TODAY'S TOP STORY: Travis Scott and Live Nation have begun formally responding to the stack of lawsuits that have been filed against them in relation to last month's Astroworld tragedy. The promoter has denied the allegations made against it, while Scott is seeking to have himself removed from the litigation... [READ MORE]

TOP STORIES Travis Scott and Live Nation start responding to Astroworld lawsuits, deny allegations of negligence
LEGAL DNS resolver Quad9 fails to overturn web-blocking order secured by Sony Music
Abba sues Abba Mania for trademark infringement

Ed Sheeran secures injunction against Viagogo over touted tickets in Germany

LIVE BUSINESS Mushroom Group breaks ties with Harbour Agency following complaints by former employees
AWARDS Drake has Grammy nominations withdrawn
ONE LINERS Billie Eilish, Doja Cat, Olivia Rodrigo, more
AND FINALLY... BTS to take "extended period of rest"
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Travis Scott and Live Nation start responding to Astroworld lawsuits, deny allegations of negligence
Travis Scott and Live Nation have begun formally responding to the stack of lawsuits that have been filed against them in relation to last month's Astroworld tragedy. The promoter has denied the allegations made against it, while Scott is seeking to have himself removed from the litigation.

Ten people died and hundreds more were injured when a crowd surge occurred during Scott's headline set at the Houston festival he founded. A criminal investigation is underway to ascertain what led to the crowd surge, and whether bad decision making prior to or during the festival contributed to the deaths and injuries. Meanwhile, more than 275 lawsuits involving more than 1250 festival-goers have already been filed.

Scott himself has received plenty of criticism since the tragedy occurred. A lot of that has focused on the fact that he continued to perform for more than 30 minutes after police at the festival had declared a "mass casualty event". Others have noted how the musician has long encouraged fans to behave recklessly at his shows which, some claim, made events like that which unfolded last month much more likely to occur.

However, Scott's attorney, Edwin F McPherson, has previously hit back at those critics, stressing that - as his client performed on 5 Nov - he was not aware of the tragedy that was unfolding within the crowd. Nor could anyone have expected him to be aware, McPherson added, given the glare of the lights and the ear monitors Scott uses, making it impossible to hear anything but the music that is playing. It was for the event's organisers, not the star of the show, to halt the performance once it became clear what was happening on the ground.

As for the claims Scott had a history of inciting reckless behaviour at his shows, McPherson said that earlier in his career his client "didn't understand the magnitude of his power up on the stage", but that that had changed over the years. The lawyer also stressed that, on the couple of occasions that Scott did become aware of problems during the Astroworld show - for example when he saw that an audience member had collapsed near the front of the stage and when an ambulance was trying to move through the crowd - he did temporarily halt his performance.

Fellow rapper Chuck D has also spoken out in support of Scott, arguing that it is Live Nation which should be held liable for the Astroworld tragedy. In an open letter last month he wrote: "Travis Scott is a performer, an act, not a concert promoter. He doesn't run the sound or venues or festivals or their staff. He doesn't build stages or coordinate logistics, he's not an expert in crowd control or security or emergency medical services".

"The excuse of Scott's irresponsible actions don't wash", he also added. "If his act had a history of that behaviour why promote him to bigger venues, why partner with him in the first place and let him headline a bigger audience?" It's clear, Chuck D concluded, that "Live Nation controlled this show".

These are the kinds of arguments that Scott and his legal team will now be busy applying in formal filings with the court as he seeks to get himself removed from all the lawsuits that have been filed in relation to Astroworld. The rapper is named as a defendant on most of those lawsuits, alongside Live Nation and its Scoremore subsidiary. Other entities named on some of the litigation include the festival's venue NRG Park, and the companies that own and operate that complex, the Harris County Sports And Convention Corporation and ASM respectively.

According to Rolling Stone, Scott has already filed paperwork seeking to have himself removed from at least eleven of the Astroworld lawsuits, including that filed by the family of one of the festival-goers who died, Bharti Shahani. A legal rep told Rolling Stone that the rapper is simply "not legally liable" for what happened at Astroworld last month. Scott is seemingly seeking to have the lawsuits against him dismissed with prejudice, which would prevent plaintiffs from filing additional litigation against the musician in relation to the festival in the future.

Live Nation, Scoremore and the Harris County Sports And Convention Corporation have all also seemingly started responding to the lawsuits. They also deny all the allegations that have been made against them - mainly that negligent planning and on-the-ground management led to the tragedy - although they are not currently seeking to have the cases dismissed.


DNS resolver Quad9 fails to overturn web-blocking order secured by Sony Music
The not-for-profit DNS resolver Quad9 has failed to have a web-blocking injunction issued against it in the German courts suspended, but it has already said that it plans to appeal the court's latest decision.

Web-blocking, of course, is a preferred anti-piracy tactic of the music and movie industries in those countries where such injunctions are available. It's normally internet service providers that are ordered by the courts to block their users from accessing piracy services. However, even once ISPs but web-blocks in place, more savvy internet users can easily circumvent the blockades by using a virtual private network or an alternative DNS resolver.

Which is why copyright owners are now also starting to seek web-blocking injunctions against VPNs and organisations like Quad9. It was Sony Music which successfully secured a web-block order against Quad9 through the German courts earlier this year.

However, whereas most ISPs these days just accept web-blocking orders as a routine part of the business of internet provision, Quad9 hit back at its web-blocking order, arguing that it was far removed from any copyright infringement occurring online.

It said in September: "Quad9 does not condone copyright infringement and supports artists and rightsholders in their ownership of content and prevention of abuse. However, we strongly believe that recursive DNS is the wrong place to try to apply legally mandated controls, and is at best incorrect, and at worst may be contradictory to the safety of end users as well as damaging the stability of and trust in the global internet".

It also added that the site it was being ordered to block - which hasn't been formally named - isn't even hosting the infringing content. It went on: "In this action, the site that is demanded to be blocked is not directly housing the infringing content - it is merely a collection of links that point to other sites which contain the content for download".

"It seems to our view that this extreme distance from the actual infringing party is highly concerning", it added, "as any precedent made with this court proceeding is broad enough to apply in a significantly large number of technical environments, not just those involving DNS".

However, despite those objections, last week the Hamburg Regional Court declined to suspend the web-blocking injunction, which means Quad9 is still blocking the targeted site. But, says the DNS resolver, it will continue to fight the court order.

Quad9 General Manager John Todd says: "We're disappointed that this first set of hearings ended in what we think is an outcome that is not consistent with the legislative intentions of the German government. There are a large number of internet-based services which we think ultimately are put at serious risk by this ruling, and we will not stop our legal challenges on this injunction".

"We object to the decision not just for ourselves but for all of our end-users, network operators, software developers, and network services that we believe are the targets of this ruling in its much wider context", he adds.

“As a non-profit whose goals are to protect end-user privacy, security, and rights, we will continue to pursue our legal fight against what we think is an outcome that threatens the very core of the internet’s ability to be a useful and trusted tool for everyone", he concludes. "Corporations should not have the ability to directly demand that network infrastructure operators censor sites".


Abba sues Abba Mania for trademark infringement
Abba have sued a UK-based company that stages tribute shows under the brand Abba Mania. That activity, the actual Abba say, is "parasitic" and constitutes trademark infringement.

The Abba Mania shows - run by UK firm Handshake - have been staged since 2000, including an eighteen week West End run in 2002. The decision by Abba's company Polar Music International to go legal now is likely linked to the fact the group are finally returning to the live music business themselves, albeit in holographic form.

The trademark infringement lawsuit has been filed in the US, where a tour of Abba Mania shows kicked off back in October. Among other things, the legal filing claims that "defendants include the term 'official' and 'original' in many of their marketing materials, website pages, and social media handles, which gives consumers the impression that there is some kind of association, affiliation, or sponsorship between Abba and Abba Mania".

In then adds: "Defendants have not obtained written consent from plaintiff or any representative of plaintiff to use the Abba mark or infringing Abba Mania mark ... the goods and services offered by defendants under the infringing Abba Mania mark are not approved by plaintiff or any representative of plaintiff".

The lawsuit also says that Abba's company approached the producers of Abba Mania in October and, "in an attempt to amicably resolve this dispute, explained how defendants could properly use the phrase 'Abba Tribute' in a non-confusing manner to describe their tribute act so long as the actual name of the tribute act did not include the word Abba. But defendants refused to comply and cease use of the name Abba Mania".

The Abba Mania website does include the line "Abba Mania is no way associated, affiliated, or endorsed by Polar Music or Abba", at the bottom of the whole site and in a prominent box at the top of the web pages relating to its US tour. Clearly that's not enough of a clarification for Abba themselves. Whether it will be sufficient to sidestep liability for trademark infringement within the US remains to be seen.


Ed Sheeran secures injunction against Viagogo over touted tickets in Germany
A court in Hamburg has basically banned often controversial secondary ticketing website Viagogo from selling tickets to Ed Sheeran's 2022 tour dates. In Germany, at least.

The injunction against Viagogo has been secured by promoter FKP Scorpio. It is using digital ticketing for the Sheeran shows it is promoting, which means tickets are personalised for each buyer and are therefore non-transferable. To that end, under the court order, Viagogo is obliged to tell people buying touted Sheeran tickets via its website that said tickets will not grant them entry into the musician's shows.

Sheeran, of course, has been particularly vocal in his criticism of ticket touting and the secondary ticketing platforms, and he and promoter Kilimanjaro went to considerable efforts to stop fans buying touted tickets for the UK dates on his previous '÷ Tour', resulting in a high profile run in with Viagogo.

He and FKP Scorpio also previously secured a injunction in the German courts in 2018 stopping Viagogo for listing touted tickets for '÷ Tour' dates in the country. That 2018 court order followed a similar injunction obtained by Rammstein, also via the courts in Hamburg.

Commenting on the latest injunction, FKP Scorpio promoter Inga Esseling told IQ: "We are pleased about this success in court, which puts further obstacles in the way of unfair business models at the expense of consumers".


Mushroom Group breaks ties with Harbour Agency following complaints by former employees
Australia's Mushroom Group has broken its ties with the Sydney-based Harbour Agency following an external investigation into complaints made by former employees regarding workplace culture at the live music business. Although, for now at least, Mushroom still has a minority shareholding in the booking agency.

The specifics of the complaints made by the ex-staff members are not currently known. But in a statement to The Australian, Mushroom says that a number of former Harbour Agency employees had recently been in touch with "historical allegations about management behaviour and workplace culture".

The corporate culture at music companies has been very much in the spotlight in Australia in recent months, of course, following the major exposé about working practices at Sony Music Australia under long-time former boss Denis Handlin, who was axed by the major in June. In August, Universal Music then also announced it had launched an investigation into allegations of harassment and bullying at its Australian division.

In its statement regarding the complaints made about the Harbour Agency, Mushroom simply says: "Recently several former Harbour Agency staff contacted Mushroom with historical allegations about management behaviour and workplace culture [at] the Harbour Agency. External investigators were appointed and the concerns raised were investigated, including via interviews with a number of former staff. The issues raised by the investigation have been taken seriously and are now being addressed by the directors of Harbour Agency".

Mushroom was also keen to stress that its day-to-day involvement in running the Sydney-based business was minimal. Mushroom founder Michael Gudinski was a director of the agency prior to his death earlier this year, and Harbour's agents often work with their counterparts at the other booking agency within the Mushroom Group, Melbourne-based Premier Artists. However, "unlike all other Mushroom Group companies, [The Harbour Agency] has not shared HR, legal, finance or other group corporate services".

"Mushroom doesn't have a controlling shareholding in Harbour, nor input into the decision making process at Harbour", the company's statement continues. "The findings of the investigation emphasised the lack of direct day-to-day visibility and influence we have over the running of the Harbour business. At Mushroom, we take the creation of a positive and creative workplace culture seriously and, without the ability to influence the culture at Harbour, Mushroom has made the decision to formally separate the business from the group".

The other directors of the Harbour Agency have confirmed that their business is no longer formally part of the Mushroom Group, although, their statement adds, actual ownership of the agency is unchanged. They also insist that they "take workplace culture very seriously", and that any past issues with working practices have already been addressed. With that in mind, they also basically criticise Mushroom's investigation into the complaints by former employees for not interviewing current staff members.

In a statement to The Music Network, the agency's directors say: "The governance of the agency has remained under review with Mushroom not taking up a seat on the board since the passing of Michael Gudinski. During this time, the [other] founding members Frank Stivala and Philip Jacobsen, along with the dedicated staff of the Harbour Agency, have continued to provide a high level of service to our clients and the wider industry".

"There have been suggestions of historical workplace culture issues within the Harbour Agency", they add. "The Harbour agency takes workplace culture very seriously. We are proud to promote an inclusive, culturally diverse and safe environment which nurtures the skills of budding industry leaders as well as extending these values to our clients and the industry as a whole. In effect, any previous issues within the Harbour Agency have been assessed and dealt with over a period of time as is consistent with our values".

They go on: "At no point during Mushroom's external investigation were any current employees interviewed. Had these accounts been included, the findings may have told a different story. The agency has remained fully operational over a very difficult period of time for the live music industry. We have stood unwavering, in our service to our employees, our client base and the wider community".

"Moving forward", they conclude, "The Harbour Agency will continue to operate independently. Whilst the company is being restructured, it will not preclude or prohibit our dealings with the many great companies within the Mushroom Group".


On The CMU Stereo 2021 - Winter
Well, that's another year all but over. And about time too. As years go, 2021 has been yet another challenging one. One thing that can be said for 2021, though, is that it gave us a heck of a lot of good music. Just so much, as musicians started releasing all of the music they'd been working on during lockdown and all the music they'd held back because of lockdown.

Some of that music, of course, was released into yet another lockdown, but as time went on there were opportunities to promote and tour that music in something resembling the "normal" way. For many artists this was a long time coming, and the relief and joy was visible on stage.

Here we begin our annual rundown of our favourite music released since January. Today we go right back to the start of the year, with ten of our favourite tracks released over the winter. All of these soundtracked our year, and many eventually appeared on albums that have also been on hard repeat around here.

As well as the single that appears in this list, 'Baby Grand', Anna B Savage's incredible debut album, 'A Common Turn', also arrived in January and has never been far from our speakers since. January also saw Noga Erez release what was to be a standout track from her brilliant 'Kids' album - which followed in March, and which we'd been anticipating for so long that one track from it actually made our winter playlist last year.

As winter began to turn to spring, Lil Nas X released 'Montero (Call Me By Your Name)', the title track from his debut album, which eventually arrived in September. When looking at artists who defined this year musically, it's hard to think of many who might challenge him for that crown. Proving himself adept at trolling his critics and courting controversy, he backed all that up with some great tracks that defied anyone who had written him off as a one hit wonder.

We kick off our 2021 playlist with probably the first big track of the year - which was briefly also one of the last of 2020 - Saweetie's collaboration with Doja Cat, 'Best Friend'. A big track from two artists who have only grown in stature in the following eleven months.

These are but a few of the artists on this playlist though, there are more to delve into. Follow the playlist on Spotify here, as we add to it over the next two weeks. And check out today's ten below.

Here's our full winter playlist:

Saweetie - Best Friend (feat Doja Cat)
Noga Erez - End Of The Road
Anna B Savage - Baby Grand
Weezer - All My Favorite Songs
Albertine Sarges - Oh My Love
Tkay Maidza - Kim (feat Yung Baby Tate)
Dry Cleaning - Strong Feelings
Lvra - Dead
Alewya - The Code
Lil Nas X - Montero (Call Me By Your Name)

Drake has Grammy nominations withdrawn
Drake has requested that his two Grammy nominations be withdrawn. He was up for Best Rap Performance for 'Way 2 Sexy' and Best Rap Album for 'Certified Lover Boy'.

No official comment has been made on the matter, although both nominations have been removed from the lists on the Grammy Awards website. And Drake has been an outspoken critic of the awards in the past. When 'Hotline Bling' won Best Rap Song in 2017, he said: "'Hotline Bling' is not a rap song. The only category that they can manage to fit me in is in a rap category, maybe because I've rapped in the past or because I'm black ... it feels weird to me".

Last year, amid much controversy about the nominations, Drake wrote on Instagram: "I think we should stop allowing ourselves to be shocked every year by the disconnect between impactful music and these awards, and just accept that what once was the highest form of recognition may no longer matter to the artists that exist now and the ones that come after".

He has also complained in the past about being nominated in (and winning) rap categories for music that did not feature any rapping. So, him finding himself represented only in rap categories again this year - and once again not appearing in any of the major multi-genre categories - seems likely to be the main reason for him not wanting to take part.

Drake is not the only artist to have Grammy nominations withdrawn since they were announced last month. Although it appears that he is the only one to have requested it. Taylor Swift, Jack Antonoff and Annie Clark (aka St Vincent) are all down a nomination, having been removed from the list of songwriters on Olivia Rodrigo's 'Sour' album, which is up for Album Of The Year.

Swift, Antonoff and Clark were not directly involved in the making of 'Sour', but were subsequently given credit on the song 'Deja Vu', due to its similarities to Swift's 'Cruel Summer', which they did co-write.

Awards organisers explained that, under its rules, the writers of samples or interpolations are not included in Album Of The Year nominations, and therefore Swift, Antonoff and Clark had been included in error.

“Last week, we received the correct credits from the label that recognise Annie Clark, Jack Antonoff and Taylor Swift as songwriters of an interpolation on the track, 'Deja Vu"", said Grammy organiser the Recording Academy. "In keeping with current Grammy guidelines, as songwriters of an interpolated track, Clark, Antonoff and Swift are not nominees in the Album Of The Year category for 'Sour'".

Marilyn Manson, whose appearance in two nominations this year caused much controversy due to the ongoing sexual abuse accusations against him, also recently had his name taken off one.

He had been up for Best Rap Song for his involvement in Kanye West's 'Jail'. However, while he appears on the recording, he did not actually co-write the track, and so was taken off the list of nominees. He is, however, still listed as a nominee on West's 'Donda' album in the Album Of The Year category.



Fader has formally announced the launch of Fader Distribution, and has agreed a new partnership with Universal Music's label services business Virgin. "We set up Fader Distribution to create a tier of service to aid independent artists that are in the very early stages of their development", says CEO Jon Cohen. "At the forefront of Fader Distribution is our partnership with Virgin. Our Fader team provides strategic planning and marketing support, and we work closely with Virgin's incredible global team, to start the artist development process for our artists".

Downtown Music Services has signed a new worldwide publishing deal with Ibeyi. "Since their debut album, I have been following Ibeyi's journey very closely, they are part of these few artists from France who take it to another level and put themselves on the international map", says Laura Bedikian, Senior A&R Manager. "It's a huge honour to have their trust to bring them even further now".



Billie Eilish is back with a new video for 'Male Fantasy', from her second album 'Happier Than Ever'.

Doja Cat has released a video for her song 'Woman'. She's also teamed up with Girls Who Code for a special interactive version of the video, where you can unlock special features using basic programming language. "I am so excited that Girls Who Code has partnered with me to make my 'Woman' music video the world's first codable music video", she says. "Fans all over the world will get to input code via a microsite and unlock some really cool special features. It's going to be awesome".

Above & Beyond are back with new single 'Screwdriver'.

070 Shake has released new track 'Lose My Cool', featuring NLE Choppa. The track is taken from her new album, 'You Can't Kill Me Because I Don't Exist', which is due out in the spring.

Devin Townsend has released two new albums, 'Puzzle' and 'Snuggles'. One is more full-on than the other. See if you can guess which.



Olivia Rodrigo has announced UK and Ireland tour dates next summer. She'll kick things off at Live At The Marquee in Cork on 29 Jun and finish with two nights at the Hammersmith Apollo in London on 6-7 Jul.

The Cure have announced UK tour dates for December 2022. Yes, that's a whole year away. They'll start at Hydro in Glasgow on 4 Dec and finish at Wembley Arena in London on 11 Dec.

Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.


BTS to take "extended period of rest"
BTS have announced that they are taking an "extended period of rest". Is this the end? Well, no, it's not the sort of pop hiatus you're used to. This seems to translate as a couple of weeks off for Christmas.

"We would like to inform you that BTS is planning to take a second official extended period of rest since their first in 2019", says the group's record label BigHit Music in a statement.

"BTS stayed active in order to engage with fans in 2020 and 2021 amidst the COVID-19 situation, and achieved dazzling results to cement themselves as top global artists", it goes on. "This period of rest will provide the members of BTS, who have tirelessly committed themselves to their activities, a chance to get re-inspired and recharge with creative energy. It will also be the first time for them since their debut to spend the holiday season with their families".

The group debuted in 2013. So that's quite a long time to not have Christmas off. Although, in South Korea Christmas is generally a day to spend with friends, rather than family, so maybe BTS don't mind. South Korea is the only Asian nation that recognises Christmas as a national holiday, though. So, it'll be nice to get an actual holiday, I guess.

Anyway, this is break is "extended", let's remember. And I know what you might be thinking. Are they taking a break so that Jin - and maybe even other members of the group - can go and do that military service they'll need to get done at some point quite soon. No.

"BTS will be focusing on preparing for the concert, and release of the new album, that will mark the beginning of a 'new chapter'" during this period of rest, the statement explains. "They are preparing for a concert this coming March to connect and communicate with the fans in-person in Seoul".

So, quite busy then. The seven members of the group will also be busy populating their brand new Instagram accounts with content. Until now, they have not had individual accounts on the platform, but all were launched yesterday as their break was announced.

Speaking of content, Jin celebrated his 29th birthday on Saturday by releasing a new solo song and dance challenge. 'Super Tuna' celebrates Jin's love of finishing, which he likes to do in his spare time. And now he has some spare time, which I guess is something to sing and dance about.


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.
andy@unlimitedmedia.co.uk (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.
chris@unlimitedmedia.co.uk (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.
sam@unlimitedmedia.co.uk 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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