|THURSDAY 2 FEBRUARY 2023||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: Political pressure on the US ticketing market continues to build with President Joe Biden now calling for new laws to regulate "excessive online concert, sporting event and other entertainment ticket fees"... [READ MORE]|
Joe Biden calls for regulation of 'junk fees' in ticketing
In a statement yesterday, the Biden administration said: "Many online ticket sellers impose massive service fees at check-out that are not disclosed when consumers are choosing their tickets".
"In a review of 31 different sporting events across five ticket sellers' websites", it went on, "service charges averaged more than 20% of the ticket's face value, and total fees - like processing fees, delivery fees, and facility fees - reached up to more than half the cost of the ticket itself. A family of four attending a show could end up paying far more than $100 in fees above and beyond the cost of the tickets".
The ticketing sector - and Live Nation's Ticketmaster in particular - was in the spotlight in US Congress last week at a hearing instigated by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
That was prompted by all the issues that occurred when tickets for Taylor Swift's upcoming tour went on pre-sale via Ticketmaster's Verified Fans system last year. However, it also provided a forum for those who have long been critical of the ticketing sector in general or, more specifically, the market dominance of Live Nation and Ticketmaster since they became one company in 2010.
Various issues with the ticketing business - and the live entertainment industry more generally - were raised during last week's hearing. However, the issue that generally gets the most attention in political circles - because it's the thing that most annoys consumers and therefore voters - is the fees charged by ticketing platforms on top of the face value of any one ticket.
People obviously get annoyed by the size of those fees in relation to the cost of the ticket. But another issue is the common practice - except in countries where industry regulators or consumer protection laws don't allow it - of ticketing platforms only declaring all the add-on fees at the end of the ticket buying process, not upfront where a ticket is initially listed. That initial listing will usually only state the face value of the ticket.
There has long been a debate about why the add-on fees on a ticket purchase aren't just bundled into the face value of the ticket. The argument against that practice normally goes something like this: "The supermarket doesn't add its cut onto the price of a loaf of bread at the checkout, so why does a ticketing firm only add its cut at that final stage".
There are two reasons for declaring and charging the ticketing firm's fees separately. First, where tickets for a show are available via multiple primary ticketing platforms, different platforms can charge different fees and the customer can choose which platform to go with.
Maybe one platform charges a slightly higher fee, but the customer support and consumer experience is better. And with each platform setting its own fees, they are encouraged to compete with each other and provide the best value.
That said, that reason doesn't really stand if the vast majority of tickets for any one show - maybe even 100% - are being sold by a single primary ticketing platform, meaning the consumer has no choice, and there is no competition between platforms on fees.
"Often, if Americans want to attend a particular concert or sporting event, they only have one online option for making the initial ticket purchase", the Biden government's statement continued yesterday.
"That means that even if consumers knew they might have to pay a large fee on top of the ticket cost, they would have no way to avoid it if they wanted to attend a particular show. One company has exclusive partnerships with a reported 80 of the top 100 arenas in the United States, allowing it to charge fees to attend events at those leading venues without fear of competition".
The other reason for the ticketing fees being managed separately is to do with the way the live sector does its own deals.
The box office, so all the money generated by the face value of the ticket, is shared with the performers, plus a small cut goes to the music industry collecting societies to license the songs that are being performed.
In many cases a majority of the box office ends up with the performers. The ticketing company then covers its costs via the add-on fees, and the venue and promoter may also be supplementing their incomes by taking a cut of that extra cash.
But, critics would say, why are consumers having to deal with a shoddy and annoying ticket buying experience because of deal conventions within the live sector?
Plus, they might add, a shoddy consumer experience on the primary ticketing sites makes it harder to hold the secondary ticketing platforms to account for the tactics they sometimes employ to confuse and trick the customer.
Biden's statement yesterday noted that where it is the market dominance of certain players that are causing the problem - by which it presumably means Live Nation and Ticketmaster - then competition regulators, principally the US Department Of Justice, should intervene.
However, "the President urges Congress to act now to reduce these fees through legislation. Specifically, the President is calling on Congress to prohibit excessive fees [and] require the fees to be disclosed in the ticket price".
This is all part of wider proposals from Biden for a Junk Fee Prevention Act. These proposals, the President's office says, will "provide millions of Americans with fast relief from these frustrating and costly fees".
"This will not only save Americans billions a year, but make our markets more competitive - creating a more even playing field so that businesses that price in a fair and transparent manner no longer lose sales to companies that disguise their actual prices with hidden fees".
"In the coming weeks and months", the statement added, "the Biden-Harris Administration looks forward to working with Congress to crack down not only on these fees, but also other junk fees that take cash out of Americans' pockets and hide the true cost of products".
The proposals from Biden were welcomed by Bill Pascrell, a long-time critic of the US ticketing market who has proposed his own legal reforms via a thing called the BOSS Act. He said yesterday: "Today President Biden announces one of the most consumer-friendly platforms ever uttered by an American leader".
"For decades", he added, "American fans have cried out for help, cried out for regulation of a marketplace that has become more larcenous than a Wild West saloon. This is something all Americans - Democrats, Republicans and independents - agree on: fees are strangling Americans and at long last they must be stopped".
"President Biden supporting our cause the week after industry reforms were also demanded by a bipartisan Senate panel proves that the time for action is now", he concluded. "We can institute many of these reforms by enacting my BOSS ACT, longstanding legislation I've put forward to reform the ticketing marketplace".
US government publishes its latest Notorious Markets list of piracy sites
The list includes online platforms that mainly exist to facilitate copyright infringement, as well as otherwise legitimate platforms - including social networks, messaging platforms and online marketplaces - which are nevertheless used to share copyright protected works without licence or to sell counterfeit goods.
Plenty of the usual suspects appear again, including stream-ripping sites like FLVTO and MP3juices. Plus the good old Pirate Bay still gets itself a listing.
"As one of the first bittorrent indexing websites and one of the most vocal in openly promoting piracy, The Pirate Bay reportedly remains the most frequently visited bittorrent index site in the world", the report notes. "The Pirate Bay is available in 35 languages and serves a global market, and it has historically had multiple alternative domains hosted globally".
The site continues to operate despite web-blocking orders being secured against it by copyright owners in many countries. The USTR report notes that "authorities in Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain and the UK have issued orders blocking access to this site".
This year's edition of the report also has a section discussing "the impact of online piracy on US workers". It states: "Online piracy has real consequences and harms the economic security of workers in the entertainment, media and other creative industries. Pirating of digital media can result in lowered revenues and wages across the industry, impairing workers' benefits and job security".
A key aim of the report is to inform governments and regulators around the world about the websites and marketplaces which the US reckons are damaging its IP interests, and which should therefore be subject to regulation or action by relevant agencies in other countries.
The Recording Industry Association Of America was among those welcoming the latest edition of the report earlier this week.
Its CEO Mitch Glazier says: "This year's Notorious Markets Report shines a much-needed spotlight on the devastating impact of copyright theft on American creators. The core message of today's report is clear: when creative content is stolen, it not only harms the economy and businesses, it hurts real people. Copyright enforcement is necessary to protect livelihoods".
UK Music welcomes government decision to abandon new data mining copyright exception
That exception was proposed after the UK's Intellectual Property Office undertook a consultation on how British copyright law should deal with new AI technologies, and especially those AI tools that create and produce content, usually by processing and scrutinising data relating to existing content.
The proposed new exception was widely criticised by the copyright industries including the music industry. They argued that AI tools mining data related to existing copyright protected works should have to secure licences from the owners of those works.
When it was first proposed, cross-sector trade group UK Music called the proposed exception "dangerous and damaging", adding that it would allow AI companies to "launder" music in order to generate new content.
Freeman confirmed that the government is not now planning to introduce the new exception into UK copyright law during a debate in Parliament yesterday.
He said that when he returned for a second stint as IP minister in October he and Julia Lopez - the minister overseeing media, data and digital infrastructure - wrote to all their relevant colleagues in government to state that the copyright exception proposals "were not correct".
They also added in their communication to other ministers that the proposals had received a significant push back "which should have been picked up in the pre-consultation before the proposals were announced", and that therefore "we are looking to stop them".
He added that he and Lopez now intend to have "deeper conversations" with those in Parliament with an interest in this area - as well as creators, platforms, publishers, broadcasters and digital intermediaries - in order to "ensure that we do not rush precipitately into a knee-jerk move that is wrong".
Welcoming Freeman's statement, UK Music CEO Jamie Njoku-Goodwin says: "UK Music warmly welcomes the minister's decision to scrap plans for a catastrophic blanket copyright exception. The whole music industry has been united in its opposition to these proposals, which would have paved the way for music laundering and opened up our brilliant creators and rightsholders to gross exploitation".
"We are delighted to see the back of a policy that risked irreparable damage to the global success story that is the UK music industry", he adds. "We now look forward to working with the government to ensure any future plans are evidence-based and allow artificial intelligence and our world-leading creative industries to grow in tandem".
Debates continue around the world about what copyright law does and should say about creative AI, both in terms of whether works created by AI technologies should enjoy copyright protection, and what licences are required - or not - when an AI tool mines data linked to existing copyright protected works.
A lawsuit recently filed in the UK courts by Getty Images could prove to be an interesting test case regarding what UK law currently says in this domain.
It is suing Stability AI - creators of the popular prompt-based text-to-image generative AI tool Stable Diffusion - which, it claims, "unlawfully copied and processed millions of images protected by copyright to benefit Stability AI's commercial interests and to the detriment of the content creators".
TikTok Sounds Library restricted in Australia to test music usage by creators
The experiment comes as the music industry seeks to boost the value of its licensing deals with TikTok, in part by shifting those deals from the current lump sum arrangements to a revenue share model more akin to YouTube.
Although TikTok is a revenue generator for the music industry, not to mention a key marketing platform, most people in the music community reckon that the video-sharing app is not currently paying enough for the music which, they believe, is central to the video-sharing app's overall experience.
Needless to say, TikTok is pushing back on the music industry's demands for more cash. Because it makes audio clips available within its app, TikTok can't rely on the copyright safe harbour as a negotiating tactic, like user-generated content platforms did in the past.
However, everyone is aware of the marketing power of TikTok, which can drive streams of both new and catalogue tracks over on the subscription streaming services where the record industry currently makes the most money.
This means that the latest licensing deal negotiations between TikTok and the music companies are built upon the key question: "Who needs who more?"
With that in mind, according to Bloomberg, those music companies fear that the current experiment in Australia will be used by TikTok to argue that music isn't so crucial to its operations as the record labels and music publishers claim.
Reports Bloomberg: "TikTok and the labels disagree over the value of music in the app's overall popularity. Music rightsholders argue that their songs are core to TikTok's appeal, while TikTok sees music as just one part of a broader entertainment experience".
"If usage of the app remains steady with less music", it adds, "TikTok could argue it doesn't need to pay music rightsholders as much. If usage falls, it will help music companies make their claims".
Commenting on the experiment in Australia, a TikTok spokesperson says: "Some of our community in Australia will not be able to access our full TikTok Sounds Library at the moment. This will only affect certain music and is scheduled work while we analyse how sounds are accessed and added to videos, as well as looking to improve and enhance the wider Sounds Library.
"We appreciate it's disappointing if a certain track is unavailable or if a sound is muted on a previous video", they add. "This change will not be in place for long and not all music is affected. We look forward to restoring our full catalogue soon".
Jake Shears announces new solo album, with Kylie Minogue, Jane Fonda and Iggy Pop as guests
"'Last Man Dancing' is my ultimate house party", says Shears. "Presented in two distinct halves, it chronicles a night's journey from sing-along dance anthems into the deeper, darker corners of my living room".
"Electro-pop, tech-house, poppers-fueled disco, it's MY afters and YOU just got the address" he adds. "We can be as loud and late as we want… and while not everyone might make it to the end, it's the last ones dancing who are rewarded with the most magical moments of the evening".
Other guests on the album are Le Chev, Amber Martin and Big Freedia. The first single from the album, 'Too Much Music', sees Shears without any collaborators at all though, so you'll have to wait and see what their contributions sound like.
The album is out on 2 Jun, and Shears will also be touring the UK around the release date. Tickets go on general sale on 10 Feb. Here are the dates:
30 May: Glasgow, SWG3 Warehouse
Ozzy Osbourne announces retirement from touring
The Black Sabbath frontman originally announced his 'No More Tours 2' farewell tour in 2018, but following his injury in 2019 was forced to postpone dates in the UK and Europe several times. A diagnosis of Parkinson's disease in 2020 further delayed his return.
Yesterday he told fans in a statement on social media that the shows would now not go ahead at all. "This is probably one of the hardest things I've ever had to share with my loyal fans", he wrote. "As you may all know, four years ago this month I had a major accident where I damaged my spine".
"My one and only purpose during this time has been to get back on stage", he went on. "My singing voice is fine. However, after three operations, stem cell treatments, endless physical therapy sessions, and most recently groundbreaking cybernics treatment, my body is still physically weak".
"I am honestly humbled by the way you've all patiently held onto your tickets for all this time, but in all good conscience, I have now come to the realisation that I'm not physically capable of doing my upcoming European/UK tour dates, as I know I couldn't deal with the travel required", he continued.
"Believe me when I say that the thought of disappointing my fans really fucks me up more than you will ever know. Never would I have imagined that my touring days would have ended this way".
He added that there is still hope that he will be able to perform again in some capacity, saying: "My team is currently coming up with ideas for where I will be able to perform without having to travel from city to city and country to country".
Osbourne's last UK performance was at the closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in his hometown of Birmingham last summer. He appeared on stage with Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi to perform a medley of Sabbath songs 'Iron Man' and 'Paranoid'.
BandLab Technologies has acquired beat marketplace Airbit. "We are THRILLED to bring Airbit's community to BandLab", says BandLab CEO Meng Ru Kuok. "We are continually looking for opportunities to support BandLab artists in their creative process, and this has been one of our communities' most requested features. Thanks to companies like Airbit, self-serve beat marketplaces have become an exciting route for creators to find and purchase high-quality beats to kickstart their creative process. We're excited to improve the user experience for our creators and introduce new ways for them to earn a living".
Dee Ford has announced that she will step down as Group Managing Director of Bauer Media Audio UK later this year. "I will miss Dee's wise counsel, optimism and entrepreneurship, but am pleased to confirm that Dee will stay with us to ensure a smooth and extensive handover to her successor once they are appointed", says Richard Dawkins, President of Audio at Bauer Media Group.
Marketing agency WMA has announced the appointment of Martin Kandja Kabamba as Director Of Social & Digital Marketing and Charlie Pollard as Director Of Social. "We are THRILLED to welcome Martin and Charlie to the agency to lead, drive forward and grow our expanding UK and Europe social and digital marketing team", says WMA's Erika Thomas.
Ellie Goulding has released new single 'Like A Saviour'. Her new album 'Higher Than Heaven' is out on 24 Mar. "[Higher Than Heaven is] about being passionately in love", she says of the record. "But it's a hyper form of love, almost like a drug induced feeling. It feels almost artificial and there's the potential for a crash".
Orbital have released new single 'Are You Alive?', featuring Penelope Isles. "'Are You Alive?' came about when I had the instrumental and felt it could do with a delicate vocal", says Paul Hartnoll. "Enter Penelope Isles! They took it away and [the duo's] Lily [Wolter] came up with some killer hooks, we spent a day rearranging the song and Hey presto! 'Are You Alive?' was born. But don't be fooled by the sweetness of the sound, the lyrics have some bite. It's a dog-eat-dog world". New album 'Optical Delusion' is out on 17 Feb.
Rachel Chinouriri has released new single 'Maybe I'm Lonely'. "I wrote this from the perspective of not knowing what I want", she says. "When you are in a long term relationship and know nothing else, it's hard navigating the dating world. It's about how I don't want a relationship but struggle to not attach feelings to more casual situations. I hope other people know the feeling because I have struggled with it recently but I'm getting better". Chinouriri will headline Hoxton Hall in London over four nights on 9-12 May.
La Luz's Shana Cleveland has released new solo single 'A Ghost'. "I never really gave pregnancy and childbirth very much thought, and when I did become pregnant I was surprised by how much of a psychedelic experience it was", she says of the inspiration for the song. "When I sat outside the house looking out across the field, the chemistry and shape of my body constantly changing, I understood that I was no different than the plants and animals around me". Her new album 'Manzanita' is out on 10 Mar.
Petite Noir will release new album 'MotherFather' on 14 Apr - his first LP since 2015. Here's new single 'Blurry', featuring Sampa The Great. "'Blurry' is a song about growth in love", he says. "Being ready to take that next step whether it means being together or apart. Sometimes the best thing you can do is just move forward with your life solo. Choosing you above all. Being the best you, because no one will! It was super special to work with my sister Sampa. She is one of a kind and our energy's gravitate towards each other! Naturally!"
Girl Ray have released new single 'Everybody's Saying That'.
Hundred Reasons have released new single 'So So Soon'. Their new album 'Glorious Sunset' is out on 24 Feb.
Esben And The Witch have announced that they will release new album 'Hold Sacred' on 12 May. Out now is new single 'The Well'. "It touches upon a spiritual strength, an enlightenment of sorts and a will to clamber out of despair and follow the light", says vocalist Rachel Davies of the track.
Jen Cloher has released new single 'My Witch'. Her new album 'I Am The River, The River Is Me' is out on 3 Mar.
M(h)aol have released new single 'Period Sex' ahead of their debut album 'Attachment Styles', which is out on Friday. "Prior to writing the track I'd had a lot of eye-opening conversations around period shame with people of all genders and from all walks of life, and I wanted to write almost an anthem for everyone who had ever had a period or loved someone who had one", says singer Róisín Nic Ghearailt. "It felt like a hugely powerful thing to be in a position to create a song as a band that was unequivocally sexy".
Debby Friday has released new single 'I Got It'. "This track is a 'get in the Uber, bitch!' ode to nightlife, purgatory, and club rats everywhere", she says. Her debut album 'Good Luck' is out on 24 Mar.
GIGS & TOURS
Beyonce has announced UK tour dates in May, including two nights at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London on 29-30 May. Tickets go on general sale on 7 Feb.
Alewya will play The Scala in London on 22 Feb. Tickets are on sale now.
The Chills have announced UK and Ireland tour dates in June, including a show at EartH in London on 16 Jun. The band will also release a new seven-inch featuring three tracks that didn't make the final tracklist of 2021 album 'Scatterbrain'. Download one of them - 'The Dragon With The Sapphire Eyes' - for free on Bandcamp now.
Check out our weekly Spotify playlist of new music featured in the CMU Daily - updated every Friday.
OK Go respond to cereal brand's lawsuit against them
"Have you ever had your name stolen by a multi-billion-dollar food processing Goliath?" asked the band's Damian Kulash on Instagram. "Here's how it goes down: 1. They apply for a trademark on the name you've been using for 25 years. 2. You send a letter asking them to pick a different name, please. 3. They SUE YOU IN FEDERAL COURT".
Post launched new individual pots containing a variety of its cereals earlier this month - including Fruity Pebbles and Honey Bunches Of Oats - under the name OK Go! As noted by Kulash, in September the band quickly sent Post a cease and desist letter, after Post applied for the trademark.
The band argued that the new product name infringed on their trademarks as a band. They also said that there was likely to be consumer confusion - with the probable assumption that the band were somehow directly involved in the new products, as they are known for collaborating with brands on their viral music videos. Brands such as - checks notes - Post Foods - the band having made a number of promotional videos for Honey Bunches Of Oats in 2011.
Responding to that letter, Post said that it disagreed with OK Go's objections, arguing that music and cereals have nothing in common, so there has been no trademark infringement. As for the band's other claims about consumer confusion, the company said that 2011 was bloody ages ago and who can even remember that far back? I'm paraphrasing slightly.
In its legal filing earlier this month, Post added that since that initial exchange it has been attempting to resolve the matter with the band to no avail.
It also explained that it offered to settle the matter monetarily, but when the band rejected that offer without any other proposed solution, it was left with no option but to sue in order to gain court clarification that it had done nothing wrong.
In a statement to Billboard at the time, the band said that they saw the litigation as an effort by the food brand to "bully us out of our own name" under the assumption that the band's members would not be able to spend enough on lawyers to properly fight the case.
And it is perhaps a lack of food company scale legal resources that has now led Kulash to take the fight onto social media - also encouraging fans of his band to repost what he has shared.
As well as laying out his view on what was going on with the case, he noted that the blurb for the cereal pots states that they are "ready to rock".
It's probably worth noting that this phrase only appears in the blurb for one of the four pots available, that being OK Go! Cocoa Pebbles. So the 'rock' there is probably more a reference to the name of the cereal than the genre of the band. At least, that's what Post will likely say in court. If this ever gets to court.