|MONDAY 20 DECEMBER 2021||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: UK live music trade group LIVE again called for urgent financial support from the government on Friday after a new survey of the sector revealed that up to 50% audience no-shows and widespread cancellations are now occurring as a result of the latest surge in COVID-19 cases... [READ MORE]|
Latest COVID surge has caused a spike in no-shows and cancellations, live sector survey confirms
Although the UK government is yet to put the country back into full-on lockdown to constrain the spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus, ministers and officials have basically been telling people to restrict their social activities. As a result, the live and night-time sectors argue, this has created a quasi or pseudo-lockdown, where clubs and venues are allowed to open, but everyone is being told to stay at home.
Meanwhile, with COVID cases spiking once again, an increasing number of shows are being cancelled as performers or crew members test positive for the virus. So, even where an audience is still eager to attend, some shows still can't go ahead.
A snap survey of the sector conducted by LIVE revealed that 70% of organisers were forced to cancel at least some of the shows they were involved in last week. And the cancellations look likely to extend well into the new year, with 50% of venues having already cancelled shows due to take place in January or February as a result of COVID.
Meanwhile, for those shows going ahead, ticket sales have slumped as COVID-caused uncertainty has returned, and with repeated speculation that a full lockdown will be announced shortly after Christmas.
Plus for gigs taking place now, there is a significant no-show rate, as ticket-buyers choose not to attend, either because they are quarantining or because they are responding to government messaging to cut social activity. And, of course, when shows operate at lower-than-expected capacity - in some cases as low as 50% - that impacts on all-important bar sales, which can result in shows operating at a loss overall.
Commenting on those stats, LIVE CEO Greg Parmley says: "These statistics paint a bleak picture for the sector which is why it's absolutely vital that the government provides additional support immediately. We need urgent assistance to avoid the live music industry running into the ground, forcing venues to shut up shop and creating a Christmas of misery with job losses, and freelancers and artists without work".
"We also face a double-whammy as next year's sales take a nosedive", he adds, "meaning organisers do not have the cash needed to cover soaring costs as they struggle to stay afloat while operating at a loss".
Among other things, LIVE is calling for short-term financial aid for the sector, plus for previous COVID-related tax relief schemes - mainly in relation to VAT and business rates - to be extended. It is also asking that the government-backed cancellation insurance scheme be reviewed, amid claims that the kind of coverage currently offered is far too narrow.
Those calls have been backed by UK Music, which adds that recording studios are also seeing a spike in cancellations as a result of the latest COVID surge. The existing Culture Recovery Fund should be extended and adapted to deal with the new challenges, UK Music argues, plus new furlough and freelancer support schemes should be urgently introduced.
UK Music CEO Jamie Njoku-Goodwin adds: "While the government is not formally cancelling events, the nature of the messaging is appearing to advise people not to attend them. This messaging is clearly harming audience confidence at live music events and is tantamount to a lockdown in all but name for our sector, yet without any of the necessary financial support being made available to see us through this latest crisis".
"Public health concerns and the safety of music workers and consumers are always paramount to the music industry", he goes on, "this is why our sector has spent the past 22 months adjusting to the threat of COVID-19 and ensuring our operational and working practices are as safe as possible to mitigate against the challenge of this highly transmissible virus. Through initiatives like the Events Research Programme, we have collaboratively worked with the government to achieve the successful reopening of live events in 2021 and instil confidence in audiences as part of our post-pandemic recovery".
"The mitigations we have established as an industry mean that forced closure should not be necessary, as we have established protocols that enable us to operate safely", he continues, before concluding: "It is vital that we have the financial support that we need to survive this winter, so we can ultimately return to play a positive role in our nation's recovery from this pandemic".
Astroworld promoters reportedly sought to circumvent liabilities to part-time employees via post-event contract
Ten people died and hundreds more were injured as a result of the crowd surge during Travis Scott's headline set at the festival he founded. Scott, Live Nation and Scoremore now face hundreds of lawsuits, from the families of those who died, as well as many other festival-goers, with the damages sought running into the billions.
According to Rolling Stone, ten days after the Astroworld tragedy part-time employees who had worked at the festival received an email asking them to sign an amended contract in order for their wages to be processed. They were told that an agreement they'd already signed ahead of the event had terms meant for the 2018 edition of the festival.
In an email seen by Rolling Stone, a manager wrote: "Hoping to wrap up payroll and get everyone paid ASAP but I still need a few things from some of you! The first agreement included details from 2018. It has been updated so if you can re-sign and send back".
Among other things, the revised contract allegedly stated: "(Employee) assumes full responsibility for any injuries or damages that may occur to the (employee) in, on or about the festival and its premises and fully and forever releases and discharges the released parties from any and all claims, demands, damages, rights of action or causes of action resulting from or arising out of the (employee's) attending and or providing services at the festival".
Another new term said that the signatory was "not covered nor eligible for any employee benefits or insurance coverage provided by the released parties including but not limited to medical, property and liability insurance and workers compensation benefits".
The staff member who shared the email and revised contract with Rolling Stone told the magazine: "They essentially said, 'You need to sign this new form in order to get paid'. It was clear they wanted legal coverage. I definitely thought they were thinking of business first. 'How can we cover ourselves?' I know they weren't thinking about us and how we were feeling, in my opinion. Nobody reached out to me individually to inquire how I was. It was just the paperwork".
Live Nation and Scoremore are yet to comment on the allegations.
YouTube seeks dismissal of Content ID access legal dispute
Schneider's main bugbear with YouTube is that independent creators like herself do not get access to the Google video site's sophisticated rights management platform Content ID. The alternative manual system for requesting that videos containing copyright infringing material be removed is not fit for purpose, it's argued, meaning YouTube is not complying with its obligations under the copyright safe harbour to avoid liability for that infringement.
The legal battle has been on quite a journey already, mainly because of Schneider's original co-plaintiff. That was a little known anti-piracy company called Pirate Monitor which, it turned out, was a front for film director Gábor Csupó.
It transpired that he'd tried to secure access to Content ID by uploading his own content to YouTube channels and then reporting those uploads as copyright infringing. The aim, seemingly, was to prove that Csupó's content was being infringed at sufficient levels on YouTube that his company deserved access to the rights management tools. Either way, those tactics damaged the credibility of Pirate Monitor as a plaintiff and so it bailed on the case.
With Csupó no longer involved, YouTube focused on disputing Schneider's claims. It argued that she did have access to Content ID via her business partners, that her publisher had actually granted a licence for the use of her songs on the platform, and that the musician had failed to identify specific videos that used her music without permission.
Schneider countered that her publisher didn't have the rights to include her songs in its YouTube licence, and anyway that licence didn't cover all her songs. Meanwhile, she added, it was impossible for her to identify all the YouTube videos using her music without getting access to Content ID which, of course, is the whole point of the lawsuit.
As those arguments were going back and forth, two more plaintiffs joined the lawsuit, Uniglobe Entertainment LLC and AST Publishing.
In a new legal filing earlier this month, YouTube repeated its various complaints about Schneider's claims, and also added that the new plaintiffs only made the litigation more problematic and perplexing.
"In this case filed nearly eighteen months ago, plaintiffs seek to assert copyright infringement claims on behalf of a sprawling putative class of copyright owners", it stated. "One of the two original plaintiffs, Pirate Monitor, has since dismissed its claims with prejudice after YouTube uncovered proof of its wide-ranging fraud and after it acknowledged it did not own at least one of the copyrighted works it asserted".
"The other original plaintiff, Maria Schneider, faces insurmountable obstacles to her infringement claims, including because her publishing agent granted YouTube a blanket licence to her musical works", it went on.
"Presumably because of these weaknesses, plaintiffs' counsel has now filed a first amended complaint with two new named plaintiffs joining Schneider as proposed class representatives, but asserting claims based on very different types of copyrighted works, including Russian audio books and Hindi-language translations of films".
"Like the original plaintiffs, the new plaintiffs continue to hide the ball on their claims" the legal filing then said. "Ignoring this court's order to identify all the copyrighted works at issue in the [amended complaint], plaintiffs purport to reserve the right to pursue claims for new, unidentified works whenever they please. That not only flouts the order, but also the law, which requires that all works at issue be identified in the operative pleading".
The amended complaint "further suffers from a potpourri of pleading problems", YouTube then stated, before outlining various issues, in particular around the registrations of allegedly infringed works with the US Copyright Office.
In some cases the plaintiffs are not listed as the copyright owners at the Copyright Office, or the registrations were made after the suit was filed. And in some cases the works infringed are foreign works not registered in the US which, YouTube argued, means plaintiffs can't claim, as they are doing, statutory damages in relation to those alleged infringements.
YouTube's latest filing then concluded: "If plaintiffs are not made to satisfy the basic pleading requirements for their claims, they will continue to bob and weave as they have for the past eighteen months. That will unfairly prejude defendants and disrupt case management. A dismissal order clearly confining the scope of the case to that which plaintiffs have properly pled will provide defendants with fair notice of the claims and chart a path for the litigation".
So there you go. It remains to be seen what turn this long running legal dispute takes next.
ATC raises over £4 million via IPO
The ATC Group includes the firm's artist management company and booking agency, as well as the Driift live streaming business, and a division providing other music industry services. In a statement ahead of the stock market listing, the group said that it was developing its model "to provide a fully integrated service empowering creators and artists to build optimum commercial structures to generate increased revenues and profits".
It also added that the group's directors believe "the music industry remains fragmented in the mid-market sector and, combined with the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, this results in a significant opportunity for companies such as ATC with integrated and resilient business models to capitalise on a number of structural growth areas by way of organic and acquisitional expansion".
ATC founders Brian Message and Craig Newman are among the board members of the newly formalised ATC Group, which has also appointed Adam Driscoll as CEO. He has headed up various music companies over the years, and is perhaps best known for his time as co-CEO of the MAMA Group.
Commenting on the group's recent share sale, which included asset management company Schroders buying an almost 10% stake, Driscoll said last week: "I am delighted that new investors have bought into our vision, appreciating the scale of the opportunity out there for a holistic artist-focused music group in a rapidly evolving industry. The board and I look forward to welcoming our new institutional and individual shareholders to the group".
"We have built a strong position in our industry, representing artists such as Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds, The Smile, PJ Harvey, Faithless and Johnny Marr, as well as organising the live performances of over 400 artists", he added. "Our livestreaming business, Driift, was established in response to the COVID pandemic and has since developed a reputation as one of the leading providers of premium content in the livestreaming market, producing successful events for the likes of Kylie, Bocelli, Dermot Kennedy and Niall Horan".
"The strength of our model, where we combine a number of music industry verticals under one roof, enables ATC to be more invested in and integrated with an artist's overall business", he went on. "This move onto the public markets will enhance our profile and strengthen our position in negotiating and executing on agreements with partners, suppliers and clients. In addition, this IPO provides us with additional resources as well as greater flexibility and capacity to build a significant business through organic growth and acquisition".
Drakeo The Ruler killed in stabbing at US festival
According to reports, the rapper - real name Darrell Caldwell - was stabbed shortly before he was due to go on stage at the event. A source who spoke to the LA Times said that he was attacked by a group of people. Following the stabbing, he was taken to hospital but died as a result of his injuries. No arrests have yet been made.
Performances by other rappers, including Snoop Dogg and 50 Cent, were scheduled to take place at the event, but following the stabbing the remainder of the show was called off. Snoop Dogg said in a statement that he had left as soon as he heard about the incident while in his dressing room.
In a statement issued later on Saturday night, co-promoter Live Nation said: "There was an altercation in the roadway backstage. Out of respect for those involved, and in coordination with local authorities, artists and organisers decided not to move forward with remaining sets so the festival was ended an hour early".
Drakeo The Ruler had released more than ten mixtapes - most recently 'So Cold I Do Em 2' earlier this month - and in February this year released his debut studio album, 'The Truth Hurts', which featured Drake collaboration 'Talk To Me'.
The rapper was arrested on charges of first degree murder in 2018, but was acquitted at trial the following year. However, prosecutors re-filed two of the charges against him, resulting in him remaining in custody. He was released in November last year after reaching a plea deal.
During his time in prison, he recorded his sixth mixtape, 'Thank You For Using GTL', over prison phone line Global Tel Link.
Il Divo's Carlos Martin dies
In a statement yesterday evening, the other members of the group - Urs Buhler, David Miller and Sebastien Izambard - said: "It is with heavy hearts that we are letting you know that our friend and partner, Carlos Marin, has passed away. He will be missed by his friends, family and fans. There wiIl never be another voice or spirit like Carlos".
"For seventeen years the four of us have been on this incredible journey of Il Divo together, and we will miss our dear friend", they went on. "We hope and pray that his beautiful soul will rest in peace".
The group postponed Christmas tour dates earlier this month after Marin was taken ill. He subsequently tested positive for COVID-19, reports the Daily Mail, and was hospitalised in Manchester, were he was placed in an induced coma.
Classical singers Marin, Buhler and Miller were put together with pop singer Izambard as Il Divo in 2003 by Simon Cowell.
The music mogul also issued a statement yesterday, saying: "I am finding this so difficult to put into words how I feel right now. I am devastated Carlos Marin has passed away. He loved life. He loved performing and always had so much appreciation towards the fans who supported the group from day one. Rest in peace Carlos. I will miss you".
Il Divo released their tenth studio album, 'For Once In My Life: A Celebration Of Motown', in July.
BRIT Awards nominations announced
While no category is 100% male-dominated - and a number of shortlists are almost entirely female - it's a couple of the all new genre categories where we find the fewest women with nominations. The Rock & Alternative and Hop Hop, Grime & Rap shortlists are light on female names. Although in Pop & R&B, four out of the five artists are women.
Perhaps reflecting a shift in the industry, the Best New Artist category is another that features only one man - Central Cee - with Griff, Joy Crookes, Little Simz and Self Esteem all also vying for that prize.
While this is certainly one of the most diverse sets of BRITs nominations in years, there is still room for improvement of course. Nevertheless, it certainly looks like the efforts made in recent years - and the changes made this year - are moving things in a positive direction. That said, when Coldplay inevitably win Best Rock & Alternative Act, I'm not sure people will agree.
Most of the shortlists have been selected by the BRITs Voting Academy, although the best song shortlists are based on commercial performance. The Academy will then pick the overall winners in those categories, while the public will get to vote on the overall winners in the genre categories.
Chair of this year's BRIT Awards, Polydor co-President Tom March, says: "I am delighted to see such a brilliant spread of artists across the categories this year. It is great to see so many of the artists that have defined this past year have been recognised, all exemplifying enormous talent and creativity. It is a true testament to the power and vibrancy of British and international music right now".
"We look forward to what the public vote for as winners in the four new genre award categories, introduced to create even more opportunities for artists to be recognised, when the voting opens in January", he adds. "I thank our Voting Academy for providing such inspirational nominees for the 2022 BRITs".
There are two more shortlists to come, with the Producer Of The Year and Songwriter Of The Year nominations selected by independent panels and set to be announced in January. The ceremony itself will take place at the O2 Arena on 8 Feb.
Now, here are the nominations...
Artist Of The Year
Best New Artist
Song Of The Year
Album Of The Year
Rock & Alternative
Hip Hop, Grime & Rap
Pop & R&B
International Song Of The Year
LadBaby leading the Christmas number one race, The Kunts in the top five
Their song - a sausage roll-themed version of Elton John and Ed Sheeran's new Christmas single 'Merry Christmas Everyone' - also features John and Sheeran. The original version is currently at number two in the midweeks and was number one for the second week on last week's chart.
It seems unlikely that there will be any change in the top two positions between now and Friday, but there is stiff competition when it comes to how the rest of the top five will end up.
Wham! are currently in at three with 'Last Christmas', which is the most-streamed track of the week so far. Also getting in there with some heavy streaming activity is Mariah Carey's perennial Christmas classic, 'All I Want For Christmas Is You', at number four.
In at number five is another new song, 'Boris Johnson Is Still A Fucking Cunt' by The Kunts. The second most-downloaded track of the week so far (after LadBaby), the band are currently matching the chart position they reached last year with 'Boris Johnson Is A Fucking Cunt'.
Obviously Wham! and Mariah Carey will be seeing some hefty streams all week, which could make them hard to catch up, but a healthy rate of downloads will help to keep The Kunts in the competition, and ahead of George Ezra, who is currently at number six with 'Come On Home For Christmas'.
This year's Christmas number one will be revealed on Radio 1 on Christmas Eve at 4pm.