SABAM’s tariff hike ruled illegal

May 2018

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 illegal tariffs have been in force, up to a maximum of €1 million.

Responding, a Sabam spokesperson defended the new fees (3.25% to 6% for festivals and 3.5% to 8% for concerts) which it says were implemented following a “comparative study” that showed Belgian songwriters and publishers were receiving a “lower salary than their colleagues in neighbouring countries”.

Sabam has now said that it is willing to work with the live sector on a number of points highlighted by the court including the process by which minimum fees are set and how to take into account the exact share of Sabam repertoire played at their events.




Live events sector

Pokémon Go fiasco costs festival organisers $1.575 million


The disastrous Fyre Festival, organised by entrepreneur Billy MacFarland, is one example of what happens when technology innovators believe the myth that it’s easy to organise a successful music festival. It’s not. The festival, held in April 2017, experienced a number of serious management, administration and organisational issues and was cancelled after guests had begun to arrive in the Bahamas – most of who had paid thousands of dollars to receive ‘VIP’ treatment. The festival was heavily promoted in the social media as ‘the cultural experience of the decade’ touting luxury villas and gourmet food, but instead, was a total failure


MacFarland, who founded the online ad platform Spling, along with Magnises, which aimed to create an exclusive “black card” with social perks such as club membership, and Fyre Media with Ja Rule, is now facing various civil lawsuits and was arrested on charges of fraud and subsequently The 26-year-old business owner pleaded guilty to wire fraud charges in a Manhattan federal court in a deal with prosecutors that suggested he serve between eight and 10 years in prison. McFarland also admitted to lying to investors and falsifying documents in a bid to raise funds for the lavish event. He will be sentenced in June.


Now Pokémon Go developer Niantic has reportedly settled a class-action lawsuit filed by disgruntled attendees of last year’s troubled Pokémon Go Fest at a cost of more than US$1.5 million. Lawyer Thomas Zimmerman, representing lead plaintiff Jonathan Norton and a group of other festival attendees. The action against Niantic was for damages to cover travel expenses, after technical problems caused by overloaded mobile networks left many festivalgoers unable to play the hit game once there

Niantic refunded the cost of tickets ($20) and granted attendees’ $100 worth of in-game credit, no reimbursement was provided for travel costs to Chicago’s Grant Park. Many of the 20,000 people who attended had travelled large distances – some from outside the US. According to TechCrunch, the class-action judgment was settled with the defendant agreeing to pay out a total of $1.575m to cover travel expenses.

Any leftover money will be donated to charitable organisations Illinois Bar Foundation and Chicago Run.

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