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Intellitix hires new president & CEO

RFID specialist Intellitix has hired a new CEO with a background in developing high-growth global tech companies.

Carlo Chiarello joins the firm from the Lazaridis Institute (LI) at Wilfred Laurier University, which offers support and advice to Canadian tech start-ups. He previously spent over a decade at Blackberry, launching 50 smartphones globally and scaling many aspects of the business.

Chiarello steps into the shoes of former CEO and founder Serge Grimaux, who remains with the company as chairman of the board and will continue with international business development.

“I am very pleased to see that Intellitix has grown so much that it can now attract a professional CEO of Carlo’s calibre”

“I’m honoured and excited to be joining a market leader in event FinTech [financial technology] and the cashless future,” Chiarello comments. “Intellitix has many technology firsts in the event industry and a rock-solid team. I look forward to the next chapter in driving growth and scale.”

Grimaux adds: “I am very pleased to see that Intellitix has grown so much that it can now attract a professional CEO of Carlo’s calibre. Intellitix will now have the opportunity to continue its path to great success.”

Intellitix earlier this year acquired a controlling stake in LOC Pay Systems, a supplier of token-based payment systems to European venues and festivals.

 


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TickX unveils world-first Messenger chatbot

UK tech start-up TickX – the ticket search engine, or ‘Skyscanner for live events’, which last year turned down £75,000 in funding from BBC’s Dragons’ Den – has taken the wraps off its first Facebook chatbot, which it hopes will revolutionise the ticket-buying process.

Developed by a team led by Aayush Chadha, an 18-year-old student of artificial intelligence at the University of Manchester, the bot plugs directly into TickX’s search engine, allowing users to search for tickets to more than 70,000 events from 35+ sellers without ever leaving the Facebook Messenger app.

“The benefits to users are twofold,” Sam Coley, TickX’s co-founder and CTO, tells IQ. “Firstly, chatbots make it quicker and easier to get answers to complex questions. For example, you can ask TickX, ‘When is the cheapest ticket to see The Lion King in July?’, and one second later have the answer and link to compare and buy tickets. The second benefit is that millions of people spend hours on Facebook Messenger each day, so now they can click straight into TickX in one click – [there are] no apps to download, and no need to open a website.”

TickX is the first event ticketing company to take advantage of conversational commerce on the Facebook Messenger app, which has more than 1.2 billion monthly users.

“You can ask TickX, ‘When is the cheapest ticket to see The Lion King in July’, and one second later have the answer and a link to buy tickets”

The launch of the new bot – which goes live on 1 June – follows the pilot launch of a chatbot for Skype by StubHub last August, although the StubHub app is restricted to its own marketplace (one of many crawled by TickX). Seattle start-up ReplyYes, meanwhile, has made a success of selling merch and vinyl via standard text messages.

Coley says the feedback to the beta version of the bot has been “incredibly positive”, although he reveals the company, which is backed by £925,000 in private-equity funding, is already working on its next innovation.

“This Messenger bot really is just the first step for us in making it easier to search events and compare tickets,” he explains. “Over the next few months, alongside continuing to improve our Facebook application we’ll also be rolling out to voice-based assistances such as Amazon Alexa.”

Watch the chatbot in action below – or try it for yourself at m.me/tickx.uk.

 


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Hackers demand Bitcoin ransom after Qnect attack

Australian ticketing start-up Qnect has fallen prey to a cyberattack, with hackers threatening to release users’ personal information online if the company fails to pay a ransom in Bitcoin.

The Sydney-based start-up is used by societies at a number of Australian universities, including the University of Technology Sydney, Curtin University, Monash University and the University of New South Wales, to organise social events.

One former client, Sydney University Law Society, yesterday shared a screenshot of a text message sent to Qnect customers threatening to publish “your data”, including email addresses and card details, if a ransom is not paid:

[QNECT SCAM ALERT]If you have received a text this evening containing a message to this effect, we strongly advise you…

Posted by Sydney University Law Society (SULS) on Tuesday, 30 May 2017

 

However, Qnect CEO Daniel Liang has dismissed the threat as baseless, saying in a statement that ‘RavenCrew’ “does not hold financial information or physical addresses – at maximum, this person had your email, phone number to SMS on and your name. With this information, the person won’t be able to do anything harmful, other than spam you – so just ignore, and he will lose his fun. Let’s make it boring for them.”

Confirming the company has reported the breach to the Australian Federal Police, Liang (pictured) adds that it appears the attacker “has not hacked our systems, but rather used a phishing scam” – or posing as someone trustworthy, such as an employee of Qnect – “to get remote access of a key employee’s computer, and then going through systems thereafter.”

He encourages Qnect customers to simply “ignore this guy, and just be wary not to open links from SMSes or email you don’t know who they are from”.

The Qnect hack follows similar incidents involving Coachella.com, in which a hacker stole website usernames and other personal information, and United Talent Agency, which was last month hit by a malware incident widely reported as a cyberattack.

 


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APRA AMCOS CEO to step down

Brett Cottle, the long-serving CEO of APRA AMCOS, has announced his intention to step down after 27 years at the Australasian collection society.

Cottle, who joined APRA as its first in-house counsel in the late 1970s, oversaw the merger of APRA (Australasian Performing Right Association) and AMCOS (Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners’ Society) in 1997 and has since increased royalty collections and distributions by seven-fold. (More than A$70 million, or US$52.2m, was paid out in public performance royalties in 2015–2016.)

In a letter to staff, Cottle (pictured) said 2017 financial results will again be at a record level.

Cottle will stay in the role for the next 12 months, after which, says APRA chair Jenny Morris, he is “keen to pursue other priorities in life”.

“The operational merger of APRA and AMCOS is today taken for granted, but when it was effected in 1997 Brett’s vision and leadership were critical to its success”

“The operational merger of APRA and AMCOS is today taken for granted, but when it was effected in 1997 Brett’s vision and leadership were critical to its success,” says AMCOS chair Ian James. “The positive and productive spirit in which the two boards have co-operated seamlessly ever since is testament to the culture created and fostered by Brett.

“Internationally the organisation commands enormous respect, reflected in the fact that Brett is the only Australian to have been elected chair of the International Confederation of Authors’ Societies, a role in which he served for two consecutive terms.”

Recruitment firm Odgers Berndtson will lead the search for a new CEO.

 


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Belgian festivals sue Sabam over rates rise

A coalition of festival and concert promoters is suing Sabam, the Belgian performance rights organisation (PRO), over the live music tariff increases which came into force at the beginning of this year.

As of 1 January, the largest festivals have seen their payments to Sabam increase 30%, to 3.25% of box-office receipts, while promoters of shows whose artistic budgets exceed €1.6 million will pay 16% more (3.5%). Rates have increased across the board, with smaller events also facing increases and Sabam now including sponsorship, subsidies and production costs in festivals’ budgets.

“The new tariffs Sabam pushed through in January are a bridge too far,” says Jan Vereecke of Night of the Proms promoter PSE, who brought the suit with festivals Rock Werchter and Pukkelpop and concert promoter GraciaLive, reports HLN. (Rock Werchter promoter Herman Schueremans had previously said the tariff increase would “kill the goose that lays the golden egg”.)

“Sabam has unilaterally decided to raise their tariffs by 30%. It is justifying this by saying neighbouring countries charge similar rates, but it is simply abusing its monopoly [on public performance royalty collection].

“The new tariffs are a bridge too far”

“For Sabam, nothing has changed: it is offering no additional services in exchange for the price increase.”

Vereecke says the PRO (Société d’Auteurs Belge/Belgische Auteurs Maatschappij) has justified the rises by saying promoters in Belgium had it too easy while creators were being underpaid. This, he says, simply isn’t true: “We calculated after Justin Bieber’s world tour that in the United States he will be paid 12 times less than here.”

“Actually, the whole system is outdated,” he continues. “Sabam takes a percentage of the income from tickets. But shows these days are different from ten years ago – more attention is paid to the entertainment value: larger screens, more fireworks, drones… you name it.

“As a result, tickets are more expensive and Sabam knows it can skim more off the top. That is wrong.”

 


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Grande, Bieber, Coldplay for LN Manchester benefit

Ariana Grande will return to Manchester this Sunday (4 June), headlining a star-studded benefit in aid of the families of the victims of last Monday’s bombing.

One Love Manchester, underwritten by Live Nation and produced by Festival Republic in association with SJM Concerts, will take place at the Emirates Old Trafford Cricket Ground (50,000-cap.) and feature performances by Grande, Justin Bieber, Coldplay, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, Pharrell Williams, Usher, Take That and 1D’s Niall Horan.

Tickets will go on sale through Ticketmaster at 10am on Thursday 1 June, while those who attended Grande’s tragic show at Manchester Arena on 22 May can register to attend for free.

All net proceeds for the show, which will be broadcast on BBC TV and radio and Capital radio, will be donated to the We Love Manchester Emergency Fund.

“We will not quit or operate in fear. We won’t let this divide us”

In an open letter to fans, Grande (pictured) – who postponed her Dangerous Woman tour in the wake of the Manchester Arena attack – says: “My heart, prayers and condolences are with the victims of the Manchester Attack and their loved ones. There is nothing I or anyone can do to take away the pain you are feeling or to make this better. However, I extend my hand and heart and everything I possibly can give to you and yours, should you want or need my help in any way.

“We will not quit or operate in fear. We won’t let this divide us. We won’t let hate win… Our response to this violence must be to come closer together, to help each other, to love more, to sing louder and to live more kindly and generously than we did before.

“Music is meant to heal us, to bring us together, to make us happy. So that is what it will continue to do for us. We will continue to honour the ones we lost, their loved ones, my fans and all affected by this tragedy. They will be on my mind and in my heart every day, and I will think of them with everything I do for the rest of my life.”

 


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Erdogan in crackdown on ‘un-Turkish’ arenas

Türk Telekom Arena – the home ground of football team Galatasaray SK and an occasional 70,000-cap. concert venue – has become the first Turkish stadium to change its name following criticism of the word ‘arena’ by president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan, an Islamist autocrat who earlier this year won a referendum granting him sweeping new powers, is a vocal supporter of removing ‘foreign’ loanwords from the Turkish language. He announced last week he had instructed sports minister Akif Cagatay Kilic to order Turkey’s open-air stadia, many of which are called arenas, to change their names.

“I am against arenas,” he said on Friday. “You know what they do in arenas, don’t you? People were dismembered [in Roman arenas]. I have given the instruction to the minister and we will remove the name arena from stadia. There is no such thing in our language.”

Both ‘arena’ and ‘stadium’ have classical origins: the former from Latin arēna and the latter from Ancient Greek στάδιον (stádion).

“We will remove the name arena from stadia. There is no such thing in our language”

Other Turkish stadia with the word ‘arena’ in their names include Vodafone Arena (41,903-cap.) in Istanbul, Timsah Arena (43,331-cap.) in Bursa and Gaziantep Arena (33,502-cap.) in Gaziantep, while indoor arenas include Ülker Sports Arena (15,000-cap.) and Volkswagen Arena (5,800-cap.), both in Istanbul, and Hayri Gür Arena (7,500-cap.) in Pelitli.

According to the pro-government Daily Sabah, the Turkish Language Institute (TDK) approves of Erdogan’s anti-arena intervention. Describing words such as “arena, tower and mall” as the height of linguistic corruption, TDK head Mustafa Kacalin calls the campaign for language purity a “life and death struggle. Just the way our parliament was bombed on 15 July, our language faces bombing each and every day,” he says.

According to Freemuse, Erodgan’s Turkey was the second biggest violator of artistic freedom in 2016.

 


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Festivals, promoters back Yourope’s Take a Stand

More than 50 festivals, promoters, agencies and other industry stakeholders have announced their support for Take a Stand, festival association Yourope’s campaign to encourage ‘civic engagement’ in Europe.

Take a Stand, launched at Yourope’s members’ meeting at Eurosonic Noorderslag in January, encourages European festivals to use their events to promote “social togetherness, understanding and tolerance for all cultures, genders, races, religions, sexual orientations, colours and origins”.

Companies that have lent their backing to Take a Stand include IQ, ILMC and IFF; Romania’s ARTmania Festival; Coda Agency; Roskilde Festival; Nova Rock; Sziget; venues association Live DMA; Swiss promoter wepromote; the Greener Events Foundation; Exit Festival; Eurosonic Noorderslag; Melt Festival; the European Forum of Worldwide Music Festivals; and the Swiss Music Promoters’ Association (SMPA).

A full list is available at take-a-stand.eu.

“It is more than obvious that there is a need for a campaign aimed at raising awareness of, and encouraging, civic engagement”

“In recognition of the challenges of the European ideal, and the difficulties presented by the current political climate and social conditions for residents in Europe, it is more than obvious that there is a need for a campaign aimed at raising awareness of, and encouraging, civil engagement,” reads a statement from Yourope, which represents more than 100 European festivals.

“In particular, the festivals, concerts and live music events presented by the European music sector provide perfect platforms to [promote] awareness and recognition of the European ideal and its values.

“Europe has much more to offer than just border-free travel for artists and audiences. It is also now evident that there are new requirements and demands for the protection and confirmation of many of the European social achievements which have been secured over recent years.

“Pledging passion and engagement, Take a Stand appeals to all of those who are in favour of Europe speaking up for tolerance and respect, for open-mindedness and to actively display solidarity.”

 


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Melbourne’s Steve Harper named VMA president

Steve Harper, director of arenas at Melbourne & Olympic Parks (Rod Laver Arena, Hisense Arena, Margaret Court Arena), has been appointed president of the Venue Management Association (VMA).

Harper (pictured), who has been on the board of the Queensland-based association since 2012, succeeds Trevor Dohnt.

“It’s a pleasure for me to take on this role,” he comments. “I feel both honoured and privileged that the VMA has given me their support.”

VMA is a trade association for venue managers in the Asia-Pacific region. Together with the affiliated International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM), it has more than 5,000 members, including representatives of AEG Ogden, Melbourne & Olympic Parks, Venues Wellington, Brisbane Entertainment Centre and Adelaide Festival Centre.

Following last week’s bombing of Manchester Arena in the UK, Harper offered VMA’s “prayers and thoughts” to its “venue colleagues in the United Kingdom, as well as with all of the people touched by the horrific events experienced in recent days.”

 


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Dutch EDM giants partner with TicketSwap

Amsterdam-based secondary ticket marketplace TicketSwap, which caps the price of resold tickets at 20% above face value, has won the backing of some of the Netherlands’ biggest electronic dance music (EDM) festivals and promoters.

ID&T/LiveStyle’s Mysteryland, Sensation, Thunderdome, Welcome to the Future and Amsterdam Open Air festivals, along with Monumental Productions’ Awakenings festival and EDM promoters Q-Dance, Air Events and b2s, are using the company’s Secure Swap platform, which automatically invalidates unwanted tickets and issues new ones personalised with the name of the secondary buyer.

“It’s amazing that’s the biggest Dutch festivals are all getting behind TicketSwap”

TicketSwap, founded in Amsterdam in 2012, is now active in 20 countries and has 1.5 million users worldwide.

“It’s amazing that the biggest Dutch festivals are all getting behind TicketSwap,” comments company co-founder Hans Ober. “This underlines that we are on the right track. It’s really a crowning achievement of our work and shows that we can eliminate ticket fraud and touting.”

 


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