

"Artist services are a key part of that plan, as evidenced by our recently announced subscriptions and distribution offerings. This acquisition allows us to accelerate BandLab's product roadmap and further enable us to break down technical, geographic, and creative barriers facing musicians and fans".

"We've known ReverbNation for a long time and had great respect for its ability to build a terrific artist services business", he added. "There are more exciting announcements to come, but what ReverbNation brings to BandLab seamlessly fits with our vision - a future where there are no boundaries to making and sharing music".


Deezer announces partnership with German broadcaster RTL Deutschland
Deezer last week announced a new "long-term strategic partnership" with German broadcaster RTL Deutschland. Under the deal Deezer becomes the music and audio book partner for RTL's recently rebranded and currently expanding cross-media streaming service RTL+.

Deezer says that it "has worked closely with RTL Deutschland to ensure a smooth and efficient integration with RTL+. In order to achieve this, our team developed a brand new technical toolkit, which includes new APIs and SDKs that will be used by the RTL+ team when building the service".

"Deezer’s team", it goes on, "is working closely together with RTL on the project and will continue to support and improve the app going forward to make sure that RTL+ customers can enjoy the best entertainment experience on the market".

Commenting on the partnership, Deezer CEO Jeronimo Folgueira adds: "RTL+ will offer users an integrated entertainment experience with all the content they love in one seamless package. We're proud to be on this journey together with RTL and look forward to bringing our content to millions of German consumers".

"The partnership with RTL Deutschland represents the next step in our B2B growth strategy", he adds. "Deezer is uniquely positioned to be able to offer consumer brands the flexibility and customisation they need. We have one of the most extensive music catalogues in the world, supported by a wide range of original and exclusive content. We're proud to be an industry leading partner for consumer brands like RTL and the whole Deezer team looks forward to making this partnership a success".

Meanwhile, the SVP Commercial & Product at RTL+ - Henning Nieslony - says: "Deezer has an excellent catalogue, a great product, and a creative team that shares our vision of the future: offering customers the best content as simple as possible. These are the best prerequisites for a long-term partnership. In addition to video content, podcasts and magazines, music, audio books and audio plays will be a cornerstone in our content bundle".


Setlist: Jay-Z in court over "crappy, lazy" perfume launch
CMU's Andy Malt and Chris Cooke review key events in music and the music business from the last week, including Jay-Z's claim in court that his fragrance launched in 2013 failed not because he didn't live up to his agreement regarding promoting it but because of perfume company Parlux's "crappy, lazy work", plus the All Party Parliamentary Group On Music's demand for "urgent action" from the UK government to tackle the crisis facing British musicians and crew planning to tour Europe as a result of the Brexit shambles.

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UB40's Astro dies
Former UB40 vocalist Astro - real name Terence Wilson - has died, after a short illness. He was 64.

A statement from his current band, UB40 Featuring Ali Campbell & Astro, reads: "We are absolutely devastated and completely heartbroken to have to tell you that our beloved Astro has today passed away after a very short illness. The world will never be the same without him. We ask you to please respect his family’s privacy at this incredibly difficult time".

His former bandmates in the main UB40 outfit also tweeted: "We have heard tonight the sad news that ex-member of UB40, Terence Wilson, better know as Astro, has passed away after a short illness. Our sincere condolences to his family".

Wilson joined UB40 a year after they originally formed in 1979, and remained with the group until 2014, following the release of their eighteenth studio album 'Getting Over The Storm'. He subsequently joined the band's former frontman Ali Campbell and keyboard player Micky Virtue, who had departed in 2008 following a dispute over UB40's finances.

UB40 Featuring Ali Campbell & Astro began touring as a rival to the original UB40 - by then fronted by Campbell's older brother Duncan - releasing a live album in 2015, followed by a collection of acoustic versions of UB40 songs the following year.

In 2018, they released their first album of originals, 'A Real Labour Of Love'. The follow-up, 'Unprecedented', is set for release on 22 Feb next year.


Wargasm call for action from The Scala following backstage assault
Metal duo Wargasm and the Face Down rock club night have demanded action from London venue The Scala, after the band's Sam Matlock was allegedly assaulted by security guards there.

The incident occurred after Wargasm performed at Face Down on Friday night, with the band saying in a statement on social media: "While we were trying to load out, a bouncer was verbally aggressive to our female tour manager, leading to Sam having to step in".

"After this, in a completely overzealous and unnecessary use of force, three bouncers then dragged Sam into the backstage toilets, where two of them slammed his head against the toilet seat and held his head in the toilet bowl while the third bouncer held the door closed with his foot", the statement continues. "At this point, luckily, another member of our touring party was able to intervene and remove Sam from the situation, not without injury".

The statement goes on to say that Wargasm's management has since been attempting to contact The Scala about this "to no avail", saying that: "We feel that anyone visiting or playing at this venue should be aware of our deeply shocking experience and the treatment of our team by the current security staff. It's now been made very clear to us that as long as this current security team are under employment there, from our experience we do not consider Scala a safe venue, especially for women".

Showing their support for Wargasm, in their own statement organisers of Face Down said: "We are aware of an incident with the security at Scala involving Wargasm. Firstly, we would like to extend our sincere apologies to them for this. While we do not employ the security at our events, as this is the venue's responsibility, we do not appreciate people being manhandled in this way, be it someone in the crowd or backstage. This has been communicated to the venue and we await their response".

The Scala has so far offered no comment.


Mastodon apologise for homophonic slur in interview
Mastodon have apologised for homophobic language used by guitarist Brent Hinds in a recent interview. "We want our LGBTQ fans to feel safe listening to our music and coming to see us live", they said in response to criticism on Instagram.

Hinds appeared on the latest episode of Jamey Jasta's 'The Jasta Show' podcast, where he responded to a question about what bands he would like to tour with by instead listing various complaints about bands Mastodon have already toured with. In particularly Disturbed, with whom the band went on tour in 2008.

Using a homophobic slur to refer to the tour, he went on to say that the shows were bad because "you gotta play to people that like Disturbed", who are "just a fuckin bunch of drunk Americans" that are "receptive to anything".

The interview stirred controversy, both for the dissing of other bands and their fans, and the homophobic language used while doing so.

In a comment on a post on Mastodon's Instagram profile, showing drummer Brann Dailer dressed at Judas Priest's Rob Halford for Halloween, metal writer Morgan Y Evans wrote: "As an LGBTQ supporter of the band - it was super crappy today to see you all over the press with a member using homophobic language to describe a tour with Disturbed ... I love your music and am super pissed at the casual disregard and privilege it takes to still use 'gay' as a negative word in 2021 and normalise that kind of association".

A response posted from the band's account reads: "This really bums me out. I'm very sorry we hurt your feelings or anyone else's. That is never our intention. We want our LGBTQ fans to feel safe listening to our music and coming to see us live".

"We also have no ill will towards Disturbed, they were always super cool to us on that tour", they went on. "I think that interviewer might have caught Brent on a bad day. Sorry for upsetting you or anyone else. We appreciate you and all of our fans".

Meanwhile, following the backlash to the interview, Jasta has removed the interview from his public podcast feed - although it remains available to paying subscribers.

Commenting on his decision to take down the episode, he said: "The point of the podcast is to talk to old friends, make new ones, throw some ideas around and maybe make a couple of those ideas happen. This episode was never meant to create division or stress, Brent Hinds is my friend and I want nothing but the best for him".

"He has a right to his opinion but once his words were being used against him I figured it was best to not let one crappy podcast take any shine away from a killer new album", he went on. "We all have bad days that we don't want broadcast and spun into something that it isn't. We'll do it again down the line and it'll be fun like the previous episodes with Brent have been".

So that doesn't really address any of the issues, does it? But, as noted there, Mastodon did recently release their latest album 'Hushed And Grim'. So at least that gets a plug. Not sure anyone's really going to be happy with how that's come about though.


Ed Sheeran = 1
Ed Sheeran's new album '=' has gone straight to number one in the UK, to the surprise of absolutely no one. It's done all sorts of numbers, which just make everyone else look bad.

The album racked up 139,000 sales (and equivalent streams) - outselling the rest of the top 30 combined. In fact, it's the best opening week since 2017, when some guy called Ed Sheeran released an album called '÷'.

It always feels really clunky to talk about actual sales and equivalent streams together, but the way the chart is calculated is quite clunky. And you're probably thinking, "Pah! Yeah, weird to talk about 'sales' when most of that 139,000 number will have come from streams anyway". You're wrong though, so stop saying that.

Actually, only 18% of Sheeran's "chart sales" - as the Official Charts Company likes to call them - were streams. Almost as many - 14% - were downloads, while 68% came from physical sales. You know, discs and that. A whole 11,600 of those sales were of vinyl, Sheeran's record being the week's biggest-seller on that format, obviously.

"Thank you so much for making '=' the number one album in the UK this week", says Sheeran, via the Official Charts Company. "I don't know what else to say, you guys are great. Thank you so much for all listening to it, I hope you enjoy it. I hope to see you on tour next year".

No, thank you Ed, for allowing us to talk about the kind of numbers we don't often get to see these days. Although let's not forget that there's a new Adele album on the way, which is likely to give us another opportunity. It's her return that's made Sheeran's performance on the singles chart less impressive than usual.

Sure, yeah, he currently holds three positions in the top four. Is one of them number one though? No, it is not. His previous chart-topper 'Shivers' was up three places to number two, 'Bad Habits' was up six to number three, and 'Overpass Graffiti' was a new entry at four. But the number one single in the UK remains Adele's 'Easy On Me'.

It was a tight race, with just a few thousand 'chart sales' separating the top two tracks. Adele's not about to be beaten by Ed though. No thank you. Although, if you like your sales pure, Sheeran did top the chart of download-only sales that no one pays any attention to. 'Overpass Graffiti' was downloaded 23,400 times last week.

I say Adele won't be beaten, but actually, she's already trailing Sheeran for this week's number one. It could all change, but in the latest numbers released by the OCC, 'Shivers' is atop the chart again.

Can they keep this up until Christmas? We'll see. Sheeran does have the advantage of having a Christmas single ready to go, of course. A collaboration with Elton John, no less. That's cheating, really.


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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