Business News CMU Digest

CMU Digest 14.05.23: Ticket touts, Ed Sheeran, Warner Music, SoundCloud, Yout

By | Published on Sunday 14 May 2023

Ticket touts

The key stories from the last week in the music business…

Anti-touting campaigners hit out at the UK government’s latest statement on secondary ticketing. In August 2021, the Competition And Markets Authority recommended that ministers further expand the regulation of ticket resale in the UK, with proposed new laws around the bulk buying of tickets by touts and speculative selling, where touts advertise for sale tickets they have not yet secured. But the government said this week that there isn’t a compelling case for additional regulation at this time, adding that “it is right that consumers have the ability to sell on tickets they no longer want or are able to use”. Campaign group the FanFair Alliance said that the government is ignoring “common sense recommendations” that would “further protect consumers from being ripped off by unscrupulous ticket touts and parasitical ticket resale sites”. Meanwhile Sharon Hodgson MP added: “Rather than improving the capacity of enforcement agencies to clamp down on malpractice, the government has effectively given bad actors a free pass to continue acquiring tickets in bulk to popular events and to engage in speculative and fraudulent selling”. [READ MORE]

Ed Sheeran said that he felt obliged to fight back after being accused of ripping off Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get It On’. The musician was talking to Howard Stern after successfully defeating the lawsuit filed against him by the estate of ‘Let’s Get It On’ co-writer Ed Townsend, which claimed that Sheeran’s 2014 song ‘Thinking Out Loud’ infringed the copyright in the earlier song. The Sheeran side argued that ‘Let’s Get It On’ and ‘Thinking Out Loud’ sound similar because they use the same musical building blocks, short musical segments that are not protected by copyright in isolation. Sheeran could have avoided years of legal wrangling by quietly settling the estate’s lawsuit – he had, after all, settled an earlier song-theft claim in relation to this song ‘Photograph’. But this time Sheeran felt he had to defend himself in court against the copyright infringement allegations. Reflecting on the long-running legal battle, he told Stern: “This is my livelihood and the thing I’ve worked my entire life to do, and to have someone disbelieve it and to diminish it, I really felt like I had to take a stand”. [READ MORE]

Warner Music boss Robert Kyncl discussed the need to reform the streaming business model. In an earnings call with investors he expressed concerns that have been raised by a number of other senior record industry execs in recent months, most notably Universal Music chief Lucian Grainge. The Warner CEO told investors: “I am convinced and various numbers back up that music is significantly undervalued”. Part of the problem is that music streaming subscription prices have not kept up with inflation, Kyncl said. But, like Grainge, he is also concerned that background and functional audio – like rainfall, bird song and white noise – is treated the same as music when streaming income is being shared out across the industry. “It can’t be that [an] Ed Sheeran stream is worth exactly the same thing than a stream of rain falling on the roof”, Kyncl told his investors. With that in mind, like the other majors, Warner thinks it’s time to “re-evaluate” how streaming services are licensed and streaming monies shared out. Although, like Grainge, Kyncl didn’t go into any specifics about how that might work. [READ MORE]

SoundCloud unveiled a new direct-to-fan messaging tool. Called – simply – Fans, the new tool seeks to address a key issue in the streaming domain, which is that new artists use streaming services to build a fanbase, but then can’t really identify who those fans are or access them in any meaningful way via said streaming services. SoundCloud SVP Creator Tracy Chan wrote in a blog post that: “Streaming isn’t working for the vast majority of artists. Why? Because streaming services won’t tell you who your fans are. Instead, they run business models built on selling you access to your fans. And the streaming services aren’t alone – ticketing and merch platforms won’t tell you who your fans are either”. With Fans, Chan went on, artists will be able to identify their “most valuable fans” on the SoundCloud platform and then “message those fans easily and directly – say thanks, share previews of upcoming releases, sell tickets and merch, or just open up the opportunity to chat”. [READ MORE]

The Recording Industry Association Of America formally responded to an appeal filed by stream ripping service Yout. It’s part of an ongoing legal battle that centres on whether or not YouTube has technical protection measures in place to stop people from grabbing permanent downloads of temporary streams. US copyright law prohibits the circumvention of such measures. Yout argues that – because anyone can grab a download of a YouTube stream through a web-browser if they know what they are doing – there are no technical protection measures to circumvent on the Google owned video platform. However, grabbing a download in that way is complicated and the record labels insist those complications constitute a technical protection measure, which Yout is circumventing in violation of US law. And last year a US judge agreed with the record industry. Yout has since taken the matter to the Second Circuit Appeals Court. Formally responding to Yout’s appeal, the RIAA said: “Yout raises a scattershot of arguments for reversal – none of them succeeds”. [READ MORE]

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