|THURSDAY 11 AUGUST 2022||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The ticketing and travel company Pollen - which previously operated as Verve and before that StreetTeam - has fallen into administration after months of speculation about its future, as aggrieved customers and employees became increasingly vocal on social media... [READ MORE]|
Ticketing and events company Pollen falls into administration
The Pollen business originally grew out of two companies - The Physical Network and We Represent - both of which used 'peer-to-peer marketing' to sell tickets to events and especially festivals. That basically meant encouraging fans to promote shows and sell tickets through their social networks, earning rewards in return for their efforts.
As the business grew and rebranded, Pollen expanded its operations, putting together and selling special travel packages and premium experiences around shows and festivals, and working with various partners on specially curated events.
Of late it has presented its offering via two strands, Pollen Presents which "curates experiences around your tastes and preferences you can't find anywhere else", and Pollen+ which "always gets you more at music festivals and events".
Like everyone in the live and ticketing sectors, Pollen faced plenty of challenges during the COVID lockdowns. Nevertheless, in April this year it announced that it had raised $150 million in new investment, with the company saying that it had enjoyed "stellar growth despite the pandemic", and that the new monies would help it build on its existing "significant momentum".
However, the company was already receiving criticism online from ticket-buyers regarding the communications around certain events that had been cancelled, and its system for issuing refunds.
And then, just a month after announcing the big new cash boost, the company made more than 150 of its staff redundant. At the time co-founder and CEO Callum Negus-Fancey insisted that those redundancies were part of a commitment that had been made to the new investors to cut the firm's overheads, and that no further down-sizing was planned.
But then rumours started to spread that employees still working for the company were experiencing delays in receiving their salaries, while at least one supplier said that their invoices were going unpaid.
Staff members also complained about poor internal communications regarding the financial problems, saying that they were simply told a big deal was incoming that would fix things, but that no further information on that deal was forthcoming.
Yesterday the Pollen parent company - which is still called StreetTeam Software Ltd - confirmed that administrators from Kroll were being called in to oversee a restructuring of the business. It was confirmed that efforts to sell the entire Pollen group have been unsuccessful, but that it's hoped deals can still be done regarding the specific strands of the company.
In a statement, it said: "The holding company sells its travel experiences through its subsidiary businesses, and they will continue to trade as normal. Bids have already been received for the customer-facing subsidiary companies, meaning customer experiences and refunds will not be affected. The management team have been in ongoing negotiations with a potential buyer for the parent company but have been unable to agree to terms in an appropriate time frame, leaving the board and shareholders agreeing the best option is to restructure the business".
"Despite strong growth since StreetTeam Software Ltd's inception eight years ago", it went on, "the knock-on effects of COVID-19 over the last two years, which decimated much of the travel sector, together with the tech stock crash and current consumer uncertainty in light of global economic conditions, put too much pressure on the business whilst at a critical stage of a scale-up's maturity".
"The management team are working hard to get the best outcome for all stakeholders", the statement concluded, "whilst working with shareholders to find affected employees alternative positions in their portfolio of companies".
Long-running lawsuit over disputed Michael Jackson vocals dismissed
Released in 2010, 'Michael' featured ten tracks that Jackson had started but not finished over his long career in music. Work on each track was completed by one of a team of producers, all led by Timbaland.
The three tracks that caused the controversy all originated from one recording session with producer Eddie Casci. Numerous people - including several members of the Jackson family - argued that the vocals on the final versions of those three tracks were not Jackson's.
The Jackson estate, which worked with Sony Music's Epic label on the album release, took those claims seriously and had its lawyer, Howard Weitzman, put out a letter to fans outlining the process that the estate and its major label partner had gone through in putting together 'Michael', and the work they had done in order to ensure the authenticity of the vocals.
None of that stopped one fan, Vera Serova, from going legal in 2014. A lawsuit targeting the estate and Sony Music - as well as Casci and his company - accused the defendants of misleading consumers by claiming Jackson's vocals appeared on the three disputed tracks.
The litigation has been rumbling on ever since. Along the way the estate and Sony argued - with success on appeal - that they should be removed as defendants on free speech grounds.
Which meant a lot of court time was spent on the legal status of the album's liner notes and what protections the estate and Sony enjoyed under the US Constitution's First Amendment and California's anti-SLAPP laws, rather than whether or not it was Jackson's voice on those three tracks.
Serova continued to object to those free speech arguments, while the wider lawsuit also continued to work its way through the motions, most recently at the California Supreme Court. Then last month it emerged that the three disputed tracks were being removed from the streaming services.
At the time a spokesperson for the estate and Sony said: "The removal of these three songs has nothing to do with their authenticity. The [Jackson] estate and Sony Music believe the continuing conversation about the tracks is distracting the fan community and casual Michael Jackson listeners from focusing their attention where it should be - on Michael's legendary and deep music catalogue".
Now Serova's lawsuit has also been settled, despite the California Supreme Court still to make any decision after hearing arguments from both sides back in May. In a statement to Billboard, the estate and Sony said: "Regardless of how the Supreme Court may rule, the parties to the lawsuit mutually decided to end the litigation, which would have potentially included additional appeals and a lengthy trial court process".
Although the terms of the deal that has settled this long-running litigation are not known, the removal of the tracks were seemingly part of the settlement. The estate and Sony's statement added that removing the songs was "the simplest and best way to move beyond the conversation associated with these tracks once and for all".
A$AP Relli claims that A$AP Rocky attempted to shoot him
A$AP Relli - real name Terell Ephron - is a former member of A$AP Rocky's A$AP Mob collective. He alleges that, in November 2021, A$AP Rocky - real name Rakim Mayers - invited him to discuss a disagreement that had occurred between them, but that Mayers arrived at that meeting with a gun and started shooting at him.
"Unbeknownst to Mr Ephron, A$AP Rocky was not just planning for a conversation and came armed with a semi-automatic handgun", Ephron's lawyers Jamal Tooson and Brian Hurwitz say in a statement to Rolling Stone. "After arriving at the location, a conversation ensued whereby without provocation, warning, or any justification, A$AP Rocky produced the handgun and intentionally fired multiple shots at Mr Ephron".
Mayers was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport in April this year in connection with an alleged shooting. Details of that criminal case have not yet been made public and Mayers has not been charged, but he is due in court on 17 Aug.
Identifying him as the alleged shooting victim, the statement on behalf of Ephron claims that he received minor injuries to his left hand in the incident and has subsequently received "multiple death threats and irreparable harm to his career in the entertainment industry".
A$AP Rocky has not commented on his arrest or Ephron's claims.
Warner Chappell signs The Linda Lindas
"The Linda Lindas are four talented young women who write and perform songs about growing up in the world around them, and this authenticity in their music resonates with music fans around the globe", says SVP A&R And Catalogue Greg Sowders. "They're one of the most exciting, new and culturally relevant artists around today, and their energy, passion, songwriting and new ideas give me hope for the future of true alternative music".
The band add: "We're so excited to be working with Warner Chappell. Greg and the team have been so welcoming and we look forward to working together!"
Coming to fame via their single 'Racist, Sexist Boy' last year, The Linda Lindas released their debut album, 'Growing Up', in April. Here's the video for most recent single 'Talking To Myself'.
UK label spend on A&R and marketing reach almost £500 million last year
Labels have been increasingly keen to stress the investment they make in new talent and new releases in recent years, of course, as the debate around how the digital pie gets sliced up has become ever more public. Of the monies generated by streaming, 50-55% goes to the record industry, with 10-15% flowing to songwriters and music publishers, and the streaming services keeping 30-35%.
Of the 50-55% paid though to the record industry, what the artist sees depends on the deals they have done with any labels or distributors they work with. However, where artists have entered into conventional record deals, the record label usually keeps the majority of any revenues their recordings generate.
That approach has come under increased criticism in the streaming age where the costs of manufacturing and distributing physical discs are generally taken out of the equation. But labels insist that they still incur significant expenditure and risk when signing new artists and releasing new music, even if no CDs or vinyl records are being produced.
Meanwhile, when labels keep the majority of the monies generated by old recordings - where artists are often getting an even smaller cut of the pie - said labels will stress that a portion of the profits from the exploitation of their catalogues is used to invest in new talent.
Hence today's figures bragging about the investments made by labels in artists and records, and the accompanying stat that A&R spend - £358.1 million last year - has risen by 106.6% over the last five years, which is nearly two-and-a-half times more than the UK recorded music market's revenue growth, those revenues having increased by 42.9% since 2016.
Of course, when it works, the label model is a sound model that enables artists - and especially new artists - to not only drive sales and streams of their recorded music, but also to grow their fanbases and therefore their wider artist businesses.
And the label's fanbase building role increasingly depends on having ever more sophisticated systems for processing and analysing fan data, and the investments many labels have made in building platforms to process and crunch that data aren't even covered in the £494.8 million A&R and marketing spend.
So, labels are right to say that they remain important investors and marketing partners of artists, and especially new artists. And it's on that basis that many labels would justify keeping the majority of the income generated by their artists' recordings.
Though, of course, many in the artist and management community, while not denying the key role labels can play, would probably still argue that labels routinely take too big a slice of the pie, especially on catalogue recordings.
And those critics would also usually try to pick some holes in the BPI's grand label investment stats too, for example by pointing out that A&R spend includes artist advances, which labels will often ultimately seek to recoup specifically out of the artist's share of future income.
But still, digital pie debate and economics of streaming politics aside, labels remain important partners for many artists, and as the streaming boom continues to power growth in the recorded music sector, it's generally good news that those labels have more money to invest in new music, and in marketing campaigns that help grow the wider businesses of new artists.
Says BPI boss Geoff Taylor: "The UK has been one of the world's music superpowers since the advent of pop culture, thanks to the combination of our many incredible artists drawn from all regions and nations, and the passion, financial backing and expertise of our record labels".
"During a time when music has returned to growth after years of decline, labels have continued to prioritise investment in artists", he adds. "Spending on A&R reached a record £358 million last year and is significantly outpacing revenue increases. It is fuelling success for a new generation of UK artists who are embracing the opportunities of this truly connected world, underpinning our leading position on the global music stage".
Universal Music's Verve Label Group in the US has promoted Jamie Krents to President of Verve, Impulse! and Verve Forecast Records, while Dawn Olejar has been named Executive Vice President and General Manager of the group at large.
Warner Records in the US has hired Dalia Ganz as SVP Digital Marketing. She joins from Disney. "Dalia is a widely respected expert and bold innovator in the digital space who knows how to adapt in a constantly changing landscape and isn't afraid to break the mould to try something new", says Warner Records COO Tom Corson. "She'll inject a fresh perspective into our marketing strategy and help us deliver unique, memorable campaigns that amplify our artists' voices and resonate with fans".
Tones And I has released new single 'Charlie'. "[This] was a song that came out of nowhere, it was done in three hours and we wrote the bassline first", she says. "It's about missing my dog Charlie and other things. It's a funky jam and I just wanted to have some fun with it".
PinkPantheress has released new track 'Picture In My Mind'.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs have released new single 'Burning'. "If the world is on fire, I hope the most beloved stay protected and that we do all we can to protect what we cherish most in this life", says Karen O. "'Burning' is a song about that feeling, smoke signals for the soul. Begging to cool it down, just doing it the best we know how". The band's new album, 'Cool It Down', is out on 30 Sep.
Loyle Carner has released new single 'Georgetown', featuring John Agard and produced by Madlib. Says Carner: "John Agard's poem 'Half-caste' had a heavy impact on me. To see someone who was older, that looked like me, sharing a reflection of a similar lived experience made me feel comfortable/proud to not fit in. It kinda gave me the permission to finally write explicitly about being mixed".
Broken Bells have released another single, 'Saturday', from their upcoming new album 'Into The Blue', which is out on 7 Oct.
Little Dragon have announced that they will release new EP 'Opening The Door' on 16 Sep. Here's new single 'Frisco', which they say is about "renewal, letting out your full potential and moving with the wave of change and life".
Gold Panda has released a Daniel Avery remix of recent single 'I've Felt Better (Than I Do Now)'. "It's such an honour to have a remix by Dan", says Gold Panda. "I've been lucky enough to work with him on a few tracks but its great to finally get an official Daniel Avery remix - and it's a banger! - from a good friend and all round lovely person".
Santigold has released new single 'Shake'. Her new album, 'Spirituals', is out on 9 Sep. "'Shake' is one of those songs that was just floating around me for the taking", she says. "What I mean is that there are some songs that basically write themselves, and all you have to do as the artist is be open enough to reach out and pull it in and say thank you".
Alvvays have released new single 'Easy On Your Own?', from their upcoming third album 'Blue Rev', which is out on 7 Oct.
Eighteen years into their career - and with just over a week to go before the release of their new album 'Gnosis' - Russian Circles have finally got around to making their first music video. It's for the LP's title track and you can watch it here.
GIGS & TOURS
Rival Schools will play a reunion show at London's Electric Ballroom on 8 Jul 2023. The band are set to reissue their 2001 'United By Fate' album on 28 Oct. Announcing that earlier this week, they also released an acoustic version of album track 'Holding Sand'.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Dinosaur Jr's J Mascis launches jigsaw subscription service
Back in the mostly now forgotten days of the COVID-19 pandemic, of course, album cover jigsaws became big business. Artists including Radiohead, Nirvana, Jarvis Cocker and These New Puritans all began selling their own puzzles for fans stuck at home and with plenty of time on their hands.
While this flurry of album cover jigsaws might have seemed like something of a passing fad, which died out with the end of lockdown, Mascis is banking on that not being the case. He has launched Puzzle Heads, which offers two subscription tiers both offering to regularly ship an album cover jigsaw to your door.
Curated by Mascis and designer Aaron Draplin, the first puzzle to ship later this year will be one featuring the cover of David Bowie's 'Ziggy Stardust'. Others that will follow include Joy Division's 'Unknown Pleasures' (notable for largely being just black), Sharon Van Etten and Angel Olsen's 'Like I Used To' (a lot of solid red), 'Star Wars' by Wilco (vast areas of what I would call very dark grey), and Bad Brains' 'Bad Brains' (sporadic yellow portions).
So, if you're really into jigsaws where many of the pieces are indistinguishable from one another, this looks to be the subscription service for you. At least it might take your mind off the cold winter nights - and the fact that you spent money you could have used to pay off your spiralling heating bills on jigsaws.
"Much like the vinyl clubs we all love, Puzzle Heads will leave a puzzle with amazing iconography curated by the team on your doorstep every other month", says the blurb on the company's website. Although it is my understanding that vinyl clubs usually send actual albums. Perhaps I am mistaken.
Co-founder Brian Schwartz says: "All of us at Puzzle Heads love puzzles and we love music. We happen to have day jobs in music and so we have the network to license some of the most iconic cover imagery and rock n roll art out there. With J and Aaron helping to curate, we'll make Puzzle Heads members come back for more. We hope all the Puzzle Heads out there enjoy many hours of piecing our puzzles. Get it together!"
That last bit is the company's slogan, I believe. Not some sort of tough love.
At launch, the lower subscription tier - getting you three puzzles a year - will set you back $81 (currently reduced from the full price of $90) per year. For six puzzles, you'll need to fork out $150 (or $180 if you hang around too long). The first 500 subscribers will also get a free puzzle matt. So, don't delay, subscribe today!