|MONDAY 31 JULY 2023||COMPLETEMUSICUPDATE.COM|
|TODAY'S TOP STORY: The US Department Of Justice could file a competition lawsuit against Live Nation and Ticketmaster later this year, according to sources who have spoken to Politico. However, a spokesperson for the live giant insists that is unlikely based on the company's ongoing conversations with the American government department... [READ MORE]|
US government investigation into Live Nation could result in legal action this autumn
Live Nation's EVP for Corporate And Regulatory Affairs, Dan Wall, said in a statement on Friday: "We're in regular contact with the DoJ and they haven't told us they think we're doing anything illegal or asked us to address any concerns. It would be highly irregular for the DoJ to file without that notice and a lot of dialogue afterwards. However, if they do file we are prepared to defend ourselves".
The market dominance of Live Nation and Ticketmaster in the US live entertainment business has been a big talking point ever since the two companies merged in 2010.
In order to get regulator approval of that merger, Live Nation negotiated a consent decree with the DoJ setting out a number of commitments that were designed to allay the competition law concerns created by the biggest concert promoter joining up with the biggest ticketing company.
That consent decree was due to expire in 2020, but after the DoJ accused Live Nation of six breaches of the agreement, a new deal was negotiated that kept those commitments in force for another five years.
The market dominance of Live Nation has also slipped back into the spotlight in US Congress of late, mainly following the meltdown that occurred when tickets for Taylor Swift's American tour went on sale via Ticketmaster last year.
That has resulted in a number of legislative proposals for changing the way the ticketing business is regulated, one set of which is specifically focused on the dominance of Ticketmaster.
For its part, Live Nation has tried to steer the debate in Washington onto other ticketing issues. In particular, supporting the push for all-in-pricing, so that all ticketing platforms in the US start declaring the full cost of a ticket upfront, rather than adding fees and commissions at the end of the transaction. Fees added at the last minute like that are a particular bugbear of US President Joe Biden at the moment, so that's a pretty good distraction tactic.
It has also proposed some new regulations for the secondary ticketing market, which would impact on Live Nation - because Ticketmaster is still involved in ticket resale in the US - but less so than with any new laws targeting primary ticketing.
The latest investigation by the DoJ into whether or not Live Nation is abusing its market dominance - or breaching its consent decree - is seemingly unconnected to all the conversations happening in Congress, and wasn't prompted by the Swift ticketing debacle. According to sources who have spoken to Politico, the latest DoJ investigation began last summer.
"Live Nation executives were told early on that the investigation is largely focused on the Ticketmaster side of the business", it reports, "and the DoJ has asked questions on topics including prohibitions on reselling tickets and exclusive deals with venues to only use Ticketmaster. The DOJ has also asked questions about contracts for artist tours".
The sources confirm that conversations between the DoJ and Live Nation are still at an early stage, which is why Wall reckons there will be no litigation on any of this as soon as this autumn.
Although, Politico reports, "the DOJ is moving quickly and its litigation team is involved", adding that: "Jonathan Kanter, the DOJ's antitrust head, has said one of his goals is to speed up the investigative process and bring cases to trial more quickly".
"Because of the federal scrutiny dating back more than a decade and the voluminous information the government is getting from third parties", it goes on, "it might not be necessary to have all of the information that the DoJ is seeking from the company in advance of filing a lawsuit, three people with knowledge of the case said. Instead the DoJ could seek that information during the discovery process".
That said, Politico also notes that the DoJ's antitrust team is very busy at the moment, and quite how quickly any investigation into Live Nation proceeds may come down to what resources are available to investigators. And, its sources have stressed, "the timing of any lawsuit is fluid and no final decision has been made, meaning the department could ultimately decide not to bring a case".
And, even if the investigation does proceed with some speed, Live Nation could as yet reach a new out of court settlement with the regulator. Though, Politico also says, "Kanter has said repeatedly that he prefers to litigate rather than settle enforcement actions". We shall see.
Fix The Tix welcomes TICKET Act as step in the right direction
Proposed by Senators Ted Cruz and Maria Cantwell, the TICKET Act is one of various sets of proposals in US Congress at the moment that seeks to introduce new rules around the sale of tickets. It is mainly concerned with forcing all ticketing platforms in the US - both primary and secondary - to adopt all-in-pricing, where any fees and commissions are declared upfront, not added at the final stage of a ticket purchase.
That is one of ten changes to the ticketing market that the Fix The Tix Coalition called for in a manifesto it published last month.
And on Friday it said in a statement: "The Fix The Tix coalition applauds Chair Maria Cantwell and ranking member Ted Cruz for making ticketing issues a part of the Senate Commerce Committee's agenda. The Committee's substitute amendment of the TICKET Act passed out of committee advances all-in pricing, one tenet of the ten point Fix The Tix plan for comprehensive ticketing reform".
The original version of the TICKET Act also included some transparency obligations around so called speculative selling, where ticket touts put tickets on sale that they haven't actually secured yet. That was removed from the act before being passed by the committee, which has been criticised by some campaigners. Though Cantwell acknowledged more work needs to be done around speculative selling.
Fix The Tix want speculative selling of tickets on the resale sites to be banned outright, like it is already in the UK. And while presumably also disappointed that that extra transparency obligation was removed from the TICKET Act, the coalition noted Cantwell's comments, and said that it sees this act as a step in the right direction as it continues to campaign for all the other measures in its manifesto.
The coalition's statement added that its members look forward to working further with supportive Congress members "on a broad array of critical reforms in the Fix The Tix plan that must be enacted by Congress to protect consumers from predatory ticketing practices. These measures include a total ban on speculative tickets, which are fake tickets, and extensive efforts to prevent price gouging of consumers on the secondary ticketing market".
CTM Outlander acquires the Strengholt Music Group
CTM formed a strategic alliance with Dallas-based investment fund Outlander Capital Management back in 2021 with the intent of buying up song and recording rights catalogues via the CTM Outlander venture.
The latest deal brings a significant catalogue to that venture. CTM says that the Strengholt Music Group - formerly known as Warner Basart Music and part of the European entertainment company Strengholt - is "considered one of the biggest pioneers of the Dutch music industry" and that its catalogue "contains over 100 number one hits which form part of Dutch music history".
On the publishing side, the Strengholt catalogue include works by Boudewijn De Groot, Lennaert Nijgh, Ramses Shaffy, Pierre Kartner, Hans van Hemert, Ferry Corsten, Radboud Miedema, John Ewbank, Eric Van Tijn and Jochem Fluitsma.
And there's a recordings catalogue too, including tracks by Anita Meyer, Conny Vandenbos, Corry Konings, The Smurfs, Vader Abraham, MC Miker G & Deejay Sven, De Dijk and Ben Cramer.
Belladrum Tartan Heart Organiser promises "full debrief" after traffic chaos
The 25,000 capacity festival took place from 27-29 Jul at the Belladrum Estate in Kiltarlity, around twelve miles outside of Inverness.
Speaking on Thursday after festival goers faced significant delays entering the festival site, Brown said: "We are incredibly disappointed by the traffic issues that so many of the festival goers and local people experienced".
"We have had good ticket sales, but it was a very small percentage increase on last year and nothing else in the plan was changed", he added. "We have used the same routes, the same traffic management and parking companies, and the same number of police officers in the same locations".
Festival-goers took to social media to express their frustration with the traffic problems, with one woman saying: "We live 20 minutes away and it took us four hours to get to the campsite, then another two hours queueing to get in".
And another ticketholder said: "It was a really great festival - but three hours to get from Inverness to site was shocking".
Google Maps shows that the average journey time from Inverness to Kiltarlity is around 26 to 40 minutes, depending on the time of day. However, as another local pointed out, referencing the roads in the area - many of them narrow single track roads - "It's a festival in the highlands - what were you expecting?"
A combination of factors seems to have contributed to the delays, including wet weather and people arriving "exceptionally early", which had a knock-on effect on festival staff who found roads blocked, slowing down their access to work on the festival site.
This caused further delays as the festival scrambled to deal with the volume of cars and other vehicles arriving. Additionally, there seemed to be more cars than in previous years.
Brown attributed this to fewer people sharing cars, saying: "We have had more cars. Interestingly the ratio of people per car has gone down this year. There's less people per car, so more cars on the road. That's something we need to look into - what the reason for that was".
He suggested that more effort might be put into promoting car sharing at next year's event - the festival's 20th birthday - to ensure vehicles would not be arriving with "just one or two people" in them.
Brown apologised to local residents who had got caught up in the traffic problems saying: "That's the last thing any of us want. We don't want the festival to cause gridlock. That's something we're going to look into, to try and make sure it doesn't happen again".
Traffic exiting the festival site on Sunday experienced fewer problems, helped in part by the festival putting in place additional traffic management for vehicles leaving the event.
In an "important notice" to festival goers pushed out through social media channels - and local police - on Saturday evening, the organisers said "to manage traffic on Sunday morning, measures have been put in place", before going on to outline a plan to split the flow of traffic as it left.
Campervans and caravans were asked to turn left onto the A833 while other vehicles were asked to turn right. The notice also highlighted the need for people exiting the festival site to stick to the main routes and avoid using the side roads which are "not suitable for large number of vehicles".
Despite some criticism from local residents familiar with the roads in the area about the routes chosen for caravans leaving the festival - that criticism largely being that directing campervans and caravans to go down a steep hill at Culnakirk may not have been the best choice - the plan seemed to work.
Festival-goers on the event's Facebook page commented positively, with one saying: "Was expecting usual car park chaos but straight out in twelve minutes - well done to all!", while another added: "That was the easiest exit ever from the festival, well done Belladrum Tartan Heart on a fantastic weekend".
This year's Download festival at Leicestershire's Donington Park also resulted in "unprecedented" congestion on the roads near the site. Its promoter Live Nation also promised an investigation after a local council leader said "something's got to change for next year otherwise I'll be pressing that the damn thing is cancelled".
In Download's case, the addition of an extra day of programming to mark the festival's 20th anniversary - but camp sites not opening any earlier - may have been a key factor.
Ladbrokes partners with The O2, AEG Presents and NME on ticket giveaways galore
There'll be no betting involved, we are assured, though luck will still be a factor, in that users of the Ladbrokes Live platform will be able to enter competitions to win tickets to music and comedy shows. And that includes tickets to see shows at The O2 in London from the comfort of a Ladbrokes Live private box.
As for the NME tie up, that will see the return of the Club NME nights, which will take place around the UK. And, once again, free tickets will be available to win via the Ladbrokes Live website.
"We're embarking on an exciting new era for Ladbrokes connecting thousands of fans with free access to artists and talent through the Ladbrokes Live platform", says Head Of Brand at the betting company, Kelly Rose.
"In The O2, AEG Presents and NME we're working with three of the biggest and most iconic brands in the entertainment industry", she goes on, "and this means we will be able to reward our audiences with the chance to attend some of the most exciting live shows in Britain for free".
And hurrah for that. Good luck everybody. I bet you'll do fine. Though, please note once again, there's no betting going on here.
Kanye West's Twitter account reinstated
The rapper's profile on the social media platform was previously suspended at the start of December last year as West continued to make ever more extreme racist and anti-Semitic statements.
West had previously been locked out of Twitter two months earlier for breaching its offensive content rules. It was around about that time that the rapper announced he was buying Parler, a rival social media platform known for being more tolerant of controversial right-wing opinions.
That deal ultimately fell through, meanwhile Elon Musk bought himself Twitter and quickly relaxed its rules around offensive content. West was then allowed to tweet again. Until the second ban in December.
That followed West telling Alex Jones on his 'Infowars' show that "I see good things about Hitler". He then posted at tweet including an image showing a swastika over the star of David, ie the symbol of Nazism over the symbol of Judaism.
As the rapper's Twitter account was blocked again, Musk tweeted: "I tried my best. Despite that, he again violated our rule against incitement to violence. Account will be suspended".
It's not clear why West's profile is back now. Neither X nor Musk nor West have commented. As of this morning, no new tweets have been posted to the rapper's account.
Stormzy extends his Cambridge University scholarship scheme
The bank has now pledged a further £2 million to fund 30 new Stormzy Scholarships over the next three years, while the musician's charity - the #Merky Foundation - will continue to fund a further two students a year, meaning 36 people will benefit in total.
The programme aims to alleviate the financial worries of students from less advantaged socio-economic backgrounds, with each beneficiary receiving a £20,000 annual scholarship.
On the continued support of HSBC, Stormzy says: "For a further 30 black students to have the opportunity to study at Cambridge University - the same year we celebrate five years of the scholarships' launch - feels like an incredible landmark moment".
The university's Pro-Vice-Chancellor For Education, Bhaskar Vira, adds that he is "delighted" that the scholarship scheme is continuing, stating: "We know these scholarships are truly transformative in the opportunities they provide and we look forward to welcoming more Stormzy scholars to Cambridge over the next few years".
Barbie soundtrack album breaks chart record by getting three tracks into the top five
In the week following the release of the film and 'Barbie: The Album', six tracks from the record were sufficiently streamed to appear in the UK Top 40, three of them in the top five.
Billie Eilish's 'What Was I Made For' is at number three, Dua Lipa's 'Dance The Night' is at four, and Nicki Minaj and Ice Spice's 'Barbie World', complete with a little bit of Aqua, is at number five.
That's Aqua's first appearance in the top five in 25 years, the Official Charts Company told us on Friday. And their actual 1997 song 'Barbie Girl' has also been pushed back into the top 40 - just, at number 40 - despite not being on the soundtrack.
The other tracks from the soundtrack on the chart this week are Charli XCX's 'Speed Drive' at number nineteen, Ryan Gosling performing 'I'm Just Ken' at number 25 and Lizzo's 'Pink' at number 39.
And now another nugget of chart trivia courtesy of the OCC. 'Barbie: The Album' is "the first film soundtrack in UK chart history to land three top five singles simultaneously".
The soundtracks for 'Saturday Night Fever' and 'Grease' both had three tracks in the top ten at the same time when they were released in 1978, but not the top five. Though had streaming existed back then, they'd probably have matched or out-performed the 'Barbie' soundtrack chart success.
But it didn't, and that's not Barbie's fault.