TODAY'S TOP STORY: Administrators for collapsed events and ticketing business Pollen have revealed that the company owes more than £78.6 million, including £4.5 million to recruiters and management consultants and £150,000 to a private jet charter firm... [READ MORE]

TOP STORIES Ticketing and event company Pollen collapsed owing £78.6 million
DEALS Merlin announces licensing deal with Kuaishou
DIGITAL & D2F SERVICES Apple Music increases baseline subscription rate to 10.99
ARTIST NEWS Entertainment and fashion firms cut ties with Kanye West
Brian Johnson talks of "despair" after leaving 2016 AC/DC tour due to hearing issues

RELEASES Jack Garratt pivots into dance music via new Skint deal
ONE LINERS YoungBoy Never Broke Again, Afrojack, The Waeve, more
AND FINALLY... Lewis Capaldi discusses working with Ed Sheeran
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Ticketing and event company Pollen collapsed owing £78.6 million
Administrators for collapsed events and ticketing business Pollen have revealed that the company owes more than £78.6 million, including £4.5 million to recruiters and management consultants and £150,000 to a private jet charter firm.

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.

Despite the COVID lockdowns putting pressure on the entire events and ticketing business, earlier this year Pollen announced that it had raised $150 million in new investment, adding that the company had enjoyed "stellar growth despite the pandemic", and that the new monies would help it build on its existing "significant momentum".

But there were already signs that things were going wrong within the company, with ticket-buyers, suppliers and employees starting to air their grievances. There were more than 150 redundancies shortly after the new investment was announced, and those employees that remained started to talk about delays in getting their salaries.

Internally the official line was that there was a big deal in the pipeline that would address the company's growing financial issues. However, that deal did not come to fruition and in August the main Pollen company officially fell into administration.

In a report filed with Companies House, administrators write: "The group has been loss making since it commenced trading with reported losses before tax of £57.4 million, £42.7 million and £52.4 million in 2021, 2020 and 2019 respectively. The losses have been supported by equity raises and the support of its secured creditor [Global Growth Capital]".

"Trading was significantly impacted due to COVID-19", they then confirm, "where a number of events had to be rearranged and cancelled. This further impacted on cash flows due to the level of customer refunds that fell due. The cash position continued to worsen and in June 2022 a winding up petition was issued by a creditor, which was withdrawn in July 2022 to allow a potential solvent transaction to continue to be explored".

The administrators then confirm there were various efforts in early summer to find a buyer for the business, with offers sought both to buy the company as a going concern or via a so called pre-pack administration. However, in the end only one offer was made.

The report goes on: "On 9 Aug 2022, the directors had received an indicative offer for some of the assets of the company and its subsidiary company on an insolvent basis totalling $2.5 million". Given the size of the company's debts at that point, it was agreed by Pollen's management, secured creditor and lawyers that it wouldn't be inappropriate to accept that offer at that time.

As a result, the company was put into administration and new efforts were made to find a buyer for the company's assets. But only the original proposed buyer was interested, it reducing its offer to $500,000. Though that offer included the buyer acquiring one of Pollen's subsidiary companies, JusExperiences UK, which wasn't part of the deal.

Ultimately the buyer offered $250,000 for the assets of the Pollen parent company, which includes its technology platform, the Pollen brand and shares in Abode Records Limited. The administrators confirm they are now in the process of finalising that deal and "hope to complete the transaction imminently".

In addition to the pretty nominal profits of that deal, the Pollen company is due a VAT refund of £267,805 and had £280,443 in cash when it fell into administration.

However the status of the VAT refund isn't clear. Meanwhile, the money in the bank seemingly relates to "a research and development claim made to [UK tax authority] HMRC by the company", and various parties are now making a claim over that money, with the administrators currently consulting their lawyers about said claims.

Significant sums are owing to the Pollen parent company from other companies within the group, though the administrators say that "based on current information" they anticipate that there "will be insufficient funds to enable a distribution" to the firm's secured, preferential and unsecured creditors.

A total of £78.6 million is owing. That money is mainly owed to financial backers, employees and service providers, which makes the collapse of Pollen different to that of another ticketing company, Festicket, where most of the monies owed were due to promoters that had worked with the company.

Pollen's debts include the £4.5 million owed to the recruiters and management consultants it utilised, and smaller sums to other people and companies whose services the firm hired, including a hypnotherapist, a nutritionist, a consultant psychologist and a vocal coach - plus £150,000 to private jet charter firm Global Charter and £76,800 to De Vere Wokefield Estate Ltd, a luxury country house hotel near Reading.

Elsewhere, the administrators note that they "have a statutory obligation to file a report with the Insolvency Service regarding the conduct of all directors that held office in the three years prior to the administration. This report must be filed within three months of the date of appointment and the content of this report is confidential".

"Investigations into the company's affairs are currently ongoing", they add. "The joint administrators also have a duty to investigate antecedent transactions which include transactions to defraud creditors, preference payments and transactions at an undervalue. Given the commercially sensitive nature of these investigations, it is not appropriate to elaborate on any potential claims at this time. An update will be provided in the next progress report".

We await with interest any future updates. Meanwhile, in the US, a former employee recently filed a lawsuit over unpaid wages, seeking class action status for the litigation.


Merlin announces licensing deal with Kuaishou
Indie label repping Merlin has announced a licensing deal with Chinese TikTok competitor Kuaishou. Under the deal, music from Merlin member labels and distributors will become available across Kuaishou's apps.

The two companies say that, as a result of the new partnership, "Merlin will grow its global reach and presence in regions across Latin America, Southeastern Asia, and Middle East/North Africa", while Kuaishou will expand its "catalogue offering to its worldwide audience".

Kuaishou operates under the brand Kwai in Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa, and as SnackVideo in South and Southeast Asia.

Says Kuaishou's Head Of Overseas Compliance, Communications And Partnership, Calvin Liu: "The deal with Merlin will provide hundreds of millions of our users with an incredibly wide range of independent music, making their experience even better".

Meanwhile Merlin boss Jeremy Sirota adds: "Merlin's member repertoire is one of the most iconic and diverse in the world, and we are delighted to bring this vibrant and expansive catalogue to the services of Kuaishou".

"Independents are the leaders in the social music space", he goes on, "and we look forward to supporting our members in finding new ways to engage longtime listeners as well as find new fans across this platform".

Warner's music publishing division Warner Chappell also recently announced an alliance with Kuaishou, a year on from the Warner record company confirming it had a deal in place with the video-sharing app.


Apple Music increases baseline subscription rate to 10.99
Apple Music has increased its subscription prices so that in the US and the UK the baseline price is now 10.99, in dollars and pounds respectively, obviously. It will be a popular move within the music industry that has been pushing for an increase of streaming subscription rates for some time.

Confirming the price increase, an Apple spokesperson said: "The change to Apple Music is due to an increase in licensing costs, and in turn, artists and songwriters will earn more for the streaming of their music. We also continue to add innovative features that make Apple Music the world's best listening experience".

The baseline price for premium music streaming has been $9.99 in the US, £9.99 in the UK and 9.99 euros in many European markets ever since the launch of Spotify.

Which means, when inflation is taken into account, the prices have been declining each year, and that's before you factor in the discounting and bundling used by the streaming services to increase premium sign-up rates.

Because, for the music industry, streaming is ultimately a revenue share business, that decline in subscription prices in real terms impacts on how much money flows into the record labels, music distributors, music publishers and collecting societies, and on through to artists and songwriters.

Those in the music community that have been calling for price increases for a while now have often pointed out that video services like Netflix have raised their subscription prices several times over the years. Though in music streaming, where every service has more or less the same catalogue, there has been a fear at the services that if they increase their prices, users might switch to a rival platform where they can access the same music for a lower price.

Meanwhile, in the last few years, as the need to increase prices has become ever more pressing, there have been concerns that putting up subscription rates during the pandemic, and then in the midst of the subsequent cost of living crisis, might not be a good look.

That said, there have been some previous price increases in some countries, including at market leader Spotify, though more commonly around discounted and bundled subscription packages like the family plan, rather than the baseline price.

Many in the music community will be hoping that Apple making the bolder move to increase that baseline will now be replicated across the sector, including at Spotify.

It also seems likely that once most services have increased the baseline on a global basis for the first time, they might then more regularly review the price point in line with inflation adopting something more like the Netflix approach, especially if the initial price increase doesn't result in many cancelled subscriptions.

Although the music services all have more or less the same catalogue, there are some functional differences between the platforms that could encourage some consumer loyalty.

For example, Apple's biggest competitor Spotify doesn't currently offer the higher audio quality options and its long planned move into hifi is rumoured to be linked to a higher priced subscription rate. It was Apple that initially decided that higher audio quality should come as standard rather than at a premium.

Though it's possible that it's the playlists that would discourage most consumers from moving to a rival service to save a pound a month, both the service-curated playlists they subscribe to and the private playlists they have put together themselves. There are tools to help move the latter from one service to another, but it's enough of a hassle to put many consumers off.

Apple is also increasing the prices of its Apple TV+ subscription service and the Apple One bundle. The firm said that the price rise on the video service was justified because its catalogue of content is now significantly bigger than when it launched in 2019.


Approved: Elephant Kind
Already an established name in Indonesia - with four albums to their name - earlier this year Elephant Kind relocated to London, hoping that a change of scene would spark something new in them. Their first single since that move, 'Rockstar', suggests that the risk paid off.

"'Rockstar' is an aperture of my state of mind during a time of uncertainty", says frontman Bam Mastro. "I've never been more articulate in my writing than what I've done with 'Rockstar', I'm glad to be able to get everything I needed to say off my chest. This is our first track in a long time, one we never saw coming".

The new music - and evolved sound - is the result of Mastro working more collaboratively with bandmates Kevin Septanto and Bayu Adisapoetra than in the past.

"This is the first record where I let go of a lot of my ego, I suppose", he says. "I just kind of let everyone join with ideas this time. That was difficult at first as it's hard listening to other people, but Bayu and Kevin came in with new, exciting things, and it was refreshing just knowing that you're not as powerful as you think you are on your own".

Details of a new album and the band's debut UK live dates are set to be announced in the near future.

Listen to 'Rockstar' here.

Stay up to date with all of the artists featured in the CMU Approved column by subscribing to our Spotify playlist.

Entertainment and fashion firms cut ties with Kanye West
An increasing number of Kanye West's business partners in the music, fashion and wider entertainment industries are cutting their ties with the rapper following his recent spate of controversial statements.

West has been widely criticised for recent comments he has made in interviews and on social media, including remarks about the death of George Floyd and various anti-semitic statements. Campaigners and politicians have also expressed concern that those latter statements in particular have been embraced by and are therefore empowering extreme right wing groups.

Within the entertainment industry, talent agency CAA has seemingly cut its ties with West, while rival agencies UTA and WME have both also criticised the rapper.

And on the recordings side, Universal Music has reportedly sought to distance itself from West and his Good Music label, which it previously distributed via its Def Jam division. Meanwhile, media firm MRC has announced it is shelving a documentary it has already completed about the rapper.

In terms of West's business partnerships in the fashion domain, they were already falling apart even before the more recent controversies. It was confirmed in September that West's alliance with Gap was coming to an end, while Adidas recently said it was reviewing it's long-standing partnership with the rapper.

According to sources who have spoken to Bloomberg, the sportswear firm could confirm as soon as today that it is ending its business relationship with West's Yeezy brand.

It seems likely that the list of companies either cutting ties with or publicly criticising West will only continue to grow as the week progresses.


Brian Johnson talks of "despair" after leaving 2016 AC/DC tour due to hearing issues
AC/DC frontman Brian Johnson has spoken about the "despair" he felt when he was forced to leave the band's 2016 tour due to hearing issues. In his new memoir, 'The Lives Of Brian', he says that he was unable to watch Axl Rose stand in for him on the remaining tour dates and, at the time, he "wouldn't have minded" that much if he had died.

Johnson was forced to step down from the 2016 tour after doctors told him that he risked losing his hearing entirely if he continued to perform. When that was announced, he said in a statement that he was hoping that medical treatment would eventually allow him to return to playing live and that while "the outcome is uncertain … my attitude is optimistic". However, in his memoir he now says that his state of mind was somewhat different to what he was telling his fans.

"I called Tim, the tour manager, on my mobile right there in the room to tell him that I just couldn't continue", Johnson says of the moment he left the tour. "It was one of the most difficult conversations of my life - the pain of it made worse over the weeks that followed when the tour simply went on without me. It was a sheer cliff. I didn't tumble down, I was in free fall".

"Part of the pain of it was that I blamed myself", he continues. "For most of my career, I'd been in the loudest band in the world. I'd flown constantly. I'd flown even when I knew I wasn't well. For a while, people would ask me if I was depressed, but depression is treatable. My hearing loss wasn't. What I was feeling wasn't depression. It was something closer to despair".

Speaking about Axl Rose standing in for him, he writes: "I'm told that he did a great job, but I just couldn't watch - especially when you've been doing it for 35 years. It's like finding a stranger in your house, sitting in your favourite chair".

"But I bear no grudges", he adds. "It was a tough situation. [AC/DC guitarist] Angus [Young] and the lads did what they felt they had to do. That said, after the band released a statement confirming that I was leaving the tour and wishing me all the best for the future, I couldn't relax or concentrate on anything. It was just always there".

Unable to get on stage, Johnson turned to his other love of motorsport. "I found myself winning more than usual", he says. "People would come up to me afterwards and say, 'Brian, you're fearless!' But I wasn't fearless. I just didn't fucking care any more".

"I'd always thought that the best way to go out would be at 180mph, flat-out around a corner", he goes on. "You'd hit the wall and boom, it would be over, just like that. Don't get me wrong, I didn't want to die … I just wouldn't have minded all that much".

Eventually Johnson met a technician who created in-ear monitors for him that were designed to work with his specific hearing issues, and those allowed him to return to live performances.

"Whatever magic he used, it worked. I could hear again - even in my deaf ear, meaning I was able to enjoy stereo [again]", he writes. "Suddenly, I felt something that I hadn't felt in what seemed like an eternity: Hope".

'The Lives Of Brain' is set to be published this Friday.


Jack Garratt pivots into dance music via new Skint deal
Jack Garratt is back with his first new music since 2020 album 'Love, Death & Dancing'. Having tapped into some electronic influences on that earlier record, he's now leaning fully into dance music on new single 'Just How I Like It', aided by a new record deal with Skint.

"'Just How I Like It' is a song about release and reclamation", says Garratt. "I wrote it in the summer of 2021, when I wasn't sure what to do with all the music I'd written over lockdown, as it was all pretty depressing. So rather than work on any of it, I started making dance music to cheer myself up. This is the first of those dance tracks. It is an instructional song on how to drink tequila. I personally like it with a squeeze of lime. And then I like to dance. So I wrote a song about that".

"You can't avoid feelings, you can't avoid negative things happening to you, they will happen", he goes on. "And it's not as easy as just going, you know, c'est la vie, life goes on. No, it fucking sucks. Things hurt. Why not take that and put it into a funky song that makes you want to dance. Let's dance while the world is ending!"

Indeed. Which brings us onto the news of Garratt's new tour dates. He'll play a one-off show at Outernet in London on 22 Nov, followed by a UK tour in March. Here are those dates:

24 Mar: Manchester, Albert Hall
25 Mar: Birmingham, Institute
26 Mar: Leeds, Stylus
28 Mar: Bristol, SWX
29 Mar: Brighton, Chalk
30 Mar: London, Kentish Town Forum

Listen to 'Just How I Like It' here.



YoungBoy Never Broke Again has signed a new record deal with Universal Music's Motown, according to Billboard. He moves over from Warner Music's Atlantic label. The deal is not unexpected as the rapper has been working with Motown on his own Never Broke Again label since last year.

Afrojack has extended his publishing deal with BMG. "After working together for fourteen years already, I'm still excited to be continuing the partnership with BMG", says the producer. "We are building towards the future together and with the new studios, the future is looking very bright".

Sony Music Publishing has signed Baby Queen to a worldwide publishing agreement. "I'm so excited to be working with Sony and with a team that truly understands who I am as a person and as an artist", she says. "I know we're going to do amazing things together!"

Concord Music Publishing has signed Omar Apollo to a worldwide publishing deal covering his full existing catalogue and future works. "Omar has already proven himself to be one of the most exciting artists, pushing music forward", says Jeremy Yohai, the publisher's SVP A&R.

Kobalt has agreed a new partnership with former Syco Records President Tyler Brown's new publishing company Funfair Publishing, and together they have signed James Essien to a worldwide publishing agreement. "We are delighted to partner with Tyler for Funfair Publishing and super excited to work with him and his writers to establish a boutique publishing destination", says Kobalt's UK Head Of Creative Alison Donald. "He brings a wealth of expertise, knowledge, and an entrepreneurial spirit, and I have no doubt he will become a formidable publisher".

Warner Music Chappell France has signed a worldwide co-publishing deal with producers Some 1ne and Machynist. "We've already been taking on more international projects and feel that Warner Chappell's global presence will help us expand that side of what we do", say the duo. "We've got some very interesting projects in the pipeline, so standby for more news from us soon".

According to a Billboard report, music rights investment outfit HarbourView earlier this year acquired SoundHouse - which in turn had acquired recording royalty rights from numerous artists in recent years. The deal was reportedly worth about $325 million.



UK song rights collecting society PRS has announced that composer Julian Nott will become Chair of its Members Council from 1 Jan next year, taking over from Nigel Elderton of music publishing firm Peermusic. Alexander Kassner from music publisher Kassner Music will become Vice Chair, while Michelle Escoffery has been reappointed as President.

Ahmed Nureni has been named as the new General Manager of Warner Music Middle East. He will also remain GM of distributor Qanawat Music, which was acquired by Warner last year. "The dual role will allow me to harness synergies from both businesses and be thoughtful and strategic in the way we grow Warner Music Middle East's artist roster", he says. "There's so much creative potential in our region and we're only just beginning to tap into it".



The Waeve - aka Graham Coxon and Rose Elinor Dougall - have released new single 'Drowning'. Their debut album will be out on 3 Feb and they will be touring in March.

Gaye Su Akyol has released new single 'Sen Benim Mağaramsın'. Her new album, 'Anadolu Ejderi', is out on 25 Nov.



Sigala will tour the UK and Ireland in March next year, including a show at Electric Brixton in London on 17 Mar. Tickets go on general sale on 28 Oct. A new album, titled 'Every Cloud', is also on the way.

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


Lewis Capaldi discusses working with Ed Sheeran
Having Ed Sheeran co-write a song with you is obviously a great honour. Huge. What a treat that would be. Imagine doing that and then discussing with Sheeran about him being credited under a pseudonym. And then changing some of his lyrics because you don't like them. Who would do that? Lewis Capaldi, that's who.

"Every British artist who has a number one record seems to have Ed on it", Capaldi tells the BBC. "That's a testament to how good he is, but I was wary of it. My ego was going, 'I don't want people thinking Ed wrote my song'".

"I actually mentioned that to him and he offered to take up a pseudonym", he adds. "But at the end of the day, he did help write it, so there should be no question".

The song they wrote together was recorded for Capaldi's new album 'Broken By Desire To Be Heavenly Sent', which is due out in May next year. Capaldi says that Sheeran successfully "brought out the softy in me", but that he nevertheless felt that one line in the song - "She gives me more than everything, I'll give her my last name" - had to be changed.

"I was like, 'Ed, this is 2022. No one has to take anyone's second name. I'm not singing that!'", he says. "I don't even think that Ed's own wife has got his last name".

The line in the finished song is "I bring her coffee in the mornings, she brings me inner peace". I guess we'll see if the original Sheeran-penned line was the number one clincher.


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.
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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.
[email protected] (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.
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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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