TODAY'S TOP STORY: A law firm in Canada last week filed a class action lawsuit against Ticketmaster taking issue with the way the Live Nation ticketing platform sets prices, advertises shows and defines tickets as 'platinum'... [READ MORE]

TOP STORIES Ticketmaster sued in Canada over pricing of Drake tickets
LEGAL Judge dismisses song theft lawsuit against Childish Gambino
Court says R Kelly victim should be able to claim damages she is due from his Sony Music royalties

50 Cent settles penis enlargement case

DEALS Kakao Entertainment partners with Columbia Records in the US
DIGITAL & D2F SERVICES Twitter to remove legacy blue checkmarks from next month
AWARDS Pussy Riot named winners of 2023 Woody Guthrie Prize
AND FINALLY... Ed Sheeran and Cradle Of Filth's long-awaited collaboration could arrive this summer
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Ticketmaster sued in Canada over pricing of Drake tickets
A law firm in Canada last week filed a class action lawsuit against Ticketmaster taking issue with the way the Live Nation ticketing platform sets prices, advertises shows and defines tickets as 'platinum'.

According to the Toronto Star, the lawsuit hones in on an upcoming Drake show at Montreal's Bell Centre. One fan bought two 'official platinum' tickets priced at $789.54 each. Then the next day a second show at the venue was announced at which the same seats were on sale for $350 less.

"Ticketmaster unilaterally decides which tickets it advertises and sells as 'official platinum' based on a given event", the legal filing states. "The result is that most, if not all, of the tickets advertised and sold as 'official platinum' are neither 'premium tickets' nor 'some of the best seats in the house' and are, in fact, just regular tickets sold by Ticketmaster at an artificially inflated premium in bad faith".

The ticketing firm would also have been aware that a second Drake show was planned at the point it sold the fan those $789.54 tickets, the lawsuit reckons, but it chose to "conceal this information" in order to "squeeze out" as much money as possible from fans eager to see the musician perform.

Although there have been grievances for many years, of course, over how concert ticketing works - both generally and more specifically on the Ticketmaster platform - those grievances have been back in the spotlight of late.

High ticket prices and ticketing fees, as well as Ticketmaster's dynamic pricing system, have all been newly criticised by fans, politicians, consumer rights groups and - sometimes - artists.

In the US, when fans have tried to take legal action against Ticketmaster to challenge some of its practices, the Live Nation company has usually successfully pushed those disputes into private arbitration, on the basis that consumers commit to that approach when accepting the terms and conditions on its website.

It will be interesting to see how this litigation in Canada, filed with the Quebec Superior Court, now progresses.


Judge dismisses song theft lawsuit against Childish Gambino
A US judge last week dismissed a song theft lawsuit filed against Childish Gambino which claimed that his 2018 hit 'This Is America' ripped off an earlier track called 'Made In America'.

The choruses of the two songs are not "substantially similar", despite what that lawsuit claimed, the judge ruled, while the "distinctive flow" of the earlier work is not protected by copyright.

Miami-based rapper Kidd Wes - real name Emelike Nwosuocha - sued Childish Gambino - aka Donald Glover, of course - in 2021, claiming that 'This Is America' lifted from his 2016 release 'Made In America'.

"The distinctive flow" heard in Glover's track, the lawsuit stated, "is unmistakably substantially similar, if not practically identical, to the distinct and unique flow that was employed by Nwosuocha in recording his vocal performance of his rapping of the hook to his copyrighted work".

"The lyrical theme, content, and structure of the identically-performed choruses are also glaringly similar", the lawsuit then added.

Glover responded to the lawsuit last September seeking to have Nwosuocha's legal action dismissed. He raised issues with Nwosuocha's copyright registrations; argued that the plaintiff hadn't offered any credible explanation for how he had had access to 'Made In America'; and added that the elements the two tracks had in common were not protected by copyright.

Judge Victor Marrero basically concurred with Glover, ruling that there were indeed issues with the registration of Nwosuocha's copyrights, and - even if there weren't - the rapper had failed to make a compelling case for copyright infringement.

"A cursory comparison with the challenged composition reveals that the content of the choruses is entirely different and not substantially similar", the judge stated.

Meanwhile, the "distinct and unique vocal cadence, delivery, rhythm, timing, phrasing, meter and/or pattern" or "flow", as well as the "lyrical theme" and "structure" of the chorus, in 'Made In America' "lack sufficient originality alone, or as combined, to merit compositional copyright protection or are categorically ineligible for copyright protection".

And with all that in mind, Marrero granted Glover's motion for dismissal. Though Nwosuocha may as yet appeal.


Court says R Kelly victim should be able to claim damages she is due from his Sony Music royalties
Heather Williams, one of R Kelly's sexual abuse victims, will be able to claim royalties due to the musician from Sony Music in lieu of a damages payment she is owed following a successful lawsuit.

Those royalties had been claimed by a bank which is also owed money by the jailed former pop star, but the Illinois Supreme Court last week ruled that Williams' damages should take priority.

Kelly was sued by Williams in February 2019. She alleged that she first met Kelly in 1998 when she was sixteen and initially agreed to spend time with him at his studio because he promised to put her in a music video.

However the video never happened and instead they began a sexual relationship which Williams subsequently recognised as sexual abuse. Kelly failed to defend himself against that lawsuit, meaning Williams won by default the following year and was awarded $4 million in damages.

This all happened as new criminal investigations were launched into the many allegations of sexual abuse that had been made against Kelly over the years. Those resulted in two trials at which the musician was convicted and jailed.

With the incarcerated Kelly's music career over, Williams' legal team have struggled to get the $4 million in damages paid. Last year they accused the star of fraudulently selling his music rights to a friend in an effort to stop those rights being seized in order to settle his debts.

Another option was to go after revenues still being generated by Kelly's catalogue via Sony Music. However, Midwest Commercial Funding had already made a claim against those royalties in order to access the $3.5 million it is owed.

The bank's claim was received by Sony first, however it emailed its paperwork whereas Williams' team sent a claim through the mail via the US Postal Service. And last week the Illinois Supreme Court confirmed a lower court ruling in the state which said that the relevant rules do not allow for such claims to be made by email. Therefore Williams' claim should take precedence.


50 Cent settles penis enlargement case
50 Cent has reached a settlement with the owner of a medical centre, after he accused her of implying online that he'd used her company to undergo penis enlargement surgery.

In court documents filed in Miami on Friday, legal reps for the rapper - real name Curtis Jackson - and defendant Angela Kogan said that they have "reached an agreement in principle to settle Mr Jackson's claims" and were "in the process of preparing an agreement to finalise and memorialise" the deal.

Jackson sued Kogan last September, admitting that he'd had a photo taken with her in 2020, but insisting that he had assumed that she was just a fan. He was pissed off then when that photo appeared on the social media accounts of her company, Perfection Plastic Surgery and MedSpa.

And he was even more miffed when it showed up in an article on gossip site The Shade Room in which Kogan discussed the rise in plastic surgery for men, including penile enhancements. All of this, he said, implied that he had used and endorsed the services of Kogan's company.

Kogan countered that Jackson's defence was ludicrous, given that the photo was taken in her office after he and his girlfriend had popped in for some free treatments. So, there was no way that he could have thought that he was simply taking a selfie with a fan.

Everyone understood at the time, she claimed, that the photo was some kind of quid pro quo for the free treatments, meaning it was a given she might post it to social media.

She also denied that the sharing of the photo - either on social media or in the Shade Room article - had implied anything about what treatments or surgery Jackson may or may not have received.

Efforts by Kogan to have the case dismissed were, however, knocked back in December. Judge Robert N Scola Jr refused to throw out the case on the grounds that Jackson could "plausibly argue that the defendants unauthorisedly used his likeness to promote their business".

He also said that the photo may have been far more valuable than the treatments the rapper had received.

As part of the lawsuit, Jackson also sued The Shade Room, but settled that portion of his claim last month. It's not clear what sort of agreement Jackson has now reached with Kogan. We'll just have to wait for the two sides to "finalise and memorialise" it.


Kakao Entertainment partners with Columbia Records in the US
South Korea's Kakao Entertainment last week announced a partnership between its American division and Sony Music's Columbia Records. The tie-up, it says, "aims to expand Kakao Entertainment's music distribution network and elevate its position in the global market by leveraging Columbia Records' unparalleled expertise in the North American music business".

The first release via the partnership will be the debut album from K-pop outfit Ive, who are managed by Kakao's Starship Entertainment subsidiary. They will release 'I've Ive' on 10 Apr.

Joseph Chang, Head Of Kakao Entertainment America, says he is "THRILLED to be embarking on Ive's global journey with Columbia Records, a company with a rich history in pop music".

"This partnership holds significant meaning for us", he adds. "By strengthening the production and distribution capabilities of our music and artists in North America, we look forward to increasing the global competitiveness of Kakao Entertainment's music business".

Kakao Entertainment, like rival South Korean entertainment firms Hybe and SM Entertainment, has big ambitions for global expansion, especially in the US market.

Those global ambitions are one of the reasons why Kakao has been pursuing a partnership with SM back home, reckoning the two companies can compete better globally when working together.

That was a partnership which proved controversial, of course, when it was opposed by SM founder Lee Soo-man, who unsuccessfully tried to block the alliance with the help of Hybe.


Twitter to remove legacy blue checkmarks from next month
Twitter last week confirmed that it will start removing the legacy blue checkmarks that identify verified accounts on its platform from the start of next month, so that only those paying for verification will be identified in that way.

The blue checkmarks were previously available for free to notable people and organisations, the idea being that they helped users to identify what was official content from celebrities, companies and brands.

However, after Elon Musk bought Twitter and quickly began finding new ways to generate income, it was announced that the blue checkmark would become one of the benefits of signing up to the Twitter Blue subscription package.

Meta recently announced that it would similarly start offering its verified account badge as part of a new subscription service, although with Facebook and Instagram the existing system of providing those badges to notable accounts that meet certain criteria for free will also stay in place, for now at least.

But on Twitter, celebrities, companies, brands and - of course - musicians who want to retain their blue checkmark will have to sign up to the paid-for service.

Elsewhere in Twitter news, the social media firm remains high up on the music industry's gripe list because it still has no music licences in place, despite people tweeting loads of videos that contain music. And, reports suggest, ongoing efforts to change that and get some licensing deals in place are proving even more challenging since Musk took over.

The boss of the US National Music Publishers Association, David Israelite, noted that in a post on Twitter last week as the social media firm passed its seventeenth birthday.

"Twitter was founded on this date in 2006", he tweeted. "Seventeen years later, despite a massive amount of music on the platform, Twitter STILL does not license music or compensate songwriters. Every other major social media platform licenses music. It's time for that to change".

With artists and musicians now facing the prospect of having to pay money over to Twitter every month to retain their verified status on the platform, the fact no money flows back in the other direction for the use of music in tweeted videos will be all the more annoying.


CMU at MENT this Thursday
CMU's Chris Cooke will be at the MENT festival and conference in Ljubljana later this week to present a speed briefing all about the diversifying digital market.

This speed briefing provides a concise overview of the digital music market in 2023 and beyond. Which services are generating the most revenue today and which services are likely to power the next phase of digital growth?

And what can artists, managers, labels and publishers do right now with their deals, data, marketing and strategies to fully capitalise on all of the diversification that is now underway?

Find out at MENT this Thursday, 30 Mar, at 2pm.

And get more information about all things MENT here.

Pussy Riot named winners of 2023 Woody Guthrie Prize
Pussy Riot have been announced as the winners of this year's Woody Guthrie Prize. Launched in memory of the American activist folk musician a decade ago, the annual prize recognises artists who "best exemplify Guthrie's spirit and work by speaking for the less fortunate through music, film, literature, dance or other art forms, and serving as a positive force for social change".

In a statement, Pussy Riot's Nadya Tolokonnikova says: "It feels fitting to be awarded in the spirit of Woody, I think he would love Pussy Riot's anti-fascist message. Usually, when Pussy Riot gets added to lists, it's not always a good thing, but we are honoured to be on this one".

"We don't really do folk", she adds, "but we don't really do punk either, we simply scream and protest as loud as we can, and hope we can show others they can do the same. Like Woody said, any fool can make something complicated, our message is clear and simple. Anyone can be Pussy Riot. Riot. Riot. Resist".

Tolokonnikova and fellow Pussy Riot member Masha Alyokhina will accept the prize at a ceremony at the Woodie Guthrie Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma on 6 May. They will also take part in an on stage interview, before performing the US premiere of their show 'Riot Days' at the city's Cain's Ballroom venue that evening.

Also commenting, director of the Woody Guthrie Center, Cady Shaw, says: "As artists who, like Woody Guthrie, have the courage of their convictions, there are no contemporary artists more worthy of this recognition than Pussy Riot. They have paid a very personal price for speaking their minds on the most serious issues of our time, yet they continue to fight for justice and freedom".

Three members of the group - including Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova - were given prison sentences in their home country of Russia in 2012, after the band staged a guerrilla performance of their song 'Mother Of God, Drive Putin Away' in Moscow's Cathedral Of Christ The Saviour to protest against Russian president Vladimir Putin, who was at the time seeking re-election.

The project continues in various forms, with Tolokonnikova still releasing music under the name - having worked with other artists including TV On The Radio's Dave Sitek, Mykki Blanco, Kai Whiston, iLove Makkonnen, and more.

Previous winners of the Woody Guthrie Prize include Chuck D, Bruce Springsteen and Mavis Staples.


Ed Sheeran and Cradle Of Filth's long-awaited collaboration could arrive this summer
It's now more than a year and a half since the idea of a collaboration between Ed Sheeran and Cradle Of Filth was first mooted. Have we heard anything yet? I think you know the answer to that. However, by the time the two year anniversary rolls around, all that could change.

"Ed's done all his parts", Cradle Of Filth frontman Dani Filth tells Metal Hammer of said collaboration. "It's just bass and vocals for me to do on my return to England after Easter. It's exactly how you can imagine it'll sound, if you can imagine Ed Sheeran with Cradle Of Filth. He plays acoustic guitar on it, but it's heavy: it's got a blast beat in there. The plan is to do it as a charity single. We're hoping for it to be out by the summer".

This all started when Sheeran said back in 2021 that he "would not be opposed" to recording a bit of heavy metal. Dani Filth scoffed and Sheeran called his bluff, sparking the unlikely collaboration. Six months later, the project was still just talk, but then in August last year we were assured that Sheeran had "done some of it".

Of course, somewhere in all this Sheeran did actually go metal already, recording a new version of his song 'Bad Habits' with Bring Me the Horizon. But a collaboration with the more extreme Cradle Of Filth still seems like an unlikely pairing - despite Sheeran professing to be a longtime fan of the band.

And for those of you who still don't believe this tie up can possibly be true, Filth has twice now posted photos of himself and Sheeran hanging out in Suffolk pub The Four Horseshoes - first for a Christmas dinner and then earlier this month to celebrate St Patrick's Day.

Filth admits that his friendship with Sheeran is "weird", but says: "I've spoken to him very regularly over the last two years. Like me, he's a real Suffolk boy. When he came to the studio that day, he didn't come down with a cavalcade of reporters: he turned up on his own guitar on his back, Cradle Of Filth hoodie on, and got on with it. It was fucking great".

Cradle Of Filth are currently on tour in the US with Devildriver and will release their first live album for 20 years - 'Trouble And Their Double Lives' - on 28 Apr. Ed Sheeran's also doing some stuff.


ANDY MALT heads up our editorial operations, overseeing the CMU Dailywebsite and Setlist podcast, managing social channels, reporting on artist and business stories, and writing the CMU Approved column.
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CHRIS COOKE is co-Founder and MD of CMU - he continues to write key business news stories, and runs training, research and event projects for the CMU Insights consultancy unit and CMU:DIY future talent programme.
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SAM TAYLOR leads on the commerical side of CMU, overseeing sales, sponsorship and business development, as well as heading up training, research and event projects at our consultancy unit CMU Insights.
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CARO MOSES is Editor of CMU's sister media ThisWeek Culture and ThreeWeeks Edinburgh. Having previously also written and edited articles for CMU, she continues to advise and support our operations.
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