|MONDAY 24 JANUARY 2022||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Of all the concerts and shows due to take place in the UK in the first three months of 2022, more than a quarter have already been cancelled as a result of the continued uncertainty caused by COVID-19. Which means that, despite COVID restrictions slowly coming to an end across the UK, the live sector still urgently needs further support from government in order to successfully stage a post-pandemic revival... [READ MORE]|
More than 25% of UK Q1 concerts cancelled as COVID concerns continue
26% of planned shows for Q1 2022 have been cancelled according to a survey undertaken by live sector trade group LIVE. In some cases the cancellations were a direct result of COVID restrictions put in place in parts of the UK as the omicron variant spiked late last year.
However, even where shows could technically still go ahead, there were still plenty of COVID-related cancellations. Reasons for cancelling shows included the government's official advice pre-Christmas that people should stay at home; concerns that cautious customers would still stay home even once that advice lifted; fears that new COVID restrictions could come into force at any time; and artists, crew members and other staff contracting the virus - or the risk they could before any one show was due to take place.
Meanwhile, for international artists planning to play the UK, there are even bigger challenges. First, whether any travel restrictions will stop them from reaching the country. Plus, even if shows are possible in the UK, those shows might be part of a Europe-wide tour which isn't possible because of COVID restrictions still in force in other European countries. As a result, according to LIVE's study, 44% of international shows due to take place in the UK have been cancelled in the first quarter of 2022.
Needless to say, this has all had a big impact on a live sector already on the brink after nearly two years of dealing with the pandemic. On that point, LIVE says: "These cancellations have resulted in dramatic income loss for thousands of artists, production crew, freelancers, venue and supporting businesses. This comes after unprecedented losses throughout the pandemic".
With that in mind, LIVE says that the sector needs a new package of support measures for the UK government. It adds: "Vital support measures would include keeping the reduced rate of VAT on tickets and urgently fixing the broken government insurance scheme".
Plus, also, properly dealing with the various visa, permit, carnet and cabotage problems created by big bad Brexit.
All the COVID challenges are "compounded by the devastating impacts that Brexit is now beginning to have on the industry", LIVE confirms. "The introduction of visas and punitive regulations on the trucks and vehicles that make touring possible is leading to 90% stating Brexit will negatively impact the live music industry once all markets are fully open again".
Commenting on the new stats and the need for more support, LIVE CEO Greg Parmley says: "Whilst it is great news that restrictions on live music venues will come to an end in much of the UK at the end of January, the live music industry is still facing serious challenges. The impact of the past two years has been catastrophic for the venues, artists, freelancers, and technical staff that power our £4.5 billion industry".
"It will take a long time for us to recover from the worst period in the history of the industry and the government need to fully understand the challenges we face", he adds. "Whilst the UK is reopening many artists need international markets to fully reopen before touring can be financially viable".
"We are also encouraging the public to continue to support live music", he goes on, "whether that is seeing a new band at a small local venue or a big act in an arena, so that we can get through this difficult period together".
European Parliament approves draft of Digital Services Act which is a mixed bag for the music industry
Various amendments to the initial European Commission drafted version of the DSA that were supported by the music and wider copyright industries were knocked back. Though so were various amendments about which the music and copyright industries had raised concerns. So, all in all, it was a mixed bag.
The DSA is not specifically focused on copyright issues, with a lot of the debate around the proposed new regulations focused on harmful and abusive content, and the responsibilities of digital platforms to block and remove such content, while also protecting freedom of expression online.
However, a plethora of proposals have been made along the way, some of which could have an impact on how copyright owners enforce and exploit their rights online.
One proposal that was very much backed by the music industry was for a wider 'know your business customer' obligation to be included in the DSA.
Commercial entities online are meant to be transparent about who is operating a service and where they are based, however plenty of rogue operators fail to do this, making it harder to pursue legal claims against them, for example, if they are infringing copyright.
To that end, campaigners have been calling for new rules that force online intermediaries to ensure their business customers comply with these obligations. But in the original draft of the DSA such 'know your business customer' rules were only included for online marketplaces, so the music and copyright industries were supporting an article amendment to extend the reach of that new obligation.
However, that amendment was not voted through. Although the vote on it was incredibly close. And a so called recital within the DSA text dealing with 'know your business customer' was amended. As a result, it's hoped that more can be achieved on that point as the DSA progresses to the so called trilogue stage, where the European Parliament, European Commission and EU Council come together to negotiate a final draft.
Other amendments supported by the copyright industries - including a clarification that the removal of illegal content by digital platforms should be expeditious and in relation to search engines and safe harbour protections - were also not passed.
However, there were a number of amendments the copyright industries opposed - including around restrictions on upload filters and web-blocking, and which would have impacted on music recommendation tools - all of which were also voted down.
The aforementioned trilogue process in relation to the DSA should now begin at the end of the month.
Spanish competition regulator launches new investigation into collecting society SGAE
SGAE has been subject to plenty of controversy over the years amid allegations of poor governance and out-right corruption. Those controversies resulted in it being suspended from global collecting society grouping CISAC for a time, and in 2019 it was fined 2.95 million euros by the CNMC.
Unison is a newer collecting society that, among other things, has been seeking to offer songwriters and music publishers an alternative route to licensing their rights in Spain, given the controversies around SGAE. However, Unison argues, SGAE has been doing everything it can to make it difficult for a new player to enter the Spanish collective licensing market, including breaching competition laws and collective licensing regulations.
The 2019 CNMC fine related to claims that SGAE was putting unfair and anti-competitive restrictions on its members who were seeking to withdraw their rights from the society in order to ally with Unison. Later the same year Barcelona's Commercial Court also ordered SGAE to allows its members to withdraw works "without unnecessary and unjustified restrictions" and "in a segmented or individualised manner".
Last month the same court issued a new order in relation to a newly modified SGAE management contract which, Unison argued, again imposed anti-competitive restrictions on its members in a way that ignored the 2019 court order.
The new proceedings announced by Spain's competition regulator relate to different complaints made by Unison regarding SGAE's conduct.
According to Unison, the CNMC has instigating the new proceedings after concluding "that there is reasonable evidence that SGAE has committed several infringements of article two of the [Spanish] Competition Act and 102 of the functioning treaty of the European Union in relation to the design and application of blanket licences in the television and radio markets, with market foreclosure effects, and the licensing of the repertoire it manages to users on an allegedly universal basis".
In other news, Unison has filed a lawsuit against Spanish broadcaster RTVE for exploiting songs controlled by the society without licence. It says it has launched legal proceedings against the state-owned broadcaster after "repeated attempts by Unison to get RTVE to negotiate and sign a licence that would have allowed it to lawfully exploit these works".
Warner teams up with Blockparty for some NFT nonsense
This isn't your usual planet destroying NFT shit though. As well as using Blockparty to sell some top quality digital tat, artists and creators can also get involved in "NFT swaps".
Because those using Blockparty's "decentralised exchange" - or "DEX" - have, and I quote, "the option to bundle-sell their NFTs, where they can combine existing NFTs to swap, trade, or sell. By cutting out the middleman, creators, artists, collectors, and fans alike can now connect directly like never before through this unique experience".
Exciting, huh? It's just like those Panini stickers you used to collect when you were eight, except online and awful.
"We're elated to be working with Warner Music Group, a company that continues to sit on the edge of technological and entertainment-based innovation", says Blockparty CEO Vladislav Ginzburg. "We look forward to tapping into our expertise and creativity as we work with individual artists to ensure they have all of the tools they need to participate in Web3 and do so in ways that are unique to them, their brand, and their communities".
Honing in on that decentralised exchange, he goes on: "Early access to our DEX will give WMG artists the ability to both expand their audience to reach Web3 enthusiasts, and foster deeper connections with their existing community by amplifying fan experiences".
Oana Ruxandra, Chief Digital Officer & EVP Business Development at Warner Music, adds: "As technology and consumption patterns evolve, it's imperative that we equip our artists and songwriters with all of the tools they need to participate in the virtual economy. This partnership with Blockparty furthers WMG's Web3 reach by empowering artists and songwriters to craft their own digital stories through NFTs".
There's a lot of jargon flying about here, so you might still be confused. What we need is a real world example. Well, it just so happens that one Warner-signed artist is already getting in on this incredible opportunity. Finnish singer Stig is "planning to use these tools to launch NFTs that capture his iconic moustache and array of trendy five panel caps - a nod to wearables found in the metaverse and his ambitions to participate within it".
Who wouldn't want a digital moustache to wear in the metaverse?
Ozzy Osbourne fans scammed following NFT campaign blunder
Last month, Osbourne launched CryptoBatz - a collection of 9666 digital bats - for pre-sale, before properly putting the digital collectables on sale on Thursday.
"CryptoBatz is a fucking mental project for NFT collectors and fans", Osbourne told Rolling Stone in December. "The design pays tribute to one of my most iconic on-stage moments and is a chance to acquire a rare piece of art history. I love it!"
The issue, reports The Verge, is that at launch, a link to the Discord channel where the campaign was being organised was changed.
The original URL was then taken over by scammers. And thanks to various official tweets promoting the project with the original URL remaining online, more than 1000 fans appear to have then signed up to a group managed by the scammers.
Once in that group, people were asked to verify their assets and then directed to a phishing site to connect their crypto wallets.
One person who reckons that he might have lost about $400 worth of Ether - Etheruem's cryptocurrency - as a result of the scam says that the wallet he connected to appears to have received transactions worth more than $40,000 on 20 Jan as CryptoBatz sales went live.
After being contacted by The Verge, the developer of CryptoBatz, Sutter Systems, removed a tweet with more than 4000 retweets that contained the original Discord link. However, it placed responsibility for the scam with Discord
"Although we feel very sorry for the people that have fallen prey to these scams, we cannot take responsibility for the actions of scammers exploiting Discord - a platform that we have absolutely no control over", Sutter Systems co-founder 'Jepeggi' told The Verge.
"In our opinion this situation and hundreds of others that have taken place across other projects in the NFT space could have easily been prevented if Discord just had a better response/support/fraud team in place to help big projects like ours".
Discord corporate comms exec Peter Day meanwhile said in a statement: "Our Trust & Safety team is in touch with the server owners and are investigating the incident. Our team takes action when we become aware of attacks like this one, including banning users and shutting down servers".
BBC launches celebrity Sounds mixes for broadcaster's centenary
Live now are playlists from Theroux, Martin Freeman, Alex Scott and Stacey Dooley. A new mix will be added to the series every fortnight for the rest of the year, with the broadcaster's actual hundredth birthday occurring in October or November (depending on whether you want to celebrate its incorporation or its first broadcasts).
"For My Sounds mix, I'm sharing some of my favourite tracks and the music that makes me feel very, very happy", says Theroux. "I hope it makes you feel happy as well. Happy Birthday BBC!"
Scott says of her mix: "As part of the BBC's 100th birthday celebrations, I'm going to share the songs that take me away from it all and make me feel relaxed, and allow me to go to a place where I'm thinking about something totally different".
Freeman says: "I'm sharing the music that makes me smile. Not all of it is happy music, but it makes me feel happy all the same. Music to me is like an anaesthetic and it goes with me everywhere. It makes everything OK".
And Dooley says: "To celebrate the BBC's 100th birthday, I've put together this mix for My Sounds to share some of my all-time favourite tracks and the songs that make me smile".
So, lots of smiling to be had, apparently. They've obviously not heard about the BBC funding cuts. Anyway, if that's your sort of thing, tune in now via, of course, BBC Sounds.
Fugees cancel reunion tour
The group announced that they would reunite to mark the 25th anniversary of their 1996 album 'The Score' in September - with a secret show taking place in New York that month. The tour was then scheduled to begin in November, reaching the UK in December.
However, in October is was announced that the dates were being postponed, with confirmation of new dates due "soon". But no updates were forthcoming and on Friday it was announced that the shows will now not go ahead at all.
"We anticipate and understand disappointment but our anniversary tour will not be able to happen", Fugees said in a statement. "The continued COVID pandemic has made touring conditions difficult, and we want to make sure we keep our fans and ourselves healthy and safe".
Saying that the tour had aimed to "honour and celebrate this 25th anniversary of 'The Score'", they continued: "We see now it may not currently be our time for revisiting this past work".
"We're grateful for the special night we did get to share with some of you in New York, with that rare live moment", they went on. "If opportunity, public safety, and scheduling allow, we hope to be able to revisit this again sometime soon. Thank you for all your love and support throughout the years".
One Direction company seeks to block 1-d drinking straws trademark
Actually, they are not really suing anyone. But a company they own together - 1D Media Limited - has filed papers with the US Trademark Office formally opposing an application by a company called 1st Defence Industries Inc which is trying to register a 1-d trademark.
If you are wondering whether 1st Defence Industries Inc is seeking to use the abbreviated One Direction brand on a new bomb, well no, it's not actually a defence company at all. Instead it's a company that makes eco-friendly products. Mainly eco-friendly pest control projects to date - which is possibly where the 'defence' bit comes in - although it is seeking to register a 1-d trademark in relation to eco-friendly drinking straws.
But won't that confuse people into thinking One Direction the pop sensations are moving into the eco-friendly drinking straws business? I mean, the group may have been on hiatus since 2016, but while they were at their peak, there were few products that weren't sold with a One Direction or 1D logo slapped on it. And as a result, 1D Media Limited owns a load of One Direction and 1D trademarks in the US.
"Opposer is the owner of the trademarks and service marks associated with the band One Direction, one of the most popular bands in the world", the company's filing opposing the 1st Defence Industries Inc trademark application stated last week. "As such, 1D Media offers or licenses others to sell a wide variety of goods and services in the United States and worldwide under marks associated with One Direction including the abbreviated form of their band name '1D'".
"Applicant's mark contains the word portion of proposer's 1D word mark in its entirety (with the inclusion of a hyphen in between 1 and D), and is identical in meaning, and pronunciation to opposer's 1D word mark", it went on. "Moreover, the goods set forth in the 1st Defence ... application are the same or very closely related to the goods listed in the 1D Media registration and in connection with which opposer's 1D mark has been used".
"Thus", it concluded, "applicant's 1-d mark, when used in connection with the goods described in the subject application, is likely to deceive or cause consumer confusion or mistake among members of the public and potential purchasers of the companies' respective goods as to the source, sponsorship or composition of applicant's goods in relation to opposer's goods. Such confusion will damage opposer and injure its reputation in the trade and with the public".
We await to see how the US Trademark Office rules. In the meantime, if you want some real 1D drinking straws, this website is selling them. I've no idea whether they are official, or eco-friendly, but they are definitely using the official 1D trademark.