|FRIDAY 17 FEBRUARY 2023||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: New Zealand's Commerce Commission this week told the High Court in Auckland that 90% of the tickets sold via often controversial secondary ticketing platform Viagogo are put on sale by professional touts. It also revealed that the consumer rights regulator has received 1300 complaints or communications about the ticket resale site... [READ MORE]|
90% of tickets on Viagogo sold by commercial touts, says New Zealand Commerce Commission
The Commission first filed legal proceedings against Viagogo all the way back in 2018, accusing it of breaching New Zealand's consumer protection laws. The various issues raised by the regulator echoed complaints made about the secondary ticketing platform by artists, politicians and consumer rights groups in multiple other countries.
That includes misleading communications - both on the Viagogo site and in its Google ads - about the status of ticket sellers on the platform, the total price of tickets once all fees have been added, the availability of tickets, and the guarantee that Viagogo offers its customers.
On that latter point, Viagogo pledges to refund a customer's money if the touted tickets they buy don't get them into a show.
But touts and touting sites generally have been widely criticised for not clearly communicating the risk of touted tickets being cancelled by a promoter, while Viagogo specifically has faced criticism for making it tricky to even get the refund when that happens.
As part of its legal action, the Commission initially sought an injunction forcing Viagogo to stop some of those practices immediately, while the wider litigation went through the motions.
However, in the end that didn't happen because Viagogo voluntarily agreed to make some changes to its site in the country. But the wider legal case continues and has now finally reached court.
The Commission is, of course, aware that a common Viagogo defence is that it's mainly a platform to allow music fans who, for some reason, can't attend a show to sell on their non-refundable tickets.
With that in mind, the Commission's opening statement in court stressed that Viagogo is, in fact, mainly a marketplace for commercial level touts - or 'scalpers' if you prefer.
According to Stuff, the Commission's legal rep, Andy Luck, told the court in Auckland: "Viagogo admits that over 90% of tickets that are sold in New Zealand are from scalpers; people selling tickets in commercial quantities. It's a website for ticket scalpers to sell to the general public".
Luck then summarised various issues with Viagogo and the way it promotes and advertises tickets. The touts using the platform often used bots to hoover up tickets from primary sites, he said. And some touts advertise for sale tickets they don't even have yet, he added, something Viagogo should be doing more to stop.
Viagogo and the touts that use it also know there's a real risk customers with touted tickets won't get into a show. "That's known in Viagogo as 'Refused At Gate' or RAG", Luck said, adding: "That risk is not fairly represented to buyers".
In response, Viagogo's legal rep Aaron Lloyd denied that the platform misleads customers about the unofficial status of its sellers and bigged up the company's money back guarantee. And while some of the criticisms made against specific touts may be justified, he said, anger about those issues shouldn't be directed at Viagogo.
The court case is due to conclude early next month.
Chicago judge declines to overturn R Kelly's sex abuse conviction
The trial in Chicago followed the earlier court case in New York, both focused on the sexual abuse allegations that had been made against Kelly for decades, and which were fully pushed into the spotlight by the 2019 'Surviving R Kelly' documentary.
In the New York case, Kelly was found guilty of setting up and running a criminal enterprise to access and abuse women and teenagers. While in the Chicago court, he was convicted of three charges related to enticing minors to engage in criminal sexual activity and three more linked to him filming that sexual abuse of children.
Kelly's lawyers subsequently filed papers seeking to have the jury's verdict overturned or at least for a retrial to be instigated.
Declining both requests yesterday, judge Harry Leinenweber noted that he can only overturn the jury's decision and acquit a defendant if the evidence presented by the government's prosecutors "is insufficient to sustain the conviction".
He added that "when analysing a motion for a judgment of acquittal, a court views the evidence in the light most favourable to the government". Citing some legal precedent, he then noted that "a court may only overturn a conviction if 'the record contains no evidence from which a rational jury could have returned a verdict of guilty'".
Kelly's lawyers had argued that prosecutors failed to present evidence to support various allegations made against their client during the court case. However, Leinenweber does not agree. "Looking at the evidence in the light most favourable to the government, the court finds that there was enough evidence to sustain a guilty verdict on all six counts Kelly was convicted of", he stated.
Regarding the request for a retrial, that is only possible, Leinenweber wrote, citing more legal precedent, where a judge believes there is "a serious danger that a miscarriage of justice has occurred - that is, that an innocent person has been convicted".
The Kelly side specifically argued that a retrial was justified because of false information provided by the prosecution in the trial. In doing so, they cited the influential 1959 Supreme Court case Napue v Illinois - which said false information can impact on a ruling in a criminal case even if said false information only affects the credibility of a witness in the eyes of the jury.
Team Kelly said the prosecution had given false information about what fees an expert witness was charging and also over whether or not one key witness - a victim of Kelly's - was considering seeking restitution in relation to the case. However, Leinenweber concluded that those claims had "not met the requirements of Napue", before adding "nor is this a case that requires a new trial in the interest of justice".
So, the jury decision in the Chicago case stands. Prosecutors yesterday also confirmed they are pushing for a 25 year sentence in relation to the Chicago conviction, which should begin after the 30 year jail term the musician is currently serving from the New York case.
Kelly's lawyer recently urged the judge to consider a sentence not longer than fourteen years, and to rule that that can be served concurrent to the New York sentence. As it is, the attorney stated, Kelly will be in jail until well into his 80s.
Deezer partners with Sonos on its Sonos Radio service
With the new partnership, Deezer will "deliver key services for Sonos Radio and Sonos Radio HD", it said in a statement yesterday, "including a catalogue of 90 million tracks, metadata, licensing, reporting and royalty management, business intelligence and data, as well as strategic collaboration for growth and monetisation of the service".
Says Deezer boss Jeronimo Folgueira: "This is the start of a very exciting journey for Deezer and Sonos. Through this partnership Deezer can reach new listeners in major markets around the world, including the US".
"Sonos has revolutionised the way we enjoy music and audio in our homes", he goes on, "with exceptional multi-room speakers, fantastic sound quality and thoughtfully curated Sonos Radio services. We can't wait to play a key role in expanding this great customer offering".
Adds Sonos chief Patrick Spence: "Delivering a best in class branded content experience for our customers is an essential part of our long-term growth strategy and Deezer continues to be an excellent partner for supporting our ambitious goals to help the world listen better".
"As a pioneer in music streaming", he continues, "Deezer has a proven track record in developing and growing a music service globally and I look forward to working together to improve the overall listening experience for our customers".
Motown downsizes as it's reintegrated into the Capitol Music Group
Motown sat within the Capitol Music Group previously, but then became a standalone frontline label in 2021 after a flurry of successes under its CEO Ethiopia Habtemariam. However, following Habtemariam's decision late last year to stand down from that role, Motown is moving back under the CMG banner, meaning it will utilise more of that division's services and teams than in the last couple of years.
As a result, a spokesperson for the Motown label told Billboard, "certain positions that had been created when we became a standalone label have since become duplicative. These employees are leaving the company and our People, Inclusion And Culture department is helping them find new opportunities - either within or outside of UMG".
Susan Wojcicki stands down as YouTube boss
In a blog post aimed at creators who post content to the YouTube platform, Wojcicki wrote yesterday: "It has been the honour of my career to have a front row seat to the incredible YouTube community you have built. Your stories of perseverance, creativity and inspiration were a daily source of motivation and inspired me to be an advocate and steward for this community you all created".
Wojcicki's time running YouTube was eventful but successful, the platform maintaining its massive userbase and cultural prominence despite some big new competitors and - perhaps more importantly - significantly growing its advertising revenues while also evolving some premium products. Although those booming ad sales have started to wobble of late as the economy at large has become more challenging.
From a music industry perspective, Wojcicki's stint as CEO saw YouTube become enemy number one of the record companies and music publishers for a time, because of the platform's use of the copyright safe harbour to force music rights owners into less favourable licensing deals.
That resulted in the big political campaign to reform the safe harbour in Europe, which basically became a YouTube v the music industry battle. Although, since then, the Google division's relationship with the music community has improved considerably.
There were other even bigger political challenges regarding how YouTube polices offensive, unlawful, abusive and misleading content that is uploaded to its platform, with law-makers still evolving and considering new rules to govern the big digital platforms when it comes to harmful content of that kind.
And it's not just the politicians that Wojcicki has had to contend with in that domain, with the platform's advertisers also making demands regarding the filtering and blocking of harmful content, threatening to pull their ads if it didn't happen.
Wojcicki has also had to keep happy the community of creators who upload and monetise videos on the YouTube platform, with the aforementioned big new competitors luring away some of those creators, while also impacting on the kinds of content that people consume and therefore the kind of content that creators want to make.
"It was a constant highlight of my job to sit down with you, hear how you were using the platform and listen to feedback", Wojcicki's post to the creators went on. "Sometimes what you said was tough and candid, but it was important for me and the wider YouTube team to listen and do better. Today, the YouTube community is incredibly strong. You're building businesses and following your dreams".
On more practical matters, she went on, "you will continue to have someone committed to building and advocating for creators at the helm of YouTube. YouTube's longtime Chief Product Officer, Neal Mohan, will take over the leadership role. He is an excellent leader and understands this community and what you need today, tomorrow and in the future better than anyone".
"I plan to stay around for a period of time to help Neal with the transition, and will serve as an advisor to Google and Alphabet", she added. "I remain just as convinced today as when I started nine years ago, that YouTube's best days are ahead of it. From Shorts, to podcasting, streaming to subscriptions, I am excited to see what comes next. And with Neal and our incredible team of employees, you will all be in good hands".
TikTok is working super hard on tackling harmful content and data concerns, says TikTok
The statement - from TikTok's General Manager of Operations in Europe, Rich Waterworth - partly provides an update on how the company is complying with new European Union measures that seek to tackle things like abusive and misleading content online.
That includes the updated Code Of Practice On Disinformation signed by all the big digital platforms, and the new Digital Services Act, which regulates those platforms in a number of ways.
After some bragging about the successes of TikTok and some European TikTok creators - "over 150 million people across Europe come to our platform every month", he declares - Waterworth writes that his company has been investing big time in "our approach to keeping our European community and their data safe and secure, particularly in the context of new regulation".
"Last week, we submitted our first baseline report in accordance with the strengthened Code Of Practice On Disinformation, providing over 2500 data points on the implementation and enforcement of TikTok's policies across 30 European countries. We've also been expanding our team with additional expertise and making key resources from across the business available to ensure our future compliance with the Digital Services Act".
"Transparency is a key component of the DSA", he adds, "and we've supported the aims of the regulation from the outset as it mirrors the thinking that guides our quarterly Community Guidelines Enforcement Reports, where we provide insights into the nature of content and accounts removed from our platform".
"We'll continue to enhance external visibility of the work we do to protect our community, including by opening our physical European Transparency And Accountability Centre in Dublin next month, where expert audiences will be able to learn more about our work to keep people on TikTok safe".
As for user data, TikTok needs to comply with the same data regulations as everyone else, of course. But it also has to counter concerns expressed by politicians in multiple countries that the Chinese government has access to that data via Bytedance's China base. TikTok has repeatedly hit back at those claims, but has yet to really allay any of the concerns.
On data issues, Waterworth continues: "We also remain focused on building trust with our community by demonstrating to them that their data is secure. We're continuing to deliver against the data governance strategy we set out for Europe last year, which includes further reducing employee access to European user data; minimising data flows outside of Europe; and storing European user data locally".
"Regarding local data storage, in line with the growth of our community, we're looking to expand our European data storage capacity", he says. "We are at an advanced stage of finalising a plan for a second data centre in Ireland with a third party service provider, in addition to the site announced last year".
"We're also in talks to establish a third data centre in Europe to further complement our planned operations in Ireland. European TikTok user data will begin migrating this year, continuing into 2024".
"It's truly humbling to see how TikTok has become part of the culture and fabric of everyday life for people in Europe", he concludes. "We're committed to continuing to accelerate real-world opportunity for our community while striving to set a new standard in safety and security to maintain TikTok as a place that excites and entertains for years to come".
Talent management company YMU has appointed NBCUniversal's Linda Yaccarino to the role of Group Chair. "I knew instantly I had found that person when I met Linda", says CEO Mary Bekhait. "Her unparalleled influence, acumen and reputation are renowned. I am incredibly excited about the work that we will do together to keep driving YMU forward as the leading, global business partner for premium talent".
Sony Music UK has promoted Jamie Spinks to Head Of A&R at Columbia Records. "I'm incredibly proud to have been offered the opportunity to be Head Of A&R at such a prestigious label", he says. "It comes with huge responsibility to maintain its legacy as one of the biggest UK record labels, and to emulate the global success of its current established roster with new artists".
Janelle Monáe is back with new single 'Float', featuring Seun Kuti & Egypt 80. The track is "inspired by Muhammed Ali talking shit in Zaire, 1974, Jane's evolution, Mary Poppins' umbrella, Aladdin's magic carpet, Ja Morant's flotation to the rim while dunking on his ops, Sara Elise's ropes, excerpts from Paramahmsa Nithyananda's talks on levitation, Raul's toast on 1 Dec, and Bruce Lee's mighty philosophy on being 'shapeless, formless', and becoming one with your surroundings, to be like water".
Alison Goldfrapp has released a new collaboration with producer Paul Woodford, called 'Fever'. "I love the simmering and explosive energy Paul has brought to my track 'Fever' - I can't wait to hear it out on a sweaty dance floor", she says. She has also announced that she will play Here at Outernet in London on 18 May.
Riton is back with new single 'Sugar', featuring Soaky Siren.
The Blessed Madonna has released 'We Still Believe', a new collaboration with Jamie Principle. "I wrote and recorded a version of this song alone in my attic over a decade ago", she says. "I distorted my own vocals on the original, but imagined that the song would someday be performed by Jamie Principle, arguably the first real writer in house music and my hero. Eventually years later, Jamie and I met and became beloved friends. Jamie kindly agreed to re-record the song I wrote for him before I knew him and here we are, writing the next chapter together and doing it the way I imagined it all those years ago".
100 Gecs have released new single 'Hollywood Baby'. New album '10,000 Gecs' is out on 17 Mar.
Sleep Token have announced that they will release new album 'Take Me Back To Eden' on 19 May and have also released new single 'Vore'.
Benjamin Clementine has released short film 'Portraits Of Lovelustreman (Part 1)', directed by Curtis Essel and based on the musician's latest album 'And I Have Been'. It "explores survival, marriage, courage, silence, reflections, friendship, self control and love", say Clementine and Essel. "Filming in 35mm ensured that most of the takes were shot in one. This created special moments of improvisation, giving freedom to the crew, and brought out a visceral level of authenticity in all of the artists' performances. Allowing us to take in the questions along with the non-conventional responses to them". Clementine is set to play the Royal Albert Hall in London on 1 Dec.
Tei Shi has released new single '¿Quién Te Manda?', taken from new EP 'Bad Premonition', which is out on 17 Mar.
Squid Pisser - aka Deaf Club's Tommy Meehan and Starcrawler's Seth Carolina - have released new single 'Liquified Remains'. Their debut album 'My Tadpole Legion' is out on 14 Apr. "I remember eating so many fucking hot dogs while we were writing this album", says Meehan. "The song kinda feels to me like relish and chewed up hot dog chunks and grape jelly and tadpole eggs all being blasted and splattered against naked flesh. Pelting and grinding into the skin".
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
Lego unveils fan-designed BTS set
"Sing, song the night away as you build this 749 piece Lego set and uncover authentically recreated details that mirror scenes from the iconic music video", says an official blurb. "Customers can now combine at-home karaoke sessions with brick building and immerse themselves in a world of disco, donuts and dynamic dance moves".
"But the set wouldn't be complete without the biggest South Korean boy band in the world - who are now also available in Lego minifigure form for the first time", said blurb continues. "All seven minifigures of the band members - RM, Jin, Suga, J-hope, Jimin, V and Jung Kook - are ready to sing and dance in sync on the Lego stages".
Given that the group is currently on hiatus - meaning they won't be singing or dancing in sync on stage together in real life for the foreseeable future - at least BTS fans who are also Lego fans now have an alternative option to fill that gap.
Quite how many people fit in the middle of the BTS fan / Lego fan Venn diagram I'm not sure. But I know for certain if includes a guy called Jacob, who designed the Lego version of the 'Dynamite' video with his mate Josh, then getting the concept attention and support via the Lego Ideas platform through which people can suggest ideas for new Lego sets.
"Josh did the building and design work", says Jacob, "and - as a massive BTS fan - I told him what needed to be in it, what details were most important. It was a really fun process".
"Jacob had the BTS knowledge and he was able to direct my build in the proper way", adds Josh. "I watched the music video over and over and tried to capture its essence in the Lego bricks. It was insane when the project went viral online overnight".
Speaking for Lego itself, Federico Begher, Head of the Lego Product Group, says: "When we saw Josh and Jacob's colourful design we knew it would be a hit and this was proved by how quickly they reached 10,000 views in the Lego Ideas voting".
"The BTS fans have already got behind the design and so it was important that we were as faithful to the original creation as possible", he goes on. "The set highlights creativity, passion and most importantly, fun! We can't wait to see the fans building and displaying it".
Lovely stuff. Pre-order your BTS Lego set for a mere £89.99 here.