TODAY'S TOP STORY: A Houston-based news organisation has revealed that a deal between Travis Scott and Apple regarding the livestreaming of his 2021 Astroworld performance required the rapper to complete his set in order to receive a $4.5 million fee. That has led to some discussion about whether or not that agreement put pressure on the rapper's team to keep his Astroworld set going despite the crowd surge that occurred in the audience which resulted in ten fatalities... [READ MORE]

TOP STORIES Further scrutiny of the Astroworld police report puts the spotlight on Travis Scott's deal with Apple
LIVE BUSINESS Dice confirms recent restructuring led to some redundancies
WOMAD investigating after a number of festival-goers fall ill with similar symptoms
ARTIST NEWS Former Lostprophets frontman in serious condition following prison attack
GIGS & FESTIVALS Jukedeck founder to premiere new choral composition with AI-generated lyrics
AND FINALLY... Twitter takes @music handle for itself
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Further scrutiny of the Astroworld police report puts the spotlight on Travis Scott's deal with Apple
A Houston-based news organisation has revealed that a deal between Travis Scott and Apple regarding the livestreaming of his 2021 Astroworld performance required the rapper to complete his set in order to receive a $4.5 million fee. That has led to some discussion about whether or not that agreement put pressure on the rapper's team to keep his Astroworld set going despite the crowd surge that occurred in the audience which resulted in ten fatalities.

The recent publication of the Houston Police Department's report into the Astroworld tragedy has put a new focus on the big question as to why Scott's set continued for some time after the scale of the problems within the crowd had become apparent to emergency services. Though legal reps for Scott insist that that question isn't actually relevant in the context of all the lawsuits that were filed following the incident.

Ten people died and hundreds more were injured during the crowd surge at Astroworld 2021, which took place in Houston's NRG Park. Following the event, the local police force launched a criminal investigation, while hundreds of lawsuits were filed by the victims - including the families of those who died - mainly targeting Scott, who founded the festival, and the event's promoter, Live Nation.

The HPD completed its investigation last month. The police then handed their 1266 report to a grand jury which concluded that there were no grounds for pursuing criminal charges against Scott or anyone else involved in organising the festival. That police report was then made public.

Since the report was published, much attention has been given to statements made by some of the people working backstage at the festival who said they heard messages on the communications system during Scott's performance that suggested his team were aware of the crowd surge and the fatalities, and that that information was passed to the rapper himself. Scott insists he was not aware of the crowd issues until sometime after his performance had finished.

It's from digging deeper into the police report that Houston Landing has found information about the streaming deal between Scott and Apple. Police seemingly became aware of that deal from documents that were submitted as part of the discovery process in the civil litigation.

The report states: "Apple Inc was brought in as a partner to Travis Scott to livestream Travis Scott's performance. According to documents produced in the civil litigation, Travis Scott had five stipulations to fulfil in order to receive $4.5 million from Apple per contract. Of those five acts, one was to complete the show".

"The livestream appears to have been brought on last minute", it goes on, "and detectives believe they were brought in to help alleviate some of the debt the Travis Scott organisation had accumulated by building the mountain stage".

The deal with Apple could have put further pressure on Scott and his team to complete the Astroworld show, including the big guest appearance by Drake.

Although, that said, there's not currently any actual evidence to show that that factored into the decision to keep Scott's set running for 25 minutes after a mass casualty incident had been declared, nor even whether any decision-makers on site at the festival were aware of the Apple contract.

Obviously, a grand jury has already decided that no criminal charges should be pursued. Though the revelations about the Apple deal could still be brought up by lawyers in the civil litigation.

Steve Herman, a lawyer not himself involved in any of the Astroworld lawsuits, told Houston Landing: "It could be very important. [Travis Scott is] never going to admit that that was his motivation, but if there's other circumstantial evidence from which ultimately a jury can infer that that was a motivation in not stopping the concert, even though he knew people were getting crushed, that's pretty powerful stuff".

However, he also added: "There's a good chance he didn't even read the contract. It could be important evidence, but it could also be completely irrelevant. You would have to know a lot more about why that provision was in there".

The mere fact Scott's performance continued - oblivious of the reasons why - may not even be relevant to the litigation. Mainly for practical reasons.

One of Scott's lawyers, Kent Schaffer, told the news organisation: "My understanding is that the major injuries that occurred were all within the first 20 minutes or so of the concert. The mass casualty event was not declared until almost 20 minutes later, which would have been around 9.40pm”.

Nevertheless, should the Astroworld lawsuits get to court, it will be interesting to see if the Apple deal is used as evidence by the plaintiffs. So far, three of the families of those who died at the event have settled their legal action.


Dice confirms recent restructuring led to some redundancies
A spokesperson for ticketing firm Dice last week confirmed that a recent restructuring of the business led to a number of redundancies.

It followed a report by Resident Advisor, which cited sources close to the company as saying that most of Dice's creative team and a majority of its marketing team had been laid off, with management seemingly planning to rely more on freelancers working on a project basis when it comes to creative and marketing work.

A Dice spokesperson told "We recently made the difficult decision to restructure parts of our business to ensure we can focus on our most important initiatives. This isn't an exercise we carry out lightly and we're sad that we have to say goodbye to colleagues that we love working with and respect enormously".

They added that the downsizing impacted less than 10% of the firm's global workforce and that the business continues to operate in all ten of its markets.


WOMAD investigating after a number of festival-goers fall ill with similar symptoms
An investigation has been launched after a number of festival-goers fell ill with similar symptoms following the recent 2023 edition of the WOMAD festival.

According to the BBC, the UK Health Security Agency, Wiltshire Council and the organisers of WOMAD are working together to investigate what might have caused those festival-goers to fall ill while attending last month's event, which takes place at Charlton Park in Wiltshire.

The BBC quotes Dr Alasdair Wood from UKHSA South West who explains: "People have reported experiencing diarrhoea, stomach cramps and a high temperature". He adds that the ongoing investigation is seeking to establish any "common links" between those affected.

Wood goes on: "People who become unwell with symptoms of diarrhoea and vomiting need to drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated and should stay off work, education and childcare settings until symptoms have stopped for two days, as this is when you're most infectious". Those whose symptoms are not settled after two days should see a doctor.


Edinburgh Festival Q&A: Crizards
CMU's sister media ThreeWeeks is currently covering the Edinburgh Festival, the world's biggest cultural event, which takes over the Scottish capital for three weeks with a packed programme of comedy, theatre, music, musicals, dance, cabaret, spoken word and a whole lot more.

Here in the CMU Daily we'll pick out some of the highlights of this year's coverage, including interviews with people who are performing there this year. Today, sketch comedy duo Crizards who are performing 'This Means War', having won acclaim at last year's Fringe with the show 'Cowboys'.

"After 'Cowboys' we were trying to think of other worlds that suit a story about male friendship and war seemed like a good option", they say. "It's useful choosing a world that has a lot of existing material to look at, like cowboys or soldiers".

"We didn't want to make a genre parody, but it's good to work with an existing visual language like that for characterisation and story ideas", they add. "It's also just fun for us to dress up. We like having special little hats".

Read the interview and find out more about the show here.


Former Lostprophets frontman in serious condition following prison attack
Former Lostprophets singer Ian Watkins was reportedly stabbed this weekend during a brutal attack in the prison where he is serving a 29 year sentence after being convicted of charges relating to the sexual abuse of children.

According to the Daily Mirror, Watkins is now seriously ill in hospital after an incident at HMP Wakefield.

The newspaper cites a source as saying: "He was found by officers after being held hostage and battered on Saturday morning. He's in a life-threatening condition and there are fears he could die. If he survives, he'll have been very lucky".

Watkins was jailed for 29 years in 2013 after admitting to various charges, including attempting to rape an eleven month old baby, as well as making and possessing images of the sexual abuse of children.


Jukedeck founder to premiere new choral composition with AI-generated lyrics
The VOCES8 Foundation presents its latest Live From London digital festival this weekend which, among other things, will include the premiere performance of a new piece composed by Ed Newton-Rex that features lyrics generated by artificial intelligence.

Composer and entrepreneur Newton-Rex has been involved in generative AI in the music space for more than a decade, having founded the music AI start-up Jukedeck that was subsequently acquired by TikTok owner Bytedance. He is now VP of Audio at Stability AI.

For his new composition - called 'I Stand In The Library' - he used OpenAI's GPT-3 to generate a set of lyrics which he then set to music. It will be performed by the VOCES8 Choir in a Live From London concert that will be available to stream on-demand from Saturday.

Newton-Rex spoke to CMU's sister media ThisWeek Culture about the new composition, explaining: "When OpenAI's GPT-3 was released to initial testers, I heard about it and signed up for early access. In the early days lots of people were sharing poetry it had written them, some of which was surprisingly good - so it wasn't a great leap to think perhaps I could use it to write a text for my [next music project]".

He initially prompted the generative AI with the line "below is a poem about music and solitude”. He goes on: "When I hit 'enter', it immediately came out with the line 'I stand in the library, where a voice soars', which I loved".

With a little more work, the AI generated a complete poem which Newton-Rex then set to music. "The generated text directly influenced the music in a major way", he says. "The mention of a piano in the first stanza led me to write for choir and piano, something I haven't done much before - I tend to write for unaccompanied choir".

While Newton-Rex has been working in the generative AI domain for many years now, it is obviously in the last year that the potential of music-making AI has become a really big talking point within the music industry. Though, he points out, while AI generated the words for his new piece, it couldn't have created the musical element. Well, not yet.

"Most state of the art AI music generation systems today create short passages of audio, perhaps fifteen to 60 seconds, and tend to do much better at instrumental music than vocal music", he says. "There is nothing yet that comes close to creating a structured fifteen minute piece, setting text effectively, creating something musically novel in the process - which is hopefully something I've managed with this piece, though that's for the listener to decide".

"But will it be able to in future?", he goes on. "Absolutely - or at least it's highly likely. In other modalities, like image and text, the speed with which generative AI systems have recently improved and achieved things that two years ago seemed impossible is astounding. We should expect the same to happen in music".

Read the full interview - including Newton-Rex's thoughts on the relationship between music-makers and music-making AI - on ThisWeek Culture here.

There is more information about the Live From London concert in which the premiere performance of 'I Stand In The Library' will appear here.


Twitter takes @music handle for itself
Last week the Twitter company - which, of course, is now officially called Fuck You Corp; no sorry, FXXK You Corp; or is it XXXX You Corp; or maybe just X Corp - anyway, whatever, the social media firm told the user who has been diligently tweeting with the @music handle since 2007 to "X off".

The Elon Musk-owned X wants the @music handle for itself you see. Maybe so that it can bring together in one organised space all of the unlicensed music that swims around the social media platform, the Twitter company having been telling the music industry to "X off" long before Musk was in charge.

But then again, maybe Musk is going to do some licensing deals with the music industry so that he can post some legit tunes to the @music account he now controls.

Either way, none of that helps software developer Jeremy Vaught, who registered @music on the Twitter platform all the way back in 2007 and had more than 450,000 followers on the account. He now has to post content for that audience using the much less fun @musicfan handle, which X shifted his account over to last week.

Vaught confirmed to CNBC this weekend that he is really rather disappointed to have had the @music handle taken away from him after all this time.

Noting that someone else had originally set up an account using @musicfan back in 2011, he added that he hoped Musk hadn't nabbed that from another user in order to give it to him. Meanwhile, on X's decision to steal the snappiest handles on its platform for itself, Vaught said: "The whole thing is just skeezy".


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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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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