Europe’s songwriters seek to block Sony Music takeover
Competition , Copyright / October 2018

COMPETITION / COPYRIGHT   The European Composer & Songwriter Alliance has joined the increasing clamour urging the  European Commission to block Sony’s plans to take complete control of EMI Music Publishing. The organisation -says that Sony’s proposed deals would “threaten competition in the licensing market, endanger music authors’ revenues across the EU and ultimately jeopardise cultural diversity in the European music landscape”. Other vpices who have argued against the merger include UK songwriter organisation BASCA and pan-European indie music companies trade group IMPALA Under the proposed new deal, Sony would have complete control of the EMI repertoire and could fully merge the Sony/ATV and EMI music publishing businesses into its own, making Sony the biggest music publisher in the world – sitting alongside the second biggest recorded music company, (Sony Music). The ECSA’s President, Alfons Karabuda said: “We believe that allowing such a major and dominant publisher in the market is not only detrimental to a competitive market place but will also lead to a net loss for Europe’s culturally diverse music landscape. If approved, such a deal can only further exacerbate the domination of the top Anglo-American repertoire to the detriment of millions of music authors’ works that are…

EU approves Sony takeover of EMI Music 
Competition / October 2018

COMPETITION   Songwriters and independent music publisher have criticised the decision of the EU’s competition regulators to approve Sony’s deal to take complete ownership of EMI Music Publishing. Sony made no concessions to the European Commission who in turn said the deal “raises no competition concerns”.  Sony will become the world’s biggest music publisher and the World’s second biggest recorded music rights-holder. Sony originally led a consortium of investors to buy EMI Music Publishing in 2012 and  Sony/ATV has been the administrator of the EMI catalogue since then.  Sony is now clear to complete a $2.3bn deal where Sony will buy a further 60% of EMP from the Mubadala Investment Company, adding to the 30% it already owns. A $287.5m deal for the remaining 10% has already been agreed with Michael Jackson’s Estate. The takeover double Sony’s catalogue of songs from 2.16m to 4.21m compositions. Figure from pan-European indie label trade group IMPALA  (who opposed the deal) suggested that once complete, Sony’s catalogue of recordings released or distributed by Sony Music and the song catalogues of Sony/ATV and EMI would give Sony control of over 50% of chart tracks in seven key European markets in 2017. In the UK, Sony had control over an average…

US Congressman calls for Ticketmaster investigation
Competition / October 2018

COMPETITION   Representative  Bill Pascrell, who helped instigate the planned Federal Trade Commission “workshop” to examining live event ticketing which is set for spring of 2019, and who was a critic of the 2010 Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger, has now asked the US Department of Justice to investigate the activities of Ticketmaster in the US. In a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Pascrell highlights “The concentrated market power of Ticketmaster has made it a behemoth with little incentive to protect consumers in the live event industry,” and adding that the “DOJ can, and should, thoroughly investigate and take strong steps to address any and all consent decree violations and anticompetitive practices of Ticketmaster/Live Nation.” The full letter reads: The Hon. Jeff Sessions Attorney General U.S. Department of Justice 950 Pennsylvania Ave NW Washington, DC 20530 Dear Attorney General Sessions: I commend the Department of Justice (DOJ) for opening an investigation into Live Nation’s anticompetitive behavior and write to bring to your attention new investigative reporting and further lines of inquiry. The Canadian Broadcasting Channel (CBC) conducted a new investigation that reveals the ways in which Ticketmaster appears to collude with ticket scalpers to sell higher volumes of tickets on its…

The Viagogo soap opera trundles on
Competition , Consumers , Contract / October 2018

CONTRACT / CONSUMER / COMPETITION   Hardly a day passes without Viagogo hitting the headlines, with news breaking that the Geneva based  secondary ticketing had finally complied with the Advertising Standards Authority’s demands on how it presented pricing information, that Viagogo had pulled out of a planned Culture Select Committee Parliamentary debate on secondary ticketing, that it was moving the firm’s London based business to New York, and that it was itself tacking legal action in Germany against promoter Kilimanjaro Live and its boss Stuart Gailbraith over the promoters decision to cancel thousands of re-sold and touted tickets on a 2017 Ed Sheerhan tour. Viagogo’s usually silent PR department set up a Twitter account to comment on the German litigation, alleging that Kilimanjaro boss “Stuart Galbraith duped Ed Sheeran fans by confiscating thousands of genuine tickets at the gate, forcing fans to buy new tickets and pocketing millions of pounds in duplicate sales”. As a result, it said, it was now suing the promoter “for defrauding thousands of fans out of several million pounds on Ed Sheeran’s recent tour”. The resale firm alleges that Kilimanjaro set up Victims Of Viagogo booths at Sheeran’s shows. This meant it was the fans on the night who…

New York Attorney General faces lawsuits over ticket actions
Competition , Consumers / October 2018

CONSUMER / COMPETITION The acting New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood is facing two lawsuits from the Connecticut based ticketing companies TicketNetwork and Ticket Galaxy in what they say is a response to a “deeply flawed interpretation of New York State Law” on the resale of event tickets. The new Attorney General (NYAG) after she announced plans to sue for millions of dollars to prevent the site listing tickets sellers do not yet own. With both companies saying they have fully co-operated with a two year investigation into the re-sale market by the office of the NYAG,, they are now seeking a declaratory judgement in New York’s Supreme Court regarding the lawful sale of tickets not yet in the seller’s possession. Ticket resale prior to ownership of the ticket is specifically allowed in the state of New York – a two-year extension of the existing law with some revisions that specifically addressed this practice was passed earlier this year and signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. A press release from TicketNetwork reads: “Through this lawsuit, the Company is seeking the Court’s conclusive affirmance for its position that it operates in full compliance with all applicable regulations, and that the NYAG has no basis…

AEG files to dismiss Ozzy’s anti-trust action
Competition , Live Events / August 2018

COMPETITION Live events sector   The almighty spat between O2 owner and promoter AEG, artist Ozzy Osbourne and AEG’s rival Live Nation, which also includes the joint venture between manager Irving Azoff and Madison Square Gardens (MSG) has gone legal, with Ozzy accusing AEG of anti-competitive behaviour.   The case revolves around the reported requirement set by that AEG that links bookings at venues it operates in London and Los Angeles, namely The 21,000 capacity O2 and the similar sized Staples Center, with a number of reports saying that artists wishing to play the former had been told they must also commit to play the latter when in LA, rather than rival Los Angeles venue the Forum, which is run by Azoff-MSG. AEG countered by saying that MSG had started the acrimonious spat by similarly linking bookings at its flagship 20,780 capacity New York venue Madison Square Garden with the 17,500 capacity LA Forum. Live Nation then stirred up the pot by complaining about AEG’s venue linking practices, prompting AEG to counter by asking why LNE hadn’t criticised MSG for their similar approach, before noting that maybe it was because the MSG venues use Live Nation’s Ticketmaster service, saying “Live…

Fender at centre of price fixing claim
Competition / July 2018

COMPETITION Musical instruments and technology   The world-famous guitar maker Fender and four leading keyboard manufacturers are at the centre of a price fixing investigation after “dawn raids” were carried out at their British offices by staff from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). Although the companies have not been officially named, The Sunday Telegraph named the four companies as Yamaha, one of the biggest musical instrument manufacturers in the world, Roland, Korg and Casio. The CMA is investigating alleged anti-competitive agreements in the musical instruments and equipment sector under Chapter I CA98 and Article 101 TFEU. The CMA website states that five separate “initial investigations” have been launched into “suspected breaches of competition law by various parties”. It adds that inquiries “relate to alleged anti-competitive agreements and/or concerted practices in relation to musical instruments and equipment”, adding that it is focusing on “suspected anti-competitive agreements”. However, the CMA stresses that the investigations are “at an early stage and no assumptions should be made that competition law has been infringed”. The inquiry is thought to be focusing on whether any attempt has been made to manipulate sales of musical instruments and pro-audio equipment, the supply of stick and price fixing. It is understood 14…

Viagogo faces criminal action from FIFA

COMPETITION / CRIMINAL Live events sector   World Cup organisers FIFA have filed a criminal complaint in Switzerland against the ticket website Viagogo as part of a crackdown on unauthorised World Cup sales, the latest in a line of legal challenges to the company’s business practices. Last week, a UK government minister urged consumers to boycott Viagogo as National Trading Standards launched an investigation into allegations that it has persistently misled consumers, while the Competition and Markets Authority has separately threatened the company with court action.   Football’s governing body said it has received numerous complaints from individuals, consumer protection bodies and other market players about “opaque and deceptive” Viagogo. The criminal complaint filed on Monday with the public prosecutor’s office in Genevais based on a breach of the law on unfair competition against Viagogo   FIFA is reportedly looking to “prioritise the safety and security of fans and enforce a fair 2018 FIFA World Cup ticketing pricing scheme.” In a statement FIFA said: “FIFA regards the illicit sale and distribution of tickets as a serious issue and views the security implications of the unauthorised transfer and/or resale of tickets as being of paramount importance” “In light of the above, we encourage fans…

BMI hail 100% licensing win

COPYRIGHT / COMPETITION Music publishing, collection societies   The head  of American collecting society BMI has written an opinion piece for Billboard hailing what he says is a victory in the log running 100% licensing dispute as a deadline is passed with no appeal from the Department of Justice who had fought the USA’s four  music collection societies, by BMI, ASCAP, GMR and SESAC, challenging the convention that anyone wishing to broadcast or perform a work that was co-written and also administered by different societies must have a licence from all relevant societies, and pay royalties to each, pro-rata according to what percentage it controls. When the US Department Of Justice reviewed the consent decrees that govern BMI and ASCAP in 2016, it announced that the two big American collecting societies were obliged to operate a so called ‘100% licensing system’. Both BMI and ASCAP objected to the DoJ’s new interpretation of the rules, the former fighting the ruling in the courts, the latter lobbying against it in US Congress. BMI’s pro-fractional licensing position was then endorsed by the courts and just before Christmas last year an appeals court upheld the original judgement upholding the fractional licensing system. The DoJ could have pursued…

Coachella’s ‘radius clause’ is challenged
Competition , Live Events / May 2018

COMPETITION Live events sector   COMPETITION: The promoters of an Oregon music festival have filed an anti-trust lawsuit against Coachella Music Festival and its organizers, alleging that Coachella’s parent company uses its market clout to unfairly restricts artists from performing at other festivals. The suit, filed in Portland’s United State District Court on Monday, was brought by Soul’d Out Productions, LLC, and names Anschutz Entertainment Group, The Anschutz Corporation, Goldenvoice, AEG Presents and the Coachella as defendants. At the heart of this are the so called “radius clauses” which are included in contracts for artistes booked to appear at Coachella. These prevents acts performing at Coachella that year from playing venues in California, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington from December 15, 2017 until May 7, 2018. “Such a clause has a substantial chilling effect on the market for music venues within the territory covered by the radius clause,” the complaint says and prevents acts booked at Coachella from performing at “any other festival or themed event within a distance that extends over 1,300 miles” and that this amounts to anti-competitive behaviour on the part of organisers. Billboard reports that Soul’d Out, a niche soul and R&B festival, attempted to sign…

Viagogo faces more problems in the UK market

CONSUMER / COMPETITION Live events sector   The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has indicated that it will take action against Viagogo, the online secondary ticketing site. CMA announced last year that it has secondary ticketing sites in is sights. That was last year, and this week the CMA has stated that a number of secondary ticketing sites, namely StubHub, GetMeIn! and Seatwave had updated their policies to ensure that seat numbers and seller’s identity will be provided and will even include ‘health warnings’ about the possibility of event promoters cancelling tickets sold without permission and in breach of terms on the secondary market. Not so Viagogo.   The executive director for enforcement of the CMA, Michael Grenfell, said “We welcome the changes already made and new commitments we’ve been given by StubHub, Seatwave and GetMeIn! to improve the information on offer, so that people can better judge whether they’re getting a good deal”… “But all secondary ticketing websites must play by the rules and treat their customers fairly if anything goes wrong. We take failure to comply with consumer protection law very seriously”.   Switzerland based Viagogo has not been compliant with the CMA’s requests. In fact, Grenfall explained “So far…

Viagogo fined one million Euros by Italian competition regulator

CONSUMER/COMPETITION Live events sector   Viagogo has been fined one million Euros by the Italian competition (antitrust) agency, AGCM, for failling to comply with instructions issued by the agency in April 2017. At the time, Viagogo and three other resale sites were fined a collective €700,000 for failing to provide complete ticket information to consumers   According to Pollstar, AGCM found that Viagogo misled customers by not making original ticket prices and the location of seats sold easily known in violation of articles 20, 21 and 22 of the Italian consumer code. AGCM told Viagogo to fix the discrepancy within sixty days, and the resale site agreed to indicate the face value price and seat number on its platform.   This it seems Viagogo have not done so, and AGCM says that it has received numerous complaints from both consumers and consumer associates about the site’s failure to rectify this situation. AGCM has now imposed a fine of one million Euros on the company. Viagogo can appeal the decision to the Lazio Regional Administrative Court in Rome.   Although a set back for Viagogo, they may yet prevail: CTS Eventim’s TicketOne recently successfully appealed a €1m fine in Italy, for allegedly passing…

SABAM’s tariff hike ruled illegal
Competition , Live Events / May 2018

COMPETITION Live events sector   SABAM’s unilateral move to raise live music concert tariffs in Belgium last year has been ruled to constitute unfair commercial practices by a Brussels court A coalition of Belgian festival and concert promoters filed a lawsuit against Sabam (Société d’Auteurs Belge/Belgische Auteurs Maatschappij), Belgium’s performance rights organisation, last May after tariffs were increased across the board, with the largest festivals seeing their payments to Sabam increase 30%. The tariffs were imposed by Sabam from the 1st January 2017 after negotiations with live sector and industry groups failed. The new tariff also  went beyond Box Office revenues to include sponsorship and subsidies as relevant revenues for the tariffs, “when these revenues are clearly related to the event”. Jan Vereecke of Night of Proms promoter PSE, who brought the suit along with Live Nation Belgium/Rock Werchter, Pukkelpop and GraciaLive, the unilateral move saw Sabam “simply abusing its monopoly” while “offering no additional services in exchange for the price increase”. The Commercial Court of Brussels (Tribunal de Commerce de Bruxelles) found the PRO “guilty of unfair commercial practices by significantly increasing festival fees (up to 37%)”.  Sabam has been ordered to pay a fine of €5,000 for each day the newly…

BMI hail 100% licensing win
Competition , Copyright / April 2018

COPYRIGHT / COMPETITION Music publishing, collection societies   The head  of American collecting society BMI has written an opinion piece for Billboard hailing what he says is a victory in the log running 100% licensing dispute as a deadline is passed with no appeal from the Department of Justice who had fought the USA’s four  music collection societies, by BMI, ASCAP, GMR and SESAC, challenging the convention that anyone wishing to broadcast or perform a work that was co-written and also administered by different societies must have a licence from all relevant societies, and pay royalties to each, pro-rata according to what percentage it controls. When the US Department Of Justice reviewed the consent decrees that govern BMI and ASCAP in 2016, it announced that the two big American collecting societies were obliged to operate a so called ‘100% licensing system’. Both BMI and ASCAP objected to the DoJ’s new interpretation of the rules, the former fighting the ruling in the courts, the latter lobbying against it in US Congress. BMI’s pro-fractional licensing position was then endorsed by the courts and just before Christmas last year an appeals court upheld the original judgement upholding the fractional licensing system. The DoJ could have pursued…

ASA clamps down on the secondary ticketing platforms
Competition , Consumers / April 2018

CONSUMER / COMPETITION Live events sector   The UK’s four main secondary ticketing agencies have been banned from using certain “misleading” price strategies. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said they had not been clear enough about extra fees added at the end of the booking. The four largest sites are Get Me In, Viagogo, StubHub and Seatwave. The action, comes after widespread concern from consumers, some politcians and industry groups such as the Fanfair Alliance, and seeks to ensure that advertisers are upfront about booking and delivery fees at the end of the process, which can drastically affected pricing. The ASA have also demanded that Viagogo stops using the words “official site” and “100% Guarantee” as it could not guarantee entry. . Concert promoters may use contract terms in the sale of tickets to cancel touted tickets meaning tickets bought on Viagogo could not guarantee entry. The ASA’s chief executive, Guy Parker, said: “Many of us will recognise the frustration of being happy with the initial price of tickets on a secondary website only to be stung by hefty fees when we come to book” and “The message from our rulings is simple and it’s clear: The price you see at the start should be the…

New UK rules introduced to protect consumers against ticket touting
Competition , Consumers / March 2018

CONSUMER / COMPETITION Live events sector   The UK’s Consumer Minister Andrew Griffiths has announced the implementation of a number of new rules to regulate the online secondary ticketing marketplace, although readers of this blog will note that some of these are already law, coming into force after amendments were made to the 2015 Consumer Rights Act by MPs Sharon Hodgson and Mike Weatherley. That Act also instigated the Waterson Report on the ticketing marketplace.  In a statement the Department For Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy said: “Fans of live events are set to benefit from new rules which will demand more information from sellers on secondary ticket websites. Under the new rules, which will come into force in April 2018, ticket resellers will be required to provide purchasers with additional detailed information about tickets including the location of seats, disclosure of any restrictions and the original price of the ticket itself”. However, Griffiths’s announcement does provide some clarity on exactly what ticket restrictions must be declared when a tout is touting. Also, there is a new obligation to provide the unique ticket number (UTN) of any ticket being resold where it is numbered (meaning a show promoter could cancel that ticket if…

Will Australia ban secondary ticketing?
Competition , Consumers , Live Events / March 2018

CONSUMER / COMPETITION Live events sector   Following on from the introduction of tough anti-touting laws in the state of New South Wales last year, Australia’s federal government is considering a nationwide ban on the re-sale of tickets in some circumstances.   According to Australia’s Daily Telegraph, the country’s government is considering five possible options to legislate in the market for the resale of tickets. One of those options is to completely outlaw the re-selling of tickets by anyone other than primary outlets.   The government’s Assistant Minister to the Treasurer, Michael Sukkar, told the newspaper that the aim of any proposed legislation would be to benefit consumers, saying: “I expect consumers should always get a fair deal when purchasing tickets for events and to access all available tickets on the market. While we are still working to properly address these problems, Australians can be assured that we will do all that is necessary to protect them from any unfair or unscrupulous practices”.   In October last year, the New South Wales government passed an amendment to its Fair Trading Act, banning the selling of tickets at anything more than 10% of their face value. Substantial fines were put in place as…

New UK anti-bot ticketing legislation
Competition , Live Events / February 2018

COMPETITION / CONSUMER Live events sector   The UK Government has unveiled new legislation aimed at preventing ticket touts from using so called ‘bots’ to bulk buy tickets. The new measure will be a new criminal offence contained in the Digital Economy Act, and touts who use automated software to harvest tickets to sell on at inflated prices, in effect circumventing limits on maximum ticket purchases set by event organisers and vars on the subsequent re-sale of tickets, will face unlimited fines. Matt Hancock, the UK’s minister for the creative industries, said: “We’re determined to make sure 2018 is the year we help real fans get the chance to see their favourite music and sports stars at a fair price. We’ll be acting to stamp out the growing problem of touts misusing technology to scoop up vast numbers of tickets only to sell them on at rip-off prices” adding “Our work, together with improvements by industry, will help make the market more transparent and mean a great year for Britain’s thriving live events scene.” The UK Government has now notified the European Commission of its plans to take forward the proposals, a move that comes as part of a crackdown to tackle misuse of…

Live Nation settles damaging ‘Songkick’ litigation
Competition , Live Events / February 2018

COMPETITION Live events sector   Live Nation has announced that it had come to a settlement agreement with Complete Entertainment Resources Group, Inc in the ‘Songkick’ saga.  The Songkick owners have accepted a settlement  before the case was due in court on the 24th of this month in what had looked like a fascinating case, and a ‘warts and all’ exploration of the live giant’s business methods. The settlement headlines are that Songkick have accepted the offer of $110 million and the purchase of Songkick assets for an undisclosed sum.  Songkick, which offered both a music discovery app and a fan club ticketing platform, sued Live Nation alleging anti-competitive practices and illegal access to proprietary company information in federal court, in particular Songkick’s software programme which offered a fan base sales platform and on which Ticketmaster’s “Verified Fan” programme allegedly based. The core of the case centered around a former Crowdsurge employee who allegedly used access to the company’s system to provide confidential information to Ticketmaster’s top executives on their competitor. As details of the case began to become public, evidence submitted by Songkick’s legal team was used to support the theory that Ticketmaster took the threat posed by the Songkick/Crowdsurge model very seriously indeed,…

Ticketmaster faces Canadian action against over hidden price hikes
Competition , Consumers , Live Events / February 2018

CONSUMER / COMPETITION Live events sector   Live Nation’s Ticketmaster is facing legal action from Canada’s Competition Bureau, which has announced that it is taking action against the entertainment giant for allegedly misleading consumers on the pricing for sports and other ticketed events after an investigation found that advertised prices were deceptive because consumers would be forced to pay additional fees which are added later in the purchasing process, which is referred to as “drip pricing.” An investigation found that Ticketmaster’s fees often inflated the prices of a ticket by more than 20 percent, although in some instances this went up to 65 percent of the price consumers pay. The Competition Bureau has requested the Competition Tribunal put an end to the deceptive marketing practices and subject the Live Nation-owned company to a financial penalty. Commissioner of Competition John Pecman said in a statement: “In July, we called on ticket vendors to review their marketing practices. Today, we are filing an application with the [Competition] Tribunal to stop Ticketmaster from making deceptive claims to consumers” adding “Together, these actions send a strong signal to online retailers: consumers must have confidence that advertised prices are the ones they will pay.”  In response, Ticketmaster issued a…

RMLC’s anti-trust suit against GMR dismissed in Pennsylvania
Competition , Music Publishing / January 2018

COMPETITION Broadcasting, music publishing   A federal magistrate judge has recommended that a lawsuit filed by the Radio Music License Committee against Global Music Rights should be dismissed, concluding it was improperly filed in the state of Pennsylvania. U.S. Magistrate Judge Lynne Sitarski of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania rejected arguments advanced by RMLC for filing the antitrust suit in Pennsylvania, a state where neither the plaintoff or the defendant had offices or employees, where no relevant songwriters or publishers live, and where no relevant meetings or business have ever taken place. Magistrate Judge Sitarski stated “There is no basis in fact or law to assert personal jurisdiction over GMR in Pennsylvania and therefore, venue in this judicial district is improper” concluding that the RMLC suit was filed in Pennsylvania solely for tactical advantage. Magistrate Judge Sitarski recognized that Global Music Rights’ home state is California, where the company has filed its own antitrust suit alleging that the RMLC’s 10,000 member stations are conspiring to suppress payments to Global Music Rights’ songwriters. Global Music Rights describes itself as a music rights management company focused on licensing, surveying and distributing public performance royalties to songwriters, composers and publishers who “represent today’s…

CTS to appeal competition rulings
Competition , Live Events / January 2018

COMPETITION Live events sector   CTS Eventim is to appeal the decision by the German Federal Cartel Office (Bundeskartellamt) which prohibits the Munich-based ticketing giant, the market leader in ticketing in Germany with a 50–70% marketshare in Germany, of requiring partners to “only sell tickets exclusively or to a considerable extent via CTS’s eventim.net ticket sales system” – something it claims is an abuse of the company’s dominant market position. The Bundeskartellamt said that these “abusive exclusivity contracts with event organisers and advance booking offices” are shutting out competing ticketing companies and “encouraging a general trends towards further monopolisation” in Germany. Under the regulator’s decision, Eventim partners must have the option of selling at least 20% of their inventory annually via other ticket agencies, if their deal with the company is longer than two years. CTS has been given four months to comply with the ruling. Andreas Mundt, president of the Bundeskartellamt, said: “As the operator of the largest ticketing system in Germany, CTS Eventim holds a dominant position in the market. Under competition law, a company with such a market position has special obligations …. Where CTS Eventim commits its contract partners to sell tickets exclusively via its own ticketing system, the…

Multiple moves against the ticket touts
Competition , Consumers , Live Events / January 2018

COMPETITION / CONSUMER Live events sector   In August, the Vienna Commercial Court found that the fees on tickets sold via CTS’s oeticket website, which charges €2.50 for ‘print @ home’ and mobile tickets and €1.90 for those picked up from branches of Libro or oeticket’s own box offices fell foul of Austrian law. Now the Higher Regional Court of Vienna (Oberlandesgericht Wien, OLG) has also ruled against Eventim. VKI said that the OLG took particular exception to the fact oeticket does not offer a fee-free delivery option, leaving the consumer with no option but to pay them. And British consumer protection body National Trading Standards has made four arrests as part of its investigation into the business activities of large-scale secondary ticket sellers in the UK. In a separate investigation, the Competition and Markets Authority raided the London offices of StubHub and Viagogo. The new arrests are linked to alleged breaches of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 which introduce a general prohibition against unfair commercial practices, specific prohibitions against misleading and aggressive practices and a blacklist of 31 practices that will be deemed unfair in all circumstances.    A National Trading Standards statement said “Officers from National Trading Standards conducted raids at a number of…

Spotify and Deezer call for a level European playing field with the American tech giants
Competition , Internet / January 2018

COMPETITON Internet   Spotify and Deezer have urged European legislators to ensure that the globally dominant giant US technology companies (primarily Apple, Amazon and Google) don’t abuse their position as gatekeepers to digital consumers, not least as all three tech giants make and operate devices, control transaction platforms and content services, and many feel they utilise the first two to promote the latter – and that might be unfair to streaming platforms like Spotify and Deezer – big in their sector, but dwarfed by the likes of Google.  The Financial Times reported that Spotify chief Daniel Ek and Deezer CEO Hans-Holger Albrecht  have now sent a letter to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, urging the European Union to ensure “a level playing field” which would prevent American tech giants from “regularly abusing their advantaged position”. The letter, also signed the gaming sector, has been sent the EC because the EC is actively considering new rules for how big tech companies work with smaller firms whose digital tools and services are sold and/or distributed via the former’s platforms. Both Spotify and Deezer put their names to a similar letter back in May. Spotify and Deezer are upset that Apple takes a 30 percent cut…

CTS Eventim’s acquisition of Four Artists blocked
Competition , Consumers , Live Events / December 2017

COMPETITION / CONSUMER Live events sector   Germany’s competition regulator has blocked CTS Eventim from acquiring Berlin-based booking agency Four Artists, citing concerns about the ticketing firm’s dominance in the country’s live industry. Among the artists represented by Four Artists are David Guetta, James Blunt, Chase & Status and Best Coast. Andreas Mundt, the President of Germany’s Federal Cartel Office (Bundeskartellamt) , said: “CTS Eventim is already the market leader in Germany and by far the largest ticket system. In addition, it has already integrated various tour operators into its group structure in the past” adding that the Four Artists acquisition “would strengthen CTS’s existing dominant position [in the ticketing market] thereby significantly hindering effective competition in the affected markets” explaining that “With Four Artists, CTS Eventim would integrate a major event organiser into its group, locking additional ticket allocations of between 500,000 and one million tickets per year to its own system”, it went on. “The expansion possibilities for competing ticket system providers would thereby be weakened”. The Bundeskartellamt said the CTS Eventim system distributes 60 to 70 per cent of all tickets sold in Germany via its systems. In contrast, most other providers are much smaller, and “in part…

CMA to take action over secondary ticketing abuses
Competition , Consumers , Live Events / December 2017

COMPETITION / CONSUMER Live events sector   Hot on the back of news that Google is updating its rules on how ticket-resellers can advertise on its search engine, meaning secondary ticketing platforms globally will have to be certified with Google before they can advertise using its AdWords platform (in turn promoting greater transparency), comes the announcement that the UK’s Competition And Markets Authority (CMA) will take enforcement action against secondary ticketing websites suspected of breaking consumer protection law following a long-running investigation – through the courts, if necessary. The CMA said it has gathered evidence, which it considers reveals breaches of the law, and identified “widespread concerns” about the information consumers are given. The CMA launched an “enforcement investigation” into secondary ticketing in December 2016. The CMA then said that it intended to “consider whether, in its view, both the businesses selling tickets and the secondary ticketing platforms advertising them are failing to provide the full range of information in breach of the law and, if so, take enforcement action”, responding to claims that the major re-sale platforms were ignoring transparency obligations laid out in the Consumer Rights Act 2015. These include stating the face value of the tickets being sold, information on the…

The UK’s competition regulator approves Live Nations takeover of the Isle of Wight Festival
Competition , Live Events / October 2017

COMPETITION Live events sector   The UK’s Competition & Markets Authority has approved Live Nation’s acquisition of the Isle of Wight Festival, concluding that the live giant’s latest expansion of its festival portfolio does not raise any competition issues. The deal was concluded through the LNE-Gaiety joint venture between Denis Desmond’s Gaiety and Live Nation. Desmond is also non-executive Chairman of LNE.    Prior to the decision, the UK’s festival trade association, the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) had written to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) urging the CMA to widen its investigation into the acquisition of Isle of Wight Festival to include an inquiry into global promoter’s “position in the [UK] market overall”. AIF published a report that showed that Live Nation either owns or holds a majority stake in nearly a quarter (23%) of all UK events with a capacity of over 5,000. In total, Live Nation controls 28 UK festivals, including eight of Britain’s largest outdoor events (Download, V Festival, Reading/Leeds, Parklife, Creamfields, Lovebox and Wilderness) but  whilst this excludes Glastonbury, it is almost three times more than its nearest competitor, Global, which AIF says has a  8% marketshare. Rival AEG promotes the 65,000 capacity British…

Viagogo faces Australian investigation
Competition , Live Events / September 2017

COMPETITION / CONSUMER Live events sector    The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission has begun legal proceedings against the secondary ticketing website Viagogo, accusing the controversial ticket resale platform of making false or misleading representations, and of engaging in misleading or deceptive conduct, joining a number of actions that Viagogo is facing in different countries around the globe.   In the UK, Viagogo has faced growing complaints, not least because it re-sold tickets for the Teenage Cancer Trust charity concert, because not one representative of the now Swiss based company turned up for the investigation into ticketing by the Parliamentary Culture Select Committee despite Viagogo having a UK office, and has faced a furious backlash from consumers, most noticeably from the Victims Of Viagogo campaign on Facebook.   The ACCC is claiming in the filing with the Australian Federal Court that the secondary ticketing company breached Australian consumer rights law between 1st May and 26th June this year. Among the specific complaints made by the ACCC are that:  Viagogo failed to disclose upfront significant booking fees, estimating that these average 27.6% for most events; that it misled consumers about ticket availability by making statements like “less than 1% of tickets…

Ticket touts and secondary re-sellers face increased scrutiny across Europe
Competition , Live Events / September 2017

COMPETITION / CONSUMER Live events sector   Spain and Italy are taking the lead on clamping down on ticket touting and some of the less savoury activities of some players in the secondary ticketing market, and now some of the biggest ticketing companies and concert promoters in Spain and Italy are facing prosecution.   In Milan, state prosecutor Adriano Scudieri has accused promoters Di and Gi, Live Nation and Vivo of misleading consumers the actual reality of a ‘sell out’ for some shows – panicking fans into hasty purchases at over inflated tickets prices for shows they were told were about to sell-out. Scudueri also claims that a number of companies signed “hidden agreements” with secondary ticketing site Viagogo to supply tickets to Viagogo from the primary market for sale at “unreasonably” high prices, netting €1.4 million in the process.   The State Prosecutor has announced that there will be two charges brought against the secondary ticketing companies.  The first will be for defrauding the State of 1.4 Million Euros, as a result of artificial price-rigging. The companies have further been accused of conspiring against the Italian music collection society, SIAE, and will be charged with defrauding the State of 150,000…

Potential sale of Isle of Wight Festival opens up competition issues
Competition , Live Events / September 2017

COMPETITION Live events sector   The UK’s festivals trade association, the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) has written to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) urging the CMA to widen its investigation into Live Nation’s acquisition of Isle of Wight Festival to include an inquiry into US promoter’s “position in the [UK] market overall”. The 60 festival strong group made the recommendation after publishing research that showed that Live Nation either owns or holds a majority stake in nearly a quarter (23%) of all UK events with a capacity of over 5,000. In total, Live Nation controls 28 UK festivals, including eight of Britain’s largest outdoor events (Download, V Festival, Reading/Leeds, Parklife, Creamfields, Lovebox and Wilderness) and whilst this excludes Glastonbury, it is almost three times more than its nearest competitor, Global, which AIF says has a  8% marketshare. Rival AEG promotes the 65,000 capacity British Summer Time shows in London’s Hyde Park. Live Nation has divisions operating in tour and festival promotion, venue management, primary and secondary ticketing, and artist management, and continues to be acquisitive, not least in the UK where it has bought into a number of touring, festival and venue companies in recent years. AIF’s general manager, Paul Reed,…

Ed Sheeran takes on the touts
Competition , Live Events / August 2017

COMPETITION Live events sector   The promoters of Ed Sheeran’s UK 2018 stadium tour have cancelled up to 10,000 touted tickets to put back into the primary market.  Kilimanjaro, DHP Family and AEG Presents confirmed in a statement  that they were cancelling any touted tickets to the sold out stadium shows. The promoters told fans to only buy tickets from primary sellers or their approved secondary site, resale platform Twickets which re-sells at face value.  Viagogo was targeted by Sheerhan’s team after eBay’s StubHub and Live Nation’s Seatwave and Get Me In! agreed to the musician’s request to block touted tickets.   The promoters statement reads:  “[We] and Ed Sheeran’s team worked closely together in advance of the on-sale date to put in place measures designed to protect fans from profiteering companies”. Noting that “most profiteering companies heeded the promoters’ warnings not to trade and resell tickets that would instantly be cancelled”, the statement adds: “This has resulted in 90% of tickets being delivered directly into fans’ hands at the face value” and “Despite these efforts, it has become clear that one company, Viagogo, have ignored the promoters’ requests, and there is an increasing number of customers who are realising they…

GMR and RMLC square up to each other in the US courts

COMPETITION / COPYRIGHT Broadcasting, music publishing   Irving Azoff’s performing rights organisation Global Music Rights has a small catalogue of songwriters when compared to the two US giants,  ASCAP and BMI, but it is certainly not insubstantial,  with songwriter clients including the Eagle’s Don Henley and Glenn Frey, Billy Idol, Jon Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, Drake, Bruno Mars, Bryan Adams, Cathy Dennis, Drake, Don Henley, Ira Gershwin, John Lennon, Pharrell Williams, Boz Scaggs and Smokey Robinson, and music publisher clients including Prince, Imagen Global Music and Universal Television Global Music.    GMR is now squaring up to its latest battle with America’s Radio Music License Committee (RMLC): The radio industry’s RMLC, which has iHeart, CBS, Cox Media and Entercom amongst its members, is now seeking an injunction to force GMR to provide interim licences to radio stations in Pennsylvania.   BMI and ASCAP are regulated by the US Department Of Justice under the so called ‘consent decrees’ which are designed to mitigate competition concerns from ASCAP and BMI’s monopoly position, and provide a mechanism for settling disputes when the PROs cannot agree licence terms with licensees. The final of the four US PROs, SESAC, is not regulated by consent decree, but allows third party mediation on royalty…

One for the scalpers! Connecticut prohibits ticket resale restrictions
Competition , Contract , Live Events / July 2017

CONTRACT / COMPETITION Live events sector   Much to the dismay of those who are fighting back against ticket touts and scalpers, but in a move billed as “protecting consumers who purchase e-tickets”, the US state of Connecticut has passed legislation that will to prohibit terms that restrict the sale of non-transferable paperless tickets. Whilst a growing number of major artists, including, prominently, Iron Maiden, now use named electronic tickets which usually require proof of ID to enter the venue to clamp down on the rapidly escalating secondary ticketing industry (which regularly harvests large quantities of tickets before real fans can get their hands on them, forcing them to pay inflated prices to the scalpers), Connecticut House Bill 7114 (HB 7114) has been passed to block these moves and remove restrictions on the sale of entertainment event tickets on the secondary market. The Act has been signed into law by Governor Dan Malloy and outlaws the practice unless “the purchaser of such tickets is offered the option, at the time of initial sale, to purchase the same tickets in another form that is transferrable”. The new legislation also prohibits venues from denying admission “solely on the grounds that such ticket has been…

Belgian live industry go to court over the Sabam rate hike

COMPETITION  / COPYRIGHT Live events sector, collection societies   The live sector in Belgian including the Rock Werchter, Pukkelpop and Night Of The Proms, festivals and tour promoter GraciaLive are heading to court with the  country’s performing rights organisation Sabam over the new royalty rates introduced at the start of the year by the PRO. Sabam justified the recent changes to the live event tariffs to bring Belgium more in line with royalties charged elsewhere in Europe.  Jan Vereecke of Night Of The Proms promoter PSE told HLN: “Sabam has unilaterally decided to increase its tariffs by 30%. It says this is based on what is charged by societies in neighbouring countries, but the rate increase is a simple abuse of monopoly”, adding “Actually, the whole system is outdated. Sabam takes a percentage of our ticket sales. But the shows of today are different than ten years ago, as staging, large screens, fireworks and such like become more common. These production elements increase the costs of the show, and therefore the cost of the ticket, and Sabam gets to skim more off the top. That is wrong”.   And in the USA, the ongoing issues around a planned move to ‘100%…

Cross party support to make US radio ‘pay to play’
Competition , Copyright / May 2017

COPYRIGHT / COMPETITION Broadcasting, recorded music   A bipartisan group of legislators led by Representatives Jerry Nadler and Marsha Blackburn have reintroduced the Fair Play Fair Pay Act, a bill that would establish a public performance right for sound recordings on terrestrial radio, forcing stations to pay labels and artists for using their material, and correct the unusual position in the USA where there is no performance right for sound recordings on AM/FM stations (although there is for satellite and internet radio, and those royalties are collected by the collection society SoundExchange).  If the bill passes, and is signed into law by President Trump, it would put webcasters like Pandora and iHeartRadio, which pay statutory royalties for their online radio platforms, on an equal footing with AM/FM radio, who would have to reimburse the owners of sound recordings for using their copyrights.  Members of Congress say the bill will not be used to lower royalties that radio stations now pay to publishers and songwriters, which stations have always paid for the use of their songs.  The legislators also say the bill will “make a clear statement that pre-1972 recordings have value and those who are profiting from them must pay appropriate…

Italian ticketers hit with €1.7m in fines
Competition , Live Events / May 2017

COMPETITION Live events sector   The Italian Competition Authority (AGCM) has levied fines totalling €1.7 million on five ticket agencies for breaching consumer rights legislation AGCM’s investigation dates back to October, when consumer group Altroconsumo asked the quango to look into allegations primary seller TicketOne was passing tickets directly to the secondary market. It found that while TicketOne, owned by Germany’s CTS Eventim, is “contractually bound to adopt anti-touting measures, [it] did not take appropriate steps to prevent bulk buying through specialist software, nor has it tried to limit multiple purchases or set up a system of ex-post controls to cancel them”.   For violating article 20(2) of the Italian Consumer Code, TicketOne has been fined €1m. Additionally, four secondary ticketing sites – Viagogo, MyWayTicket, Live Nation’s Seatwave and eBay/StubHub’s Ticketbis – have been hit with a collective €700,000 fine for their failure to provide complete ticket information to customers “concerning several essential elements which potential buyers need to make their transactional decisions”. “In particular, the traders would not provide adequate information concerning the ticket features, including their face value, the row and the seat, as well as consumer rights in case of the event’s cancellation,” reads a statement from AGCM….

Isle of Wight festival sale in the spotlight
Competition , Live Events / May 2017

COMPETITION Live events sector   The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority is to investigate the recently announced acquisition of  the Isle of Wight Festival by Live Nation. The CMA said  it was: “considering, pursuant to section 22 of the [2002 Enterprise] Act”, whether the merger of Isle of Wight Festival Ltd and Live Nation/Denis Desmond’s LN-Gaiety Holdings Ltd “has resulted or may be expected to result in a substantial lessening of competition in any market or markets in the United Kingdom”. The live music major has expanded its UK festivals portfolio considerably in recent years, mainly via LN-Gaiety, its joint venture with Irish music industry veteran Denis Desmond, who now heads up Live Nation’s UK operation. LNE owns festivals including Creamfields, Dowlnload and Wireless in the UK and subsidiary Festival Republic runs the Reading, Leeds and Lattitude festivals and over 85 festivas worldwide.    LNE describes itself as “the largest live entertainment company, operates concert promotions, venue operations, sponsorship, ticketing solutions The CMA says the two companies are currently prohibited from taking any actions which may “lead to the integration of the Isle of Wight Festival business with the Live Nation business” or “transfer the ownership or control of the Live Nation…

Irish MP launches anti touting Bill
Competition , Consumers , Live Events / February 2017

CONSUMER / COMPETITION Live events sector   Two months after Italy’s landmark legislation which criminalised ticket touting in Italy, an Irish MP has introduced a similar bill – the Prohibition of Above-Cost Ticket Touting Bill 2016 – for consideration by the Oireachtas in the Republic of Ireland. The ,move comes after the widespread re-sale of tickets for U2’s Joshua Tree tour, and the bill is authored by Noel Rock TD and seeks to outlaw above-face value resale in the Irish republic and would, if passed, “render it unlawful for any unauthorised person to sell or offer for sale tickets for major sporting, musical or theatrical events for a price in excess of the officially designated price [face value]”.   The bill has won the backing of a number of other members of Oireachtas, including Stephen Donnelly TD, who has separately contacted the Irish Competition and Consumer Protection to ask for an “investigation into potentially illegal activity” by ticket touts. Rock said: “I have been inundated with people contacting me regarding examples of ticket touting following the sale of U2 concert tickets ” adding “This will be one of the biggest concerts of the year and consumers are now being asked to pay a…

US and UK move against ticketing touts
Competition , Consumers , Live Events / January 2017

CONSUMER – COMPETITION Live events sector   In the USA, anti-touting legislation has primarluly been governed by state level legislation – New York recently banned the use of the so called ‘bots ‘– software that enables ticket touts to buy up large quantities of tickets from primary sites – so that using such technology could result in criminal sanctions including imprisonment. But lawmakers in Washington have been increasingly talking about ‘banning the bots’ and this has resulted in the  ‘Better Online Ticket Sales Act’ (The ‘BOTS’ Act) which means that the use of tout bots will be defined as an “unfair and deceptive practice” under the Federal Trade Commission Act, a move which will empower the FTC to pursue cases against people using such technology. The Act received Congressional approval earlier this month, and now President Obama has approved to the legislation and his office said the new US-wide measure would “prohibit the circumvention of control measures used by internet ticket sellers to ensure equitable consumer access to tickets for certain events”. Live Nation’s Ticketmaster was quick to welcome the passing of the BOTS Act saying: “On behalf of artists, venues, teams, and especially fans, Ticketmaster is pleased that the BOTS Act…

US radio industry accuses Global Music Rights of monopoly abuse
Competition , Live Events / December 2016

COMPETITON / ANTI TRUST Live events sector   America’s newest performing rights organisation Global Music Rights (GMR) is facing a law suit brought by the US radio industry in a move to force the rights agency to submit to independent arbitration to set the rates broadcasters must pay to play the songs it represents In the US, the big two collecting societies representing the performing right in compositions (ASCAP and BMI) are regulated by so called ‘consent decrees’ which are in themselves somewhat controversial. However, there are also two other smaller performing rights organisations in the US – SESAC and the much newer Global Music Rights – which sit outside the consent decrees, arguably giving those organisations much more flexibility. And GMR has some impressive clients naming The Eagles, Pharrell Williams, Boston, Foreigner, John Lennon, Smokey Robinson, Chris Cornell, and George and Ira Gershwin amongst its performing right clients. GMR was founded by artist manager Irving Azoff in 2014. Confirming its litigation last week, the RMLC said: “GMR, a public-performance-right licensing agency, is distinguished from ASCAP and BMI, in particular, in that it is a privately-held, for-profit firm that has created a bottleneck to, and artificial monopoly over, the works…

Live Nation sued over US booking fees
Competition , Live Events / November 2016

COMPETITION Live events sector   A New York man is suing Live Nation over its practice of charging booking fees on tickets, accusing the promoter and its ticketing companies of violating the Truth in Lending Act by “advertising one price for a ticket and then charging a higher price when people arrive at the box office”.   David Himber, of West Hempstead, had complained that the price for an advertised $49.50 ticket to Rascal Flatts’ show at the Jones Beach Theater (15,000-cap.) was actually $55.50 and his lawyer told the New York Daily News that “The advertised price is available to nobody”.   In Himber v. Live Nation Worldwide, Inc. et al, Himber is seeking to have Live Nation to refund the fees (including his $6) and pay statutory damages of $50 per ticket and $500 per purchase to all Live Nation box-office customers from the last three years.   Himber has filed three previous lawsuits in the Long Island federal court, although his lawyer Abraham Kleinman told the Daily News that his client wasn’t a prolific litigant. “Mr Himber successfully prosecuted his case against the Automobile Club of New York which displayed too much of his credit card information…

APA take on Gersh over ‘poaching’ of agent
Competition , Contract , Live Events / October 2016

CONTRACT / COMPETITION Live events sector   Two US booking agencies are battling it out in the Superior Court of Los Angeles over the alleged poaching of Beverly Hills-based agent Garrett Smith.  The Agency for the Performing Arts (APA), whose clients includes Paul Oakenfold, 50 Cent, The Proclaimers and Scorpions, is seeking damages for interference with contractual relations, interference with prospective economic advantage and unfair competition from the Gersh Agency, of which Smith is now an employee, despite being under contract with APA until September 2017. APA is also suing Smith himself for breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of the duty of loyalty and unfair competition.   The APA complaint alleges that Gersh “hired Smith despite being specifically advised by plaintiff [APA] that plaintiff was entitled to Smith’s exclusive services for the duration of the employment agreement” and “Defendant knew of the economic relationship between plaintiff and Smith, and intended to disrupt and interfere with that relationship”   http://www.iq-mag.net/2016/09/us-agencies-war-poaching-claims-garrett-smith/#.V9J3TZgrKM9

Court uphold fractional licence in BMI case
Competition , Music Publishing / October 2016

COMPETITION Music publishing     In a win for Broadcast Music Inc (BMI), a federal judge has thrown out a recent determination by the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) that performance rights organisations cannot undertake so-called fractional licensing. Not only had the DoJ had refused alter the 70 year old anti-trust ‘consent decrees’ that both ASCAP and BMI operate under, the DoJ insisted that the societies had to introduce 100% licensing, which allows one party to license a whole song even without that licensor owning 100% of the copyright. BMI decided to pursue the litigation to reverse the DoJ’s decision. BMI was seeking a declaratory judgement that the consent decree did not require 100% licensing or what is called “full-work” licensing. In a six-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton in Manhattan rejected the DOJ’s consent decree determination who said: “The consent decree neither bars fractional licensing nor requires full-work licensing” adding  “If a fractionally licensed composition is disqualified from inclusion in BMI’ s repertory, it is not for violation of any provision of the consent decree”   A separate consent decree governs ASCAP (the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) and this is administered by rate court Judge Denise Cote of the United…

Russian Government looks to take over collection societies

COMPETITION Music publishing, recorded music   The Russian government is reportedly considering taking over some or all of the collective licensing regime in the country. The move comes in the wake of accusations of fraud  which have seen RAO General Director Sergei Fedotov arrested and jailed. There has been disagreement within the collecting society’s membership, with a group of members calling for a new  General Director to be appointed and a radical overhaul of the organisation’s constitution. According to Russian business newspaper Vedomosti, the Ministry Of Economic Development is considering the possibility of taking direct control of RAO. The RAO Authors’ Council, which is the main governing body of the society, continues to back Fedotov and responded angrily to the members seeking a radical overhaul. Producer and composer Igor Matvienko, newly elected as President of the Authors’ Council last month, had been critical of RAO but now opposes moves to overthrow Fedotov and the current management.   whilst there have been some dark mutterings in Europe from songwriters and self composing performers about the activities of CMOs, including Buma-Stemra and GEMA, who have been offering established concert promoters ‘discounts’ or ‘kickbacks’  on published public performance tariffs – and indeed in Spain the…

SFX faces two decisions in the bankruptcy court
Competition , Contract , Internet , Live Events / October 2016

CONTRACT / COMPETITION Live events sector, online   A US bankruptcy judge has allowed Viagogo to proceed with a legal action against SFX Entertainment. modifying the “automatic stay” applied to SFX. Under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code, creditors are usually barred from collecting debts from the debtor. and allowing the secondary ticketing platform to “assert and prosecute any and all counterclaims” against SFX. Having reviewed the request, Judge Mary F Walrath determined “sufficient cause exists to approve the motion”.  Viagogo is seeking “in excess” of US$1.6 million from SFX, which went into administration on 1 February, for allegedly failing to adhere to the terms if a five-year, $75m sponsorship agreement signed by the two companies in 2014. The deal granted Viagogo exclusive ticket resale rights some 50 SFX-promoted events and SFX agreed to “deliver exclusive marketing and ticketing rights with respect to a number of designated ‘major’ SFX events.   In other SFX news, an Italian EDM record label is requesting a probe into how third parties might be artificially influencing SFX’s digital music charts. Art & Music Recording (AMR) has requested the Delaware judge overseeing SFX’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy case order the company to reveal what it knows about…

FTC takes a look at hidden endorsements
Artists , Competition / September 2016

COMPETITION Artistes   The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is planning to regulate ‘hidden’ endorsements by celebrities who promote brands and products through selfies, blogs, Facebook and Instagram postings, and other social media platforms  – without ever revealing they are being paid. The Federal Trade Commission has also said that hashtags like #ad, #sp, #sponsored – common forms of disclosure – are not always enough. The FTC will be putting the onus on the advertisers to make sure they comply. Michael Ostheimer, a deputy in the FTC’s Ad Practices Division said: “We’ve been interested in deceptive endorsements for decades and this is a new way in which they are appearing,” adding “We believe consumers put stock in endorsements and we want to make sure they are not being deceived.” The FTC had instigated a case against Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Inc., which was settled, over charges that it deceived customers by paying internet influencers such as PewDiePie (who has about 50 million followers on YouTube) to promote the video game Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor with positive reviews, without disclosing that they were paid and told how to promote it. In March the FTC issued a complaint against Lord & Taylor for paying fashion influencers…

Sony buyout of Sony/ATV gets EU consent
Competition , Music Publishing / September 2016

COMPETITION Music Publishing   MBW reports that Sony Corporation has been granted unconditional permission by the European Commission to complete its buyout of the Jackson Estate’s 50% stake in Sony/ATV. The deal faced opposition from quarters including Warner Music Group and indie label body IMPALA, but EU regulators have now ruled in Sony’s favour saying “The transaction will not materially increase Sony’s market power vis-a-vis digital music providers compared to the situation prior to the merger.”  Sony/ATV is the biggest publisher in the world in terms of the volume of copyrights it controls. Across both its own repertoire and its administration of the catalogue of EMI Music Publishing, Sony manages over 4.2m songs. Opponents to Sony’s acquisition of Sony/ATV argued that its subsequent ‘control share’ in europe would distort the music marketplace. Back in 2012, both Warner and IMPALA lobbied against Universal Music Group’s £1.2bn ($1.9bn) acquisition of EMI Music in the EU. Although the deal ultimately went through, UMG was forced to sell Parlophone Label Group which included the catalogues of David Bowie, Pink Floyd, Blur, Kate Bush and Coldplay –and which Warner Music Group brought for what now looks like the bargain price of £487m ($740m). And in 2012, the European Commission made Sony…

Were Sony’s MFN deals with Rdio anti-competitive?
Competition , Music Publishing / August 2016

COMPETITION Recorded music   Sony Music has said that the suggestion of antitrust violations are “nothing but speculation and conjecture” and a pretext for avoiding $17 million claim and allegations of fraud by Rdio, which has been in Chapter 11 bankruptcy since November 2015. Rdio received $75 million from Pandora for the sale of assets – and Sony want their share – but is now facing some serious allegations of anti competitive behaviour from Rdio. Rdio was an online music streaming service that offered ad-supported free streaming and ad-free subscription streaming services in 85 countries. It was available as a website and via apps for Android, BlackBerry, iOS, and Windows Phone mobile devices, which could stream music from Rdio’s servers or download music for offline playback.   The Hollywood Reporter reports that Rdio has retained Winston & Strawn to investigate whether Sony for colluded with Universal and Warner Music in the streaming music market.  Sony has itself issued legal proceedings against three of Rdio’s top executives, alleging that before Rdio declared bankruptcy, the company made misrepresentations, false statements and concealments in order to avoid paying millions of dollars for streaming music from Sony artists including Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, Beyonce…

Spotify launch anti-trust claims against Apple
Competition , Internet / August 2016

COMPETITION Internet   Music streaming platform Spotify has accused Apple of using its control of the iOS platform and App Store to keep the latest Spotify app out of the iOS ecosystem, in a move that favours its own Apple Music service. Spotify said that Apple rejected a new version of the firm’s app from the App Store, citing various technicalities. Apple has insisted that Spotify’s app did not conform to “business model rules”, and demanded that Spotify use Apple’s own billing system “to acquire new customers and sell subscriptions”. Companies such as Spotify have sought to sidestep Apple’s App Store cut by encouraging consumers to sign up for their services online. Apple forbids developers from promoting alternative payment methods within their apps. This is a requirement of all app developers who wish to sell apps on Apple’s App Store. iOS is a closed platform, and so Spotify say there is no choice but to comply. Apple takes a 30 per cent fee for the privilege, which Spotify is forced to pass on to customers. Spotify claimed that this makes its service appear uncompetitive. But Apple General Counsel Bruce Sewell countered that the company deserves a cut of transactions in the App Store for its…

DofJ’s decisions on music licensing upset everyone
Competition , Music Publishing / August 2016

COMPETITION Music publishing   In a major setback to music publishers, the Justice Department decided this week it will not alter a decades-old system that requires royalty collection societies ASCAP and BMI to license songs to everyone at a fixed rate.  The Justice Department dealt another potential blow to the music industry by calling for so-called “100% licensing.” In cases involving songs with multiple songwriters. This would require ASCAP and BMI to provide a license for the whole song, and then apportion revenues amongst the different writers. The heads of two of the world’s biggest publishing companies have now both said that they aren’t happy with the recent ruling. Universal Music Publishing Group CEO Jody Gerson and Warner/Chappell boss Jon Platt want publishers to be allowed to negotiate digital rights outside of blanket licenses offered by Collection Societies joining Sony/ATV boss Martin Bandier in declaring the position taken by the DofJ is deeply disappointing, and a threat to the livelihood of songwriters. The DofJ confirmed existing consent decrees – effectively a blanket licence – tat have governed ASCAP and BMI since 1941 and leaving them intact will mean publishers remain unable to partially withdraw their repertoire from the PROs in order to negotiate…