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Grassroots Music Venues call for £1 million funding from music industry and successful artists

Grassroots venues in the UK are calling for donations and funding from huge artists and the more successful corners of the music industry to prevent closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Speaking to NME, Music Venue Trust CEO Mark Davyd brought forward the suggestion of £1 million in donations in order to avoid “a disaster that will last 10 years”.

Government pledges of millions in loans and grants to grassroots spaces to help them through these unprecedented times will not be enough, MVT claims. Over 550 venues are at risk, along with the permanent loss of over 5,000 jobs and 1 million temporary employment opportunities for gig economy workers.

Davyd said that the MVT has “been surveying all our venues for weeks, done all the maths, and worked out that despite the intentions of the government and the work that everyone else is doing, we have a £13.8 million hole,”

“The government has done a lot and we’re not having a go at them. We realise there’s a huge crisis going on here for everybody and the likelihood of us getting any additional funding from the government to plug that hole is almost zero.”

The £1 million of funding they have asked for from the industry’s most successful companies and artists would be used to financially support the MVT’s emergency response service. Davyd revealed that their emergency response service won 91 of its 96 cases to prevent venues from closure in the last year, with the remaining five still ongoing.

“In this atmosphere, people think that once this is all over people are suddenly going to open grassroots music venues. That isn’t going to happen. Every one we lose is going to be permanently lost. We’re talking about 84% of the sector shutting down.” He added: “If we wake up the morning after this is over and over 80% of our venues have disappeared, we are talking about a disaster that will last 10 years.”

Musicians make over $4 million with Bandcamp

With the world being in difficult times at the moment, we thought we’d bring you some positive news that will hopefully put a smile on your face. On March 20, Bandcamp allowed musicians selling their music to keep 100% of revenue. This resulted in musicians making over $4 million and had all the revenue from sales going straight to the artists for one day only.

The impact of COVID-19 has not just impacted our general lifestyle but nearly every industry especially the music industry. Gigs, tours and festivals all over the world are either being postponed or outright cancelled. With the majority of workers being freelance, it’s extremely difficult, but many companies are trying their best, such as Bandcamp.

Bandcamp makes their money through revenue share on sales from artists using their services. They take 15% for digital sales and 10% for merch however in support of the industry, on March 20th they donated 100% of sales to artists. They released a statement on March 23rd showing the figures and the results were amazing. “On a typical Friday, fans buy about 47,000 items on Bandcamp, but this past Friday, fans bought nearly 800,000, or $4.3 million worth of music and merch.”

They continued their statement by saying that these sales were more than 15 times their normal and at the peak of the day, fans were buying 11 items per second. To finish it off Bandcamp have stated that during these difficult times, they will continue to ensure Bandcamp is a place for both artists and fans to help sustain each other.

The Great Escape Cancels 2020 Festival

Brighton will be without this year’s edition of The Great Escape festival after an announcement yesterday that it will no longer be going ahead due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A statement posted to TGE’s social media channels read: “We are very sorry to have to say that The Great Escape 2020 will no longer be taking place this year.”

“We’ve not taken this decision lightly. Taking into account that we are only a few weeks out from the event, and the current status of things, this was the best decision for fans, artists, staff and the community. The entire TGE family is so disappointed to have to make this decision and we extend our apologies to everyone who was looking forward to it as much as us” it continued.

The statement confirmed that next year’s edition would take place between 12-15 May 2021, and would act as a belated 15th birthday celebration for the festival.

Aitch was set to headline TGE’s spotlight show, along with Tiffany Calver, Deno and Mae Muller. Other notable acts who were set to perform include Hayley Williams, Jay1 and Fontaines D.C..

The news follows the cancellation of SXSW earlier this month. Both TGE and SXSW are considered by many in the industry to be vital for new music, both serving as huge losses to the industry for the coming year.


Amazon Music for Artists Launches

Amazon has followed Spotify and Apple Music by launching the much anticipated Amazon Music for Artists service in order to help artists fully grasp their services. The service will work like Spotify for Artists and Apple Music for Artists, allowing you to see how your music is performing, understanding your audience and also how you as an artist perform on Amazon’s Alexa devices.

Currently the app is available on both iOS and Android devices however it is still in beta. There is also the option to use this service online on their website, artists.amazonmusic.com, which has plenty of information and useful tips on how to use their new service.

It’s evident that Amazon is trying to compete with Spotify and Apple as they continue to develop their service. Over the last year, Amazon have increased their portfolio of available music, broadened their subscription packages and now have released similar tools to their competitors in order to help artists using the platform for distribution. 

Spotify were the first to launch a ‘For Artists’ tool back in 2017 with Apple following in 2019. Spotify’s justification for this tool was that artists can sometimes struggle getting this data from labels or distributors and wanted to make it easier for artists to develop and progress. With Amazon releasing their own, it allows a wider selection of digital streaming platforms for artists and provides them with more chances to connect to fans and further their career.

SXSW Announces Layoffs Amid 2020 Event Cancellation

The outdoor stage at last year’s SXSW Festival – Photo by David Brendan Hall.

On March 6, it was announced that this year’s SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, had been cancelled amid concerns of the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.  Festival organisers initially resisted calls to call off the 2020 edition of the mega-showcase festival, however, Austin city officials ordered that the event not go ahead. This marks the first time in 34 years that the March event will not be taking place, and the ramifications for both musicians and the festival organisers themselves are beginning to come to fruition with SXSW laying off roughly a third of their 175 year-round staff members.

Speaking to local paper, the Austin Statesman, SXSW LLC said that the company “has been rigorously reviewing our operations, and we are in the unimaginable position of reducing our workforce.” This comes after reports that SXSW could be facing losses in the tens of millions in the wake of the cancellation.

In addition to the loss in revenue that SXSW LLC is facing, the company gave a statement to the Austin Chronicle saying their insurance did not cover the cause of cancellation. “We have a lot of insurance (terrorism, injury, property destruction, weather),” the statement begins, “however, bacterial infections, communicable diseases, viruses and pandemics are not covered.”

SXSW isn’t the only music event to be cancelled to in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak, as the Winter Music Conference in Miami has also been called off as of Monday (9th March). It joins the Miami Ultra Festival as the second music event in the city to be scrapped this month after Florida governor Ron Desantis declared a state of emergency on Monday.

‘Stream Manipulation’ Site Ordered To Shut Down

One of Germany’s biggest ‘fake streaming’ services has been ordered by the Berlin District Court to stop their services and shut down. The site, ‘Followerschmiede.de’, were experts in stream manipulation and helped customers artificially boost streams of music that they own or represent.

Legal action was first taken by global record label trade body IFPI and their German counterpart BVMI. The order by the court follows an announcement in June of 2019, where the three major labels, Sony/ATV, Spotify, Amazon, Deezer and many more industry bodies signed a coalition to tackle stream manipulation. 

The IFPI chief executive Frances Moore stated;

Those who create music must be remunerated fairly and accurately for their work and investment. Stream manipulation undermines this – whether by undermining the accuracy of charts, royalty payments to music creators or otherwise – and cannot be tolerated.”

On top of this, she said that streaming platforms need to find “a robust technical solution” to the problem of stream manipulation. The BVMI CEO issued a warning to other similar services saying that this legal action should be “seen as a signal to other manipulation services” as they are now prepared to take action against them.

Spotify has started to take this more seriously and have kept an eye on illicit streams, most recently with a case involving rapper French Montana. The rapper’s song “Writing on the Wall” was subject to stream manipulation, however French denied any involvement and has no knowledge of who purchased these streams. Spotify were quick to notice as the streams apparently all appeared from a New York IP. 

With this legal case being the first to go through and succeed in the music industry’s favour, it certainly means that more industry bodies such as IFPI will continue pursuing taking down these services as it tarnishes royalties, chart positions and credibility. Hopefully the labels and streaming services can continue working together to take them all down.

If you’d like to read more about this topic, check out these outlets;

CompleteMusicUpdate (CMU)

MusicAlly

Billboard

Non-UK Musicians Will Need VISAs to Perform in UK

The Home Office has announced that any non-UK musicians will have to apply and pay for a Tier 5 visa to enter the country for any creative work. This includes a range of things such as performances, tours, events, talks and any promotion that relates to them as an artist.

The visa in question is called ‘Temporary Worker – Creative and Sporting’ visa or also known as Tier 5. When applying, the visa will cost £244 and the artist will need to have £1000 in savings at least 90 days before even applying. The actual price of the visa is reasonable as it lasts for up to 12 months, however £1000 in savings is a large sum of money for any musical talent especially those from lower income backgrounds. This savings clause is extremely unfair for those musicians and can have a massive impact on the amount of talent coming into the country.

This announcement comes after several months of debates over whether musicians can receive special passports or visas that allow multiple entries over a certain time period. The Musicians’ Union started a petition online calling on the UK Government and Parliament to support a musicians’ passport for artists working in the EU/UK post-Brexit. The chief executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, Deborah Annetts, was quoted saying; “We are deeply disappointed that free movement for musicians and other artists from the EU has been ruled out and we would ask the UK Government to reconsider our call for a two-year, multi-entry visa.”

In this day and age, touring and gigs are the foundation of the industry in which the majority of revenue is generated from live performances. Last year the UK music festival attendance was at its highest level in 4 years with 38% of adults in the UK attending at least one music concert which is up from 2018’s 34%. 

The impact that this visa can have is huge as currently many non-UK musicians come to the UK for touring instead of the US, as the visa’s there are even more complicated with each member of a band needing to pay £1000 for a visa. On top of this, the visas can take months to be approved and can potentially be declined with the artist not being able to do anything. 

As of writing this, it doesn’t look like this proposal from the Home Office will change. With people like Deborah Annetts continuing to fight this battle, we can only hope they win as the effect of this visa would be massive on the UK live scene.

Ticket touts who resold millions-worth of tickets jailed

Ticket touts who made £10.8 million reselling tickets for major artists such as Ed Sheeran, Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift were jailed on Monday after being found guilty of fraud in a landmark ruling.

Trading as Ticket Wiz and BZZ, Peter Hunter, 51, and David Smith, 66, had used at least 97 different names, 88 postal addresses and more than 290 email addresses to avoid restrictions put in place on primary ticket-selling websites which limit the number of tickets one person can buy. Using bots, they purchased £4 million worth of tickets to major events before reselling them through sites such as Viagogo and StubHub. 

Hunter was sentenced to four years behind bars at Leeds crown court, while Smith, his husband, received a 30-month custodial sentence.

Ed Sheeran’s manager, Stuart Camp, and promoter Stuart Galbraith of Kilimanjaro Live gave evidence during the landmark trial which resulted in the first prosecution of its kind in the UK. The trial was brought forward after an investigation by the National Trading Standards eCrime Team.

FanFair Alliance, which campaigns against the industrial-scale secondary ticketing industry, issued a statement following the ruling, stating that the rulings “represent a major blow to online ticket touts who break the law and rip off the public.” They went on to say that the case “should send shockwaves through secondary ticketing platforms whose businesses are dependent upon large-scale resellers.”

The ruling presents a massive win for consumers, who now have a better chance of obtaining concert tickets at face value when they go on sale, as more prosecutions of this kind are inevitable now that this precedent has been set. The takedown of industrial-scale touts will also give purer data to tour managers when it comes to concert attendance and sales. 

Facebook have been handed the aux cord

Facebook has launched a new app called Aux.  Recently appearing exclusively in Apple’s Canadian App Store, Aux is being described as a ‘DJ for your school’.  In an effort to understand what angle they’re coming from with this we need to better look at its creators, Facebook’s NPE Team.

In an effort to regain some occupancy in the teen market, Facebook created a subsidiary New Product Experimentation {NPE) Team in July to focus on developing experimental consumer-facing apps.

Facebook’s NPE Team developed Aux, stating “The app is aimed at school-aged kids and teens who join a party in the app every day at 9 PM. They then choose the songs they want to play and compete for the ‘AUX’ to get theirs played first. At the end of the night, a winner is chosen based on how many claps are received”

It can’t come as a surprise that social currency is at the forefront of any app created by Facebook, music based or not. Whilst music is inherently social, it’ll be telling to see how the competitive nature of Aux plays out when/if the app gains popularity. Although the NPE Team’s announcement in July made it clear that experimentation overrules permanence, stating that “Apps will change very rapidly and will be shut down if we learn that they’re not useful to people”.

Will Aux be successful enough to become available in the UK? Could this be a prelude to the regularly threatened release of Facebook Music? Would Zuckerberg be someone you’d confidently pass the aux cord to? We have so many questions!

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