Also today: major label commitments on AI music; Twitch draws closer to being fully licensed for music use

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each day since 21 Jun 2002

Today's email is edition #5195

Mon 15 Apr 2024

In today's CMU Daily: The UK Labour Party’s plan to implement a price cap on resold tickets won’t work and will just result in more ticket fraud. So says the boss of secondary ticketing platform Viagogo anyway. He claims that this has already been proven in other countries, but supporters of the proposals deny that this is the case


One Liners: Cutting Edge Group funding; Liz Cass deal; IFPI, CAA, Attachment appointments; Spotify high quality audio; Mark Goodier joins BBC Radio 2; Greatest Hits Radio new weekend line-up


Also today: SAG-AFTRA announces “groundbreaking” agreement on AI music with major labels; Twitch “close” to agreeing licensing deals with the majors; Universal Music seeks removal from Diddy lawsuit

Viagogo boss does the UK media rounds, insists touting price cap won’t work

Last month the Labour Party announced that, if it forms the next UK government, it will put a price cap on the resale of tickets online. Last week, by pure coincidence I’m sure, Cris Miller - boss of the often controversial ticket resale platform Viagogo - was busy giving interviews to the UK media insisting that price caps don’t work. Those interviews occurred amid reports that the US-based Viagogo business is now plotting to become a publicly listed company in a $16.5 billion IPO. 


Anti-touting campaign FanFair was among those to note that Miller was in talkative mode “after years of evading the media”, telling CMU, “It’s been fascinating to read the thoughts and opinions” of the Viagogo chief. Referencing the IPO rumours and the recent convictions relating to a professional touting operation that sold tickets on platforms like Viagogo, it added, “These developments should result in even greater scrutiny of Viagogo’s business practices”. 


Under Labour’s proposal, anyone reselling a ticket online would only be able to charge a maximum of 10% more than the face value of the ticket. Echoing comments made earlier in the week on Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme, Miller said in an interview with The Observer this weekend that, “What happens with price caps is that the highest-demand part of the market, where you might see prices go above the original price, will just get driven underground”. 


That’s a key argument that has been employed by Viagogo and other secondary ticketing platforms for years now, basically whenever any kind of regulation to ticket resale is proposed. 


The argument goes that if bespoke ticket resale sites are over-regulated - or subject to price caps - the touts will use social media or internet forums to sell tickets, and on those sites there will be less protection against all-out fraudsters who don’t actually have any tickets to sell. 


Viagogo argues that it has checks in place to counter that kind of fraud, not least its guarantee to refund the customer if they do not receive a ticket from a seller or if a ticket fails to get them into a show. 


In his Radio 4 interview, Miller honed in on Australia - where a touting price cap is already in operation - and Ireland - where for-profit resale has been banned altogether. He claimed that when Taylor Swift recently played shows in Australia over 260,000 fake tickets were reported, while in Ireland banks last year issued warnings over a rise in ticketing scams. 


In response to that specific argument, Adam Webb from FanFair told CMU, “Viagogo's claims that price caps drive touting underground or onto social media are completely unfounded. Regardless of legislation, a significant volume of ticket resale already takes place across the likes of Facebook and Twitter”. 


“For instance, last November, Santander reported that ticket fraud in the UK had doubled in the past year. Similarly, the Australian Taylor Swift ticket scam referenced by Viagogo appears to be the result of opportunists and fraudsters operating across social media. I can see no evidence linking these activities with price caps”.  


“Aside from cracking down on the exploitative practices of Viagogo’s biggest suppliers”, they added, “our aim in the UK is to further develop the consumer-friendly resale market - so that fans can easily resell any ticket they’ve bought to another fan, for the price they originally paid or less”.  


Of course, a government forcing a price cap onto resale platforms doesn’t mean it can’t also seek to crack down on ticket fraud. Indeed, if the UK’s Competition & Markets Authority and National Trading Standards didn’t need to spend time checking Viagogo and its sellers are complying with the existing touting regulations, they could invest more time in tackling the fraud. 


Plus, despite trying to position itself as the champion of the consumer, Viagogo has a long history of employing tactics to confuse and trick ticket-buyers, while there has been plenty of criticism over the years by customers who have sought to utilise its refund guarantee. 


Regulation in some countries, including the UK, has forced it to abandon some of those tactics. And in his Observer interview, Miller was keen to stress his company now complies with those kinds of rules. “The compliance thing is very, very important to me”, he stated. 


Quite how damaging a touting price cap in the UK would be for Viagogo isn’t clear. Though The Observer reports that the resale site “takes commissions of about 25% or more on the price of every ticket it sells in the UK, where it dominates a market which had an estimated value of £350m in 2019”. 


Obviously, Viagogo will lobby hard against any new law that could have a significant impact on its UK revenues. The fact that the Viagogo company - which merged with the US business of its main rival StubHub in 2020 - is now plotting an Initial Public Offering will make the Labour Party’s plans all the more concerning. 


CNBC reported last week that Viagogo/StubHub is working with JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs on an IPO that could go ahead later this year seeking a valuation of $16.5 billion. 


Nevertheless, organisations like FanFair will lobby hard to get Labour’s proposal implemented. Miller’s new interviews, FanFair said, are interesting “in light of the recent court case in Leeds, where individuals who unlawfully resold tens of thousands of tickets through secondary ticketing websites, including Viagogo, were convicted of multi-million pound fraud offences, as well as the reported IPO being planned by Viagogo’s US parent company, StubHub”. 


“These developments”, it added, “should result in even greater scrutiny of Viagogo’s business practices, and their complete dependency on large-scale ticket touts. I hope they also provide greater confidence for politicians and regulators to intervene in this sector and to introduce new legislation that will protect consumers from exploitation”.

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Horizon is CMU's new weekly newsletter - published each Friday - that brings you a hand-picked selection of early-stage career opportunities from across the music industry.


Whether you're looking for your first job in music or you're ready to take a step up, Horizon is here to help you find your dream job faster.


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ONE LINERS

IFPI, StubHub, Mark Goodier + more

DEALS 


The Cutting Edge Group - which specialises in music for the media, wellbeing and live entertainment sectors - has raised $500 million debt refinancing, which will in part fund further catalogue acquisitions. “Working with our new financial partners, we’re pleased now to be able to move on our identified pipeline, expanding our portfolio and continuing to support this area of the industry”, says Head Of M&A And Corporate Strategy Tim Hegarty.


BDi Music has signed Liz Cass to a worldwide publishing agreement. “I’m so THRILLED to be joining the BDi Music family”, she says. “Sometimes you wait it out until you find where you truly fit. I’ve definitely found that in [founder Sarah Liversedge] and all the team at BDi, and I’m excited to see where this new chapter takes me”.


APPOINTMENTS 


The International Federation Of The Phonographic Industry - or IFPI to its friends - has appointed Victoria Oakley as its new CEO. She joins from strategic communications consultancy Portland. “I’m delighted to be joining IFPI and leading the global team as it continues its work to create the best possible environment for music worldwide”, she says. “The sector is once again experiencing a period of rapid evolution with new technology creating both exciting opportunities and new challenges. We must continue to stand up for the rights of those creating and investing in music in order to secure its incredibly exciting future”.


Talent agency CAA has appointed Rob Light as Managing Director of its music department. He is one of nine new managing directors appointed as part of a restructured leadership team at the agency, along with a new board. “With our expanded corporate leadership structure and an entire company of the world’s best dealmakers, creative thinkers and career representatives, CAA has never been better positioned to help clients capture the best opportunities and navigate the challenges of today’s media and sports industries”, says CEO Bryan Lourd


Entertainment and culture agency Attachment has hired Kez Withers as Head Of Live. She joins from Universal Music, having previously worked for Attachment in 2018 and 2019. “I have always known that I wanted to work with talent and brands”, she says. “Working as a campaign manager for Attachment at the early stages of my career provided a springboard into that world before developing my career further in the live events space. And now, it’s like I’ve almost come full circle doing something that I am most passionate about - bringing all of those things together. We’re calling it the comeback tour!”


DIGITAL


High quality audio may finally be coming to Spotify as part of a new ‘Music Pro’ add on, which would also give users access to the streaming company’s planned remixing tools, according to The Verge


MEDIA


Mark Goodier is returning to the BBC, becoming the new presenter of Radio 2’s ‘Pick Of The Pops’. He takes over the show following the recent death of Steve Wright. “It’s an honour to host the iconic ‘Pick Of The Pops’, although I wish it were in happier circumstances as I was friends with Steve for almost 40 years”, he says. “I can’t wait to reminisce with Radio 2 listeners as we revisit two years in their lives, playing some of the best records ever made”.


Goodier’s new BBC role means that he is leaving Greatest Hits Radio, which has announced that Martin Kemp, Kate Thornton and Richard Allinson will present new weekend shows for the radio station from 4 May. “It’s always the good times here at Greatest Hits Radio but our new weekend line up is taking that to a whole new level”, says Content Director Andrew Ashton. “We can’t wait for our ever-growing army of listeners to hear these new shows which are going to be appointment radio every Saturday and Sunday”.

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SAG-AFTRA says “clear and conspicuous consent” required for vocal clones as part of “groundbreaking” new agreement with labels

US performer union SAG-AFTRA has announced a new deal with the major record companies that includes some protections for artists and musicians around the use of artificial intelligence, in particular “digital replications” of an artist’s voice. 


A statement from the union explains, “In this agreement, clear and conspicuous consent, along with minimum compensation requirements and specific details of intended use, are required prior to the release of a sound recording that uses a digital replication of an artist’s voice”. 


The SAG-AFTRA Executive Committee last week approved a number of updates to what the union calls its National Code Of Fair Practice For Sound Recordings, which followed negotiations with all three majors and the Disney Music Group. The updated code will now be voted on by the union’s membership. 


As with recent talks between both SAG-AFTRA and the American Federation Of Musicians and the Hollywood studios, new protections relating to AI were a key part of the negotiations.


The new code, says SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, is “a groundbreaking agreement establishing, for the first time, collective bargaining guardrails assuring singers and recording artists ethical and responsible treatment in the use of artificial intelligence in the music industry. It is a testament to our mutual unwavering commitment to work together to safeguard the rights, dignity and creative freedom of our members”. 


In addition to the AI commitments, the new code also includes increased minimum fees, and improvements to contributions to the union’s health and retirement schemes. 


The wider music community is generally united when it comes to the copyright obligations of AI companies using existing music to train generative AI models. Artists and songwriters, as well as record labels and music publishers, all agree that AI companies must get permission before using any existing music, disputing claims made by many US-based tech companies that AI training is ‘fair use’ and therefore no permission is required. 


However, within the music community, artists and writers have also been looking for reassurances from labels and publishers which are negotiating licensing deals with AI businesses. In the UK, the Council Of Music Makers has called on music companies to commit to secure artist and writer consent before including their music in any AI deals. 


The new SAG-AFTRA deal - which is also supported by the Music Artists Coalition, Black Music Action Coalition and Songwriters Of North America - brings some of the reassurances artists have been seeking. 


Says artist manager and MAC founder Irving Azoff, “The music business has historically lagged behind on technological developments. This time - with AI - MAC, BMAC and SONA joined forces with SAG-AFTRA to ensure that artists are protected upfront. This collective bargaining agreement with our label partners is a great first step to make sure artists have creative control and get paid”. 


Speaking for the labels, a statement from the Record Label Negotiating Committee reads, “We are pleased to reach this agreement with SAG-AFTRA and continue our strong partnership as we enter this exciting and fast-moving new era for music and artists. Together, we’ll chart a successful course forward, embracing new opportunities and facing our common challenges, strengthened by our shared values and commitment to human artistry”.

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Twitch “close” to securing major label licensing deals

Twitch is “pretty close” to securing licensing deals with the major record labels, according to CEO Dan Clancy. Although he added that DJs using the platform to stream their sets will have to cover some of the costs incurred by paying royalties to the music industry.


Appearing on the latest edition of Twitch-based podcast TweakMusicTips, Clancy said that the company has been working on a “stable solution” so that DJs using the platform can avoid being hit with takedown notices from the music industry. Twitch is obliged to remove any content containing unlicensed music when made aware of it by a copyright owner to avoid being liable for copyright infringement.


The labels, he said, have stopped issuing takedown notices while negotiations with the music industry are ongoing. This means that - while there are still some issues around unlicensed music in on-demand videos - Twitch gamers are no longer on the receiving end of a flood of takedowns. Instead, where labels “feel someone is abusing things they come and tell us and then we tell the streamer to stop playing music”.


However, the current situation is “not a long-term sustainable thing” and will stop if licensing agreements cannot be reached. Luckily, he added, “we’re pretty close to finalising [deals] with the labels”.


“In the end, we are going to have to share money with the labels; it doesn’t come for free”, he said of those deals, and by “we”, he means Twitch and the DJs using the platform. 


Revealing that he has “already told a number of DJs this”, and noting that “they would rather not have to share some money”, it seems that they won’t have a choice. The plan is that, while Twitch will “pay a portion” of any royalties due, the DJs will have to give up some of the revenue they earn from their videos in order to cover the rest. 


The Amazon-owned livestreaming platform has had a number of run-ins with the music industry in recent years, which in 2020 led to Twitch banning users from including recorded music in their videos at all. 


A number of licensing deals followed, with organisations including Merlin and the US National Music Publishers Association. It also reached limited agreements with Universal Music and Warner Music, covering a handful of artist-specific channels managed by the labels rather than the platform as a whole. 


In a 2021 blog post, Twitch warned users that full licensing deals with the major labels could be a long time coming, and may not come at all. Part of the problem, it said, was that the standard revenue share licensing deals offered to digital platforms “make less sense for Twitch”.


“The vast majority of our creators don’t have recorded music as a part of their streams, and the revenue implications to creators of such a deal are substantial”, the company wrote. “We’re open-minded to new structures that could work for Twitch’s unique service, but we must be clear that they may take some time to materialise or may never happen at all”.


In the new interview, Clancy - who became CEO last year, but has been at Twitch since 2019 - said that music-specific streams on Twitch currently account for a very small percentage of overall views. That may change if and when it is fully licensed, with Clancy noting that Twitch currently doesn’t generally promote DJs on its homepage because of potential issues surrounding the music within their sets.

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Setlist Podcast: MPs want to see action on musicians’ income

In this week's Setlist Podcast: Chris Cooke and Andy Malt discuss the warning from UK politicians that there need to be “tangible steps to improve musicians’ remuneration and performer rights” by this time next year, and Blur drummer Dave Rowntree’s class action lawsuit against PRS For Music over songwriter royalties, and more.


🎧 Click here to listen - or search for 'Setlist Podcast'

Op-ed: Forget AI vocal clones - the real impact of AI in music is personalised discovery

AI is going to hyper-accelerate the shift to personalised discovery of music, by making the existing discovery algorithms of the various platforms much more sophisticated and much more customised to the tastes of individual listeners say Duetti CEO and co-founder Lior Tibon.


At Duetti, our focus on developing sophisticated predictive technology and pricing models means that we are closely monitoring these underlying trends. Coupled with our innovative data-driven track management and marketing tactics, this enables us to purchase older catalogues of tracks from artists of all sizes - knowing that we can help these tracks perform in that new model of discovery. This in turn expands the financing options which are available to artists.

👉 Read Lior's op-ed in full

Universal seeks dismissal from another Diddy lawsuit

Universal Music has submitted a new legal filing with the courts seeking to get itself removed from another lawsuit that accuses Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs of sexual assault. It’s the second Diddy lawsuit that the major has responded to in the last month, having previously requested dismissal from litigation filed by producer Rodney ‘Lil Rod’ Jones Jr


In the new filing, Universal argues that it did not owe a duty of care to Combs’ accuser via its connections with the music mogul and singer Aaron Hall, who is also accused of assault in the same lawsuit. Plus, it insists, this litigation was filed under New York’s Adult Survivors Act, but does not actually qualify to do so.


“Plaintiff alleges that she was sexually assaulted in 1990 by defendants Sean Combs and Aaron Hall during a trip to New York City”, the filing begins. “The complaint’s allegations, if true, are certainly disturbing. But even assuming plaintiff’s claims were timely (which they are not), they have nothing to do with Universal Music Group Recordings”. 


Combs is facing a number of lawsuits accusing him of sexual assault, most filed under New York’s Adult Survivors Act. That was a law that provided a twelve month window in which people could file new legal proceedings relating to past incidents of sexual assault that would normally be prohibited by the statute of limitations. 


The ASA specifically related to claims where a victim was over the age of eighteen at the time of the alleged assault. An earlier law in New York state, the Child Victims Act, had already provided an opportunity for those who were allegedly assaulted when they were under the age of eighteen to circumvent the statute of limitations and file new legal proceedings. 


In its filing, Universal notes that Combs’ accuser says she was sixteen when she was assaulted by both the music mogul and Hall after attending a party held by MCA, the record company that became Universal. Therefore, it goes on, she should have filed her claim under the Child Victims Act, the deadline for which was 14 Aug 2021, more than two years before this lawsuit was filed. 


Even if that wasn’t the case, Universal adds, the claim against the major record company should be dismissed anyway, because it did not employ either Combs or Hall. The lawsuit claims Combs was working for “MCA subsidiary” Uptown Records at the time, but - Universal says - while it invested in and provided services to that label, it never owned it, and therefore did not employ Combs. Hall was signed to MCA via the group Guy, but was also not an employee. 


And even if Combs or Hall had been employees of MCA, Universal reckons the claims against it would still fail, because it could only be held liable for the two men’s actions if they were “committed in furtherance of the employer’s business and were within the scope of the employment”. Which they were not. 


To that end, Universal wants the courts to dismiss all the claims made against it in this particular Diddy lawsuit. Its legal filing concludes, “UMGR respectfully requests that the claims against it be dismissed with prejudice, and any other such relief the court deems appropriate”. 

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