Business News CMU Digest

CMU Digest 25.06.23: Spotify, Dr Luke v Kesha, Doune The Rabbit Hole, BMI, Pollen

By | Published on Sunday 25 June 2023


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

It was reported that Spotify will launch a higher priced super premium product this summer with access to audiobooks a key feature. It’s been expected for sometime now that the market-leading premium streaming service would at some point launch a higher priced subscription tier, most likely featuring the higher quality audio that the company first promised in 2021. However, with Apple and Amazon having previously decided that higher quality audio should come as standard, any super premium product from Spotify will need to offer some other benefits. And, according to Bloomberg’s sources, those other benefits will include access to audiobooks. Which figures, we know Spotify has big ambitions in that market, but to date its a la carte audiobooks services is somewhat lacklustre. The sources say that what is being called ‘Supremium’ internally at Spotify should arrive in the US in October, but will launch in some other markets sooner. [READ MORE]

Dr Luke settled his defamation lawsuit against Kesha. The litigation was all that remained of a wider legal battle between the two former musical collaborators. The producer filed the defamation action after Kesha claimed that he had drugged and sexually assaulted her. He denied those allegations and argued that Kesha’s claims had negatively impacted on his career. A key question as the lawsuit went through the motions was whether Luke was a public figure. Because – if he was – under New York state law his burden of proof in court would be higher, in that he would have to prove that Kesha made the allegedly defamatory statements with actual malice. The judge overseeing the case decided Luke was not famous enough to be deemed a public figure, but the New York Court Of Appeals recently disagreed. Which meant Luke faced that higher burden of  proof as the dispute headed to trial next month. Both parties confirmed a settlement had now been reached this week, both issuing statements that were published on both Kesha and Dr Luke’s Instagram profiles. [READ MORE]

Scotland’s Doune The Rabbit Hole festival blamed a union organised boycott for the cancellation of its 2023 edition. The trade union BECTU raised concerns about unpaid bills stemming from the event’s 2022 outing, the company that promoted that edition having gone into liquidation late last year. The company promoting the 2023 edition – headed up by the father of the owner of the liquidated business – said that it planned to use profits from future festivals to pay off the debts run up last year. BECTU said that that company initially agreed to a number of measures designed to provide reassurances regarding the settling of old debts, but that those measures had then not been implemented. As a result it called on performers, crew members and ticket-buyers to boycott the festival, which was due to take place next month. Last week the festival’s organisers said in a statement that they were “beyond devastated to announce the cancellation of Doune The Rabbit Hole 2023 and the end of the festival for the foreseeable future as a result of the call for a boycott of the event by BECTU”. [READ MORE]

The US live sector appealed a rate court decision regarding what royalties promoters should pay collecting society BMI. Because of the way the American song rights society is regulated, disputes over royalty rates are fought out in the so called rate courts. Earlier this year that court increased the rate that promoters should pay BMI for the live performances of songs represented by the society. Live giants Live Nation and AEG, along with the North American Concert Promoters Association, have now filed notice to appeal that decision. Confirming that development, BMI boss Mike O’Neill said: “Given Live Nation, AEG and NACPA’s bizarre position throughout trial that concertgoers attend concerts for the experience of the staging, videos and light shows, as opposed to the actual songs and music being performed, their appeal was not a surprise to BMI”. [READ MORE]

A new documentary from BBC Three put the spotlight on the collapse last year of the Pollen ticketing and events business. Despite having bigged up $150 million in new investment earlier in the year, the Pollen parent company fell into administration last August. A subsequent administrator’s report revealed debts of over £78.6 million. Among other things, the BBC programme looked into allegations that – prior to its collapse – the Pollen company had misled suppliers about payments, sending proof-of-payment screen grabs from a banking portal even though those transactions had not gone through. It also looked into a technical error that occurred in May 2022 when money was taken without authorisation from people who had signed up to monthly payment plans connected to Pollen-run packages and events, resulting in $3.2 million in authorised transactions. A spokesperson for Pollen denied any wrong-doing. They confirmed that a technical error had led to authorised transactions in May 2022, but insisted all affected customers had received a refund or voucher, depending on their preference. [READ MORE]

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