|THURSDAY 19 MAY 2022||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The Full Federal Court in Australia has dismissed an appeal by the often controversial secondary ticketing website Viagogo which was trying to overturn an earlier ruling that it breached the country's consumer rights laws and should therefore pay a penalty of AUS$7 million... [READ MORE]|
Australian appeals court upholds AUS$7 million judgement against Viagogo
In their ruling issued yesterday, the appeal judges stated: "Notwithstanding that Viagogo is not happy with the result, it has failed to establish error on the part of the primary judge in the application of the relevant legal principles or in fact-finding. The appeal on liability must [therefore] be dismissed".
The legal action against Viagogo in Australia was pursued by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission. The main issues identified by the Australian regulator regarding Viagogo's operations pretty much mirrored the issues raised by campaigners and regulators in other countries.
That included the resale site's frequent use of the word 'official', when it was - in fact - not an official seller of any tickets at all. Also, Viagogo's practice of suggesting that tickets were running out for a show, when statements about the scarcity of tickets only ever related to the number of touted tickets being sold on its own platform. And the secondary ticketing firm's substantial but often hidden fees.
The Federal Court first ruled back in 2019 that those practices were in violation of Australian consumer rights law. The judge hearing the case then subsequently ordered Viagogo to pay the AUS$7 million penalty, noting that the secondary ticketing company's conduct in this domain had been deliberate and that its misleading claims had been made on "an industrial scale".
For its part, Viagogo insisted that - by 2019 - it had already made changes to its website that dealt with the concerns the ACCC had raised. It also announced its intent to appeal the judgement, subsequently returning to the appeals division of the Federal Court, aka the Full Court.
But the appeals judges very much concurred with the original judgement. Summarising the conclusions of the appeal judges, the ACCC said yesterday: "The Full Court upheld the finding made in 2019 that Viagogo had falsely represented that it was the 'official' seller of tickets to particular events".
"The Full Court", it added, "also upheld the finding made by the primary judge that from 1 May 2017 to 26 Jun 2017, Viagogo's website drew consumers in with a headline price but failed to sufficiently disclose additional fees or specify a single price for tickets, including a 27.6% booking fee which applied to most tickets".
Welcoming the latest ruling in this case, ACCC Commissioner Liza Carver told reporters: "This case was about bad behaviour by an international ticket reseller that deliberately misled thousands of Australian consumers about the price they would have to pay for tickets and falsely represented that those consumers were purchasing tickets from an official site".
"Viagogo misled music lovers, sporting fans and other consumers who were hoping to get tickets to a special event", she added. "Consumers were drawn in by a headline price and were often unaware of the significant fees charged by Viagogo until very late in the booking process when they were already invested in attending the event. Businesses must clearly disclose if they charge additional, unavoidable fees on top of the advertised price".
Responding to yesterday's ruling, a Viagogo spokesperson said: "Viagogo is disappointed with the Federal Court's ruling, but we remain committed to continuing to provide choice for consumers to access tickets and attend events".
"The ruling concerns language used in some advertisements and the form of the Viagogo website around five years ago", they added. "It does not reflect our current ticketing platform and the many changes we have made to provide greater transparency for our customers, including providing clearer pricing, ticketing availability and event policy information at all stages of the customer journey".
"Our first priority continues to be providing people with a safe and secure platform to buy or sell tickets to live performance events they can either no longer attend or missed out on at first release" they went on. "We will continue to focus on providing the best possible experience for customers as we recover from the pandemic, which continues to have a significant impact on the live performance industry around the world".
Concluding, the spokesperson stated: "A transparent and secure resale market is in the interests of everyone, and we will continue working constructively with the ACCC and other regulators to ensure all Australians are protected by the highest possible consumer standards".
The ruling in the Australian courts was welcomed by those who have led campaigns against for-profit ticket touting elsewhere in the world. Those campaigners say that the ACCC's criticisms of Viagogo were well justified, and - despite changes to the secondary ticketing firm's website in recent years - concerns remain about the way the company operates.
To that end, they reckon, regulators like the ACCC - and commercial entities such as search engines - should continue to monitor the for-profit ticket resale market, and take action against resale sites where consumer rights are still arguably being violated.
Adam Webb of the UK-based anti-touting campaign FanFair said: "Well done Australia. The only surprise is that other countries haven't followed suit - including the UK. Viagogo's anti-consumer practices risk delaying the recovery of live music, and I would urge our government to accept recommendations made nine months ago by the Competition & Markets Authority to toughen up the laws around ticket touting".
Meanwhile, Sam Shemtob from the pan-European anti-touting initiative FEAT added: "Yet again, Viagogo has falsely claimed to be an official reseller, created a false sense of urgency around its listings, hidden its fees and clogged up courts with appeals - and yet again it has ultimately lost. Regulators are waking up to the damage caused by industrial scale ticket touting. It's about time search engines do the same".
Cloudflare says European Commission's Piracy Watch List should only focus on actual piracy sites
The Counterfeit And Piracy Watch List is basically the European version of the Notorious Markets list that the US government produces each year which runs through all the websites that are currently annoying copyright owners - either because they are overt piracy operations or because they facilitate piracy in some way.
With both lists, copyright owners can make submissions suggesting what websites and platforms should be featured. With the EC working on its next list, the International Federation Of The Phonographic Industry made such a submission earlier this year.
After talking about a stack of file-sharing, stream-ripping and cyber-locker operations that facilitate piracy - and griping about various social media type platforms that don't do enough to license music and/or help copyright owners remove infringing content - the IFPI's submission then turned to internet companies that provide services to some of the piracy sites mentioned elsewhere in its document.
It wrote: "Several intermediaries have been named by IFPI in past submissions and we continue to have concerns about the services specifically mentioned. The focus of this year's submission is Cloudflare given its involvement in a high number of the music industry's priority sites".
Although the services providing by Cloudflare are entirely legitimate, IFPI noted that some of those services can "provide anonymity to the owners and/or operators of the websites that use its services. This feature is particularly desirable for the operators of pirate websites, and others engaged in unlawful activity".
The IFPI - and other rights-holder groups - would like Cloudflare to be much more proactive in dealing with piracy operations that are using its services. That would include making it easier to identify the people behind such operations, and having a better 'know your customer' system in place, verifying the identity of new clients and the nature of their operations before providing any services.
"Cloudflare should refuse to provide services to customers who fail to provide accurate contact information", the IFPI wrote in its submission. "Cloudflare should also obtain details about the activities that the customers are planning to undertake. It should not provide services to customers that engage in illegal activities or violate Cloudflare's policies, and it should conduct further checks with respect to activities that fall under particularly risky categories".
However, in its submission, published by Torrentfreak, Cloudflare argues that these demands go someway beyond its legal responsibilities, and that the Counterfeit And Piracy Watch List should focus on companies and websites that violate the law, rather than businesses who don't voluntarily agree to comply with the demands of copyright owners.
It writes: "The creation of a Watch List suggests that the European Commission is evaluating whether entities have failed to meet their legal obligations and has identified entities that are truly bad actors. Given this reality, [the EC] must apply principled and fair legal standards in determining which entities to include on the Watch List".
"The Commission should not", it adds, "issue a report - even an informal one - that is simply a mechanism for particular stakeholders to air their grievances that entities are not taking particular voluntary action to meet their concerns or to advocate for new policies".
"The Commission's inclusion of allegations of this type on its Watch List has the potential to inappropriately suggest that the Commission endorses such actions, a view that could influence ongoing legal discussions and policy debates", it goes on. "Our view is that the Commission's staff document and Watch List should be limited to Commission-verified allegations of illegal behaviour, based on principled and fair legal standards".
So there you go. It remains to be seen what position the EC takes regarding including the likes of Cloudflare on its next Counterfeit And Piracy Watch List.
RAJAR round-up: Commercial radio gets a boost in Q1 figures
Given that, apparently, you're all still very committed radio listeners, I'm sure you'll be delighted to know how all the stations you love so much are getting on. Well, I can't guarantee I'll get to your favourite, but here are five takeaways from the official Q1 UK radio listening figures...
1. RAJAR reckons that 50 million adults in the UK are still regularly tuning in to the radio, and 67.9% of the time they're doing that via digital means.
41.1% of that is through the DAB digital radio network, but online listening is on the up and is now at 22.4%. For the first time this quarter RAJAR reported smart speaker listening on its own, as well as as part of online listening. Those speakers now make up 10% of all listening, so just under half of all online listening.
For commercial radio, 72% of listeners are doing so through some kind of digital platform, while the BBC still holds onto more analogue listeners, with 65% going digital.
2. Commercial radio has scored its biggest ever audience share, with 37.2 million people. That's more than three million people more than the BBC. Commercial's share of listening time is also up slightly - 48.4%, up from 48%. The BBC fell slightly in terms of listening time, but is still in the lead there.
3. The bulk of commercial radio's boost comes from media firm Global, it having scored its best ever results for reach, hours and share across its whole portfolio of stations. In total, it had 25.8 million weekly listeners, 242 million hours and 24% share.
That's not just because it's got loads of stations either. It has the top three commercial stations in the country - Heart, Capital and Smooth - and the top two commercial breakfast shows with Jamie Theakston and Amanda Holden on Heart, and Roman Kemp on Capital.
That said, Capital did actually see listener numbers fall across its network, and particularly in London. And another Global station, Radio X, saw listeners fall by over 8%, dropping below two million.
4. Over at the BBC, both Radio 1 and Radio 2 saw listening numbers down on the final quarter of 2021. Radio 1 brought in 8.35 million listeners, compared to 8.97 million in Q4, while Radio 2 went from 14.87 million to 14.57 million.
Both stations also saw listeners of their breakfast shows drop. Though minor fluctuations, perhaps. And Radio 1 would probably like me to point out that listeners under the age of ten aren't counted.
5. If you want a good news story for the BBC, 6 Music is usually pretty reliable. And it certainly is in this batch of RAJARs, having grown by 9% last quarter, with new record listener numbers of 2.85 million listeners. As the station marks its 20th birthday, it's probably worth shaking your head and saying, "Remember that time they were going to shut that down?"
Industry experts inform the Pathways Into Music artist circle at The Great Escape: Part Three
At TGE, Foundation director Phil Nelson presented the artist circle, a way of understanding the process artists go through when growing an audience and business around their music.
That begins with creative activities, and then moves onto fanbase building, which is in turn amplified through the promotion of releases and shows, and finally artists look for ways to raise funds and generate income around their music. So there are four quarters to the artist circle: creative, fanbase, promotion and finance.
With the artist circle introduced, music industry experts were then invited on stage at TGE to together compile the ten key pieces of knowledge and information that educators and talent development teams should be looking to communicate to DIY phases artists for each quarter of the circle.
Providing the tips for the promotion quarter - focused on releasing music, and the marketing and live activity around those releases - were Henriette Heimdal from Family In Music, Natasha Gregory from Mother Artists, and Shikayla Nadine from SNM Management.
Here are the ten tips they compiled...
1. Work out a year-long release plan – so you have a basic idea of what music you are going to release when, allowing you to both plan your social media and gigging activity accordingly, and to get your tracks and accompanying assets sorted nice and early. Although at the same time, be prepared to change those plans quickly if circumstances demand!
2. Pick the right DIY distributor to get your music streaming. Many of the streaming platforms have public lists of their preferred distribution partners - make sure you consult them when picking a distributor. And talk to other music-makers you know about what distributors they use and what their experiences have been like.
3. Don't be afraid to think outside of your local market. In the digital domain you might find an audience in other countries before your own. So make sure you are distributing your music as widely and globally as possible.
4. Once you are regularly releasing music, be clear on timelines and deadlines for each release - including the deadlines of the companies you are working with.
5. It's always worth pitching your releases to relevant media and industry contacts. Work out who the right contacts are - eg are they championing new artists and do they focus on the right genre - and send them personalised emails.
6. To help with that process, learn how to write great press releases and artist biographies.
7. Networking is key - when you are releasing music and starting to play live, try to connect with people in the industry and media. Maybe start with a polite personalised email. Maybe ask for advice and feedback first time. And make sure you properly target any messages.
8. As things progress you will start to build a team, working with more people and companies in the music industry. But be realistic. Just because you get a team on board, doesn't suddenly mean everything will step up a level. Each opportunity leads to the next opportunity.
9. When you are collaborating with other people and working with other people, do encourage and listen to feedback. Constructive criticism is great. That said, at the same time make sure you are true to yourself. Consistency is key.
10. Once you are regularly releasing music and playing shows it can become overwhelming - there never seem to be enough hours in the day to get everything done. But take your time, have fun, live every day and enjoy the small moments.
We are publishing the ten tips for each of the quarters of the artist circle each day here in the CMU Daily. Or you can get them all in one place by downloading the latest Pathways Into Music Research Summary here.
Kevin Brennan appointed Chair of APPG For Music
Brennan, of course, is also a member of Parliament's culture select committee and has been very vocal in the economics of streaming debate. As well as taking part in that select committee's inquiry into streaming, he also put forward a private members bill that set out in formal terms a number of copyright reforms that would change the relationship between artists and labels, and the way artists - especially those on old record deals - share in monies generated by the streaming of their recordings.
The bill was based on some of the recommendations made by the culture select committee at the end of its inquiry. In response to that report, the UK government said it would prefer voluntary rather than legislative solutions to the issues with the music streaming business raised by the committee's inquiry, and various initiatives are currently underway seeking those voluntary solutions.
To that end the government opposed Brennan's bill, preventing it from proceeding. However, ministers did say that changes to copyright law could still be considered down the line if that voluntary solution is not forthcoming.
Brennan was already a co-Chair of the APPG For Music, although the main Chair position was previously held by Conservative MP David Warburton. However, he became embroiled in a scandal last month after being accused of sexual harassment by three women.
He has denied the allegations, but the claims against him are reportedly being investigated by Parliament's Independent Complaints And Grievance Scheme. As a result, he has basically been suspended from the Parliamentary Conservative Party - technically speaking he has "had the Conservative whip withdrawn" - pending the outcome of the investigation.
Rina Sawayama releases new single, announces tour dates
"I had so much fun writing 'This Hell", she says of the Paul Epworth produced track. "The past couple of years I've been listening to lots of female country singers and wanted to write a euphoric and tongue in cheek country pop song".
"Country music at its core to me represents comfort, brilliant storytelling and authentic expression of the writer's reality", she adds. "I've been dreaming of working with Paul Epworth my entire career so I knew it was meant to be when we finished this song in a day. I put in as many iconic pop culture moments as I can, but the song is more than that".
"It's an important song for me given the human rights that are being taken away from minorities at a rapid rate in the name of traditional religious beliefs", she goes on. "More specifically I was thinking about the rights being taken away from the LGBTQ community when I wrote this song".
"When the world tells us we don't deserve love and protection, we have no choice but to give love and protection to each other", she concludes. "This hell is better with you".
'Hold The Girl' is set for release on 2 Sep, and Sawayama will tour the UK and Ireland the following month. Tickets go on general sale on 27 May. Here are the dates:
12 Oct: Glasgow, SWG3
Reservoir Media has signed a new publishing deal with Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera, covering his work with the band and numerous other artists, including David Gilmour, Brian Eno, Robert Wyatt, Nico and more. "I'm very happy to embark on this new relationship with Reservoir and look forward to many fruitful collaborations", he says.
Independent publisher BDi Music has signed emerging artist/songwriter Ellysse Mason to an exclusive worldwide publishing deal. Says the company's James Paterson: "Ellysse is a wonderfully talented artist and songwriter. Her creative vision and work ethic is truly inspiring when it comes to her own songs, or writing for other artists".
Beggars Group label 4AD has announced a number of new appointments. Alyssa DeBonis and Sophie Hall become the company's new US and UK Label Managers respectively. Meanwhile, Will Tompsett has been promoted to Worldwide Head Of Marketing and new recruit Isa Castro-Cota joins as US Communications Manager.
Bauer Media Group has appointed Richard Dawkins as President Of Audio. In that role he will lead and grow the company's radio and audio business, which currently has operations in eight European countries including the UK. He joined the media firm as COO Of Audio in 2019 after more than a decade with the BBC.
MANAGEMENT & FUNDING
Management firm YMU has announced the launch of a new US entertainment division which will be led by April Tombs, formerly with agency UTA. The company says: "The launch of the US entertainment arm aims to replicate the success and ambition of the UK entertainment division, with the 60+ UK team led by Global MD of YMU Entertainment, Holly Bott".
Yungblud has announced that he will release his third album, simply titled 'Yungblud', on 2 Sep. He recently told Spin that "my mission is to [get] those people slagging me off wearing a Yungblud t-shirt next year". So I guess this is the Yungblud album for you, haters.
Metric have released new single 'Doomscroller'. Their new album, 'Formentera', is out on 8 Jul.
Moonchild Sanelly has released new single 'Cute', featuring Trillary Banks. "The song is about bad boss bitches with big dick energy who look fly while they're running their shit", she says. "We can be cute, so our power might look unthreatening, but don't be fooled, we're powerful and we're here to fuck shit up!"
Coheed And Cambria have released new single 'Comatose'. Their new album, 'Vaxis II: A Window Of The Waking Mind', is out on 24 Jun.
Caterina Barbieri has released new single 'At Your Gamut'. Her new album, 'Spirit Exit', is out on 8 Jul.
Léa Sen has released new single 'I Like Dis'. "I felt the most innocent when I wrote this song", she says. "In the lyrics I look at this feeling of wanting someone almost desperately but also being terrified of what happens once you get them and especially once you lose them. Falling in love is terrifying when all you do is second guess yourself".
Ukrainian metal band Space Of Variations have released new single and video 'Imago'. "We filmed this video a few days before the war started", say the band. "Work on it was carried out to the accompaniment of explosions and air raids. Understanding that a beautiful story called life can end at any moment pushes us to the fact that there will be no better time for us than now".
GIGS & TOURS
Paolo Nutini has announced UK tour dates in October and November, including a show at Alexandra Palace in London on 25 Oct. Tickets go on general sale on 25 May.
Yard Act have announced that they will play their biggest headline show to date at The Kentish Town Forum in London on 1 Dec. They've also just released the video for '100% Endurance', starring actor David Thewlis.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Fyre Festival fraudster out of prison
The Fyre Festival, of course, was the infamous luxury music event staged in the Bahamas in 2017 that fell apart just as it was starting when it became clear McFarland and his team hadn't put in place the infrastructure for even a basic festival, let alone the premium party experience that had been promoted and promised.
The companies behind the festival and various related ventures quickly fell apart as civil litigation filed by McFarland's investors, suppliers and ticket-buyers started to mount up. And then came the criminal investigation that ultimately found that McFarland had defrauded his financial backers.
He was sentenced to six years in jail back in 2018, which was a pretty good result given the crimes he was accused of could have resulted in a 40 year jail stint. It was assumed that he wouldn't actually be in prison for the full six years, although a request to move to house arrest in 2020 on COVID grounds was rejected.
But, according to TMZ, McFarland was formally released into the custody of New York's Residential Reentry Management agency at the end of March, and he will now be held at a halfway house run by that agency until the end of August.
Talking of incarcerated dicks with loose links to the music industry, it was also announced yesterday that another celebrity fraudster, Martin Shkreli, has been moved from prison to a halfway house - and one also run by New York's Residential Reentry Management - where he will remain until 14 Sep.
Shkreli came to public attention in 2015 after buying the rights to the life-saving drug Daraprim and massively increasing the price. He was then sentenced to seven years in prison in 2018 after being found guilty of fraud.
However, along the way he had some music industry connections. First, a label he had invested in, Collect Records, was forced to cut all ties in the wake the Daraprim controversy. Then it turned out he'd bought the one and only copy of Wu Tang album 'Once Upon A Time In Shaolin'.
The US government then seized the Wu Tang record as part of the fraud case against Shkreli, last year selling it to a collective of NFT collectors called PleasrDAO.