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Blockchain: the key to protecting IP in the live business?

Blockchain first came to prominence as the technology behind online currencies such as bitcoin. However, as more businesses become aware of its uses and possibilities, it is gaining traction everywhere. But what are blockchain’s potential implications for the live music industry?

Blockchain is often described as a “distributed ledger” system, but what exactly does that mean? In a blockchain, transactions (blocks) are verified across a network of users before being stored with a time and date stamp that cannot be altered. Each user in the network stores their own copy of each block to maintain integrity and transparency of the data. Later, related blocks are likewise verified across the network and then linked to the previous block, creating a chain. The system is secure because a would-be hacker would need to access each user’s system separately to make any change – this would mean attempting to access hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of computers.

Blockchain is a useful tool in situations where maintaining the integrity of information is a key priority and where transparency is also high on the agenda. Although it started its life in online currencies, blockchain is now spreading its reach to other industries, including fashion, where it is being used in the fight against counterfeits, and in real estate, where recently, for the first time in the UK, a commercial property transaction took place completely online using blockchain.

In the music industry, the UK, French and American collection societies (PRS For Music, Sacem and Ascap, respectively) are already working together on a blockchain in relation to International Standard Recording Codes (for recorded music and music videos) and International Standard Codes (for musical works). The aim of this blockchain is to improve the management of links between the two standards and in turn reduce errors and costs. Licensing transactions should also speed up as a result.

Blockchain is a useful tool in situations where maintaining the integrity of information is a key priority and transparency is high on the agenda

However, there are other ways in which blockchain can assist the music industry. For example, a songwriter can use their original song as the first transaction in a blockchain to prove that they are the author. The blockchain can then be used to show the chain of ownership of the song, including any assignments or licensing arrangements, allowing the public to see clearly where a song has come from. This will also act as a deterrent to potential infringers whose use of the song would be recorded in the blockchain too.

For live music, blockchain has the potential to change things for the better too. With the majority of tickets now initially being sold online, blockchain can be used to track the movements of tickets and prove to the end purchaser that the ticket is valid. It can also help to control the ticket tout culture that can surround the secondary market. Some have already caught on to this fact, including services such as Lava, GUTS Tickets and Aventus. Lava, still in the start-up phase, uses the blockchain platform ethereum as its base and is a primary and secondary market ticket sales platform which keeps tickets at their face value.

Online streaming of live performances can also benefit from the use of blockchain, with only the official stream being connected to the blockchain. The use of the blockchain would mean that the live stream itself and any future use of a related recording of the live performance would be transparent, with royalties passing to the artists accordingly.

So, blockchain is coming and seems likely to become a part of our everyday lives, from our money to our clothes to the music we listen to. And while the average music fan may not see or fully understand what is going on behind the scenes, it is important that those working in the music industry are aware of its capabilities, its possibilities and are fully prepared for its arrival.


Joanna Morris is an assistant solicitor at Stevens & Bolton. She has more than seven years’ litigation experience and has since 2013 been part of the firm’s intellectual property team.

Ticketmaster extends Got Event deal in Sweden

Ticketmaster has renewed its partnership with the largest venue operator in Gothenburg, Got Event, for a further three years.

The agreement will see Live Nation-owned Ticketmaster, the world’s biggest ticket agency, provide ticketing for all Got Event venues, including Scandinavium (12,000-cap.), Ullevi (43,200-cap.), Lisebergshallen (3,500-cap.) and Bravida Arena (6,500-cap.), and its more than 400 annual events.

“It’s great to have the opportunity to continue our work with Ticketmaster”

“Got Event provides the magic of live entertainment to hundreds of thousands of fans every year,” says Kristian Seljeset, CEO of Ticketmaster Sweden. “We’re very proud to have not only renewed our partnership with Got Event but strengthened it with the addition of its sports club ticket sales.”

Lotta Nibell, CEO of Got Event, comments: “It’s great to have the opportunity to continue our work with Ticketmaster. As a business that runs over 400 events annually, it is of utmost importance to have a partner capable of managing all different kinds of ticket sales to fans across Sweden and beyond.”


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Mad Cool announces 2018 dates and venue, London show

After two years at the Caja Mágica, Spain’s Mad Cool Festival is to move to a new site for its third outing, increasing capacity to 35,000 per day.

Mad Cool 2018 will take place from 12 to 14 July at ‘Mad Cool Space’, a 100,000sqm, 80,000-capacity site at Valdebebas, a new development located adjacent to the Ifema convention centre north of Madrid. In addition to increasing capacity, the Valdebebas site gives the festival space for seven stages, up from its current five.

Expanding is a “natural response to the evolution and growth of the festival” and marks the evolution of Madrid “into a city of reference for large-format live music events”, reads a statement from the event.

Speaking at IFF in September, Mad Cool’s Cindy Castillo described the festival’s former home, in the car park of the Caja Mágica complex in Madrid, as necessitated by local authority hostility to live music. “In Madrid, every venue has been shut down by the right-wing government,” she said, “so we had to look for a weird place to hold the festival.

“This increase in capacity is a natural response to the evolution and growth of the festival”

“There’s a big pavilion and Mad Cool takes place in the parking lot, but you’d never guess it was a parking lot: We have palm trees, green grass, everything you can imagine – but if you go there on Monday morning it’s all grey concrete…”

Mad Cool, promoted by Live Nation Spain, was launched in 2016 amid a boom in new festivals in Madrid, which has traditionally underperformed compared to other cities in Spain. This year’s event, headlined by Green Day, Foo Fighters and Kings of Leon, was marred by tragedy after acrobat Pedro Aunión Monroy fell to his death ahead of Green Day’s set.

To mark the move to a new venue, Mad Cool is hosting a free show at London’s Koko (1,410-cap.) on 7 November. The first London Sessions concert will feature performances by Monarchy and Haux, with tickets available free from the Mad Cool website.


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PlayPass named most promising business in Flanders

RFID technology firm PlayPass has been named ‘most promising business of the year’ by the Flemish government in recognition of its rapid international growth. The award was presented by Flanders’ minister of work, economy, innovation and sport, Philippe Muyters, to David De Wever, CEO and co-founder of PlayPass.

This achievement follows PlayPass’s biggest year to date, with its RFID solutions for cashless payments, access control, accreditation and brand activation delivered at more than 100 events, including music festivals, concerts, sports and other live events, in 16 countries across five continents.

Founded in Antwerp in 2012, the company employs more than 30 staff internationally, with clients including Lollapalooza (Berlin and Santiago), Live Nation Belgium, Rock Werchter, Lowlands, Bilbao BBK, Graspop Metal Meeting and Melt Festival.

“This award can open many doors for our business”

“This award can open many doors for our business,” says De Wever. “It will boost our plans to double our headcount and open new offices around the world in 2018 while significantly expanding our current operations in the UK, Spain and Germany.

“The potential applications of our technology are endless, and we are experiencing exponential growth in demand for our services in every part of the world.”

Geert Noels, chairman of the jury that selected PlayPass as this year’s winner, adds: “This young company is a prime ambassador for entrepreneurship in Flanders, and is a source of inspiration for others having developed a new digital business model in the local region and successfully scaled it on a global basis.”


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All Points East adds headliners LCD Soundsystem, Björk

Björk and LCD Soundsystem have been confirmed as further headliners for All Points East, joining the xx for the first weekend of Goldenvoice UK’s newly announced ten-day festival in London’s Victoria Park.

All Points East (APE), announced last week, will be staged in the 213-acre east London park from 25 May to 3 June 2018, and combine two weekends of music with a BST-style free-to-access midweek offering. Goldenvoice owner AEG has been awarded exclusive use of the park for events until 2022, forcing Field Day, Lovebox and Citadel to relocate to pastures new, rumoured to be Brockwell Park in south London.

London’s parks set for 2018 festival boom

The new additions to the 40,000-a-day-cap. festival were revealed at a launch party at the Approach Tavern in east London last night. They also include Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Phoenix, Glass Animals, Close, Dixon and George Fitzgerald on the LCD Soundsystem-headlined 25 May event; Lorde, Sampha and Rex Orange County on The xx-headlined 26 May; and Beck, Father John Misty and Flying Lotus 3D on the Björk-headlined 27 May show.

The National, meanwhile, headline a headline show, APE Presents, on 2 June, also featuring the War on Drugs, Future Islands, Warpaint and the Districts.

“LCD Soundsystem and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are two of the best live acts in existence”

“It’s an honour to be asked to play a night with such stellar headliners,” says Glass Animals frontman Dave Bayley. “LCD Soundsystem and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are two of the best live acts in existence. In fact my favourite show of all time was LCD in 2007 at Reading Festival. It’s where I met our drummer, Joe. And Karen O is one of the greatest frontpeople of all time, and a hero of mine

“We’ll have to up our game, then we’re definitely going to hang around and have a wild one. After party at my house… Can’t wait!”

The latest line-up poster is below:

All Points East 30 October line-up


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How streaming has changed the industry

In March this year, Ed Sheeran broke the UK singles chart top-20 record when, thanks to his streaming figures, his songs occupied 16 places in the list. It’s just one example of the dramatic way that streaming has changed the music industry.

At a time when sales of CDs and CD players were starting to decline, streaming suddenly emerged as the dominant way for people to consume their music. Record labels may have had to change what tracks they release, how they release them and how they market them, but in many cases streaming has kept them profitable. For some, like Warner Music Group, streaming has become the most important source of revenue. For others, it’s making them more money than ever before.

You might think that with the greater ease of access to music that streaming has brought about, that attendance at live events would be in decline. After all, attendance at cinemas is dwindling as people increasingly choose to watch films on their TVs, computers or smartphones. But in the case of live music, the opposite has happened. In fact, according to UK Music’s Wish You Were Here study, audience attendance at concerts and festivals in the UK is up to a record 30.9million annually. The live sector is one of the most vibrant and profitable parts of the music industry, and it is through ticket sales and merchandise that most musicians generate the majority of their revenue.

“Promoters understand the advantage they have over streaming services is that they offer not just music but an experience”

This may have something to do with the effect streaming has had on the profits of individual artists. Streaming has complicated the way they make money, and reduced the total amount they earn to the extent that some artists, such as Taylor Swift, have tried to boycott streaming altogether. Swift famously pulled her music off Spotify and refused to allow Apple to offer music from her latest album. It may have been a shrewd PR move (her eventual return to streaming was covered by every major newspaper and website) but it’s no secret that one of the challenges facing streaming services and record labels is appeasing and alleviating the fears of artists while still offering tracks cheaply to their customers.

It’s also to the credit of festival and concert organisers that they’ve thrived in the new musical environment. These organisers understand that the advantage they have over streaming services is that they offer not just music but an experience, and they’ve looked to improve all the elements that together make live music an experience, such as the stage design, the lighting and the pyrotechnics. At the same time, they’ve managed to keep the price of tickets at an affordable (though increasing) level. An all-day festival in the UK costs between £50 (€57) and £100 (€113); a single standing ticket to see Drake costs £110 (€125).

“Despite the improving health of the live music industry, for some festivals making a profit is no longer a given”

But can this model endure? With the proliferation of outdoor festivals comes the fact that the market is getting pretty saturated. There has been a sharp fall in the amount of money that is spent at smaller venues (those with a capacity below 1,500). In London, where costs are rising, licensing is strict and property developers wield a lot of power, these venues have declined in number by 35%.

With more and more festivals coming on stream, it is the artists who are benefiting most: they are now able to up their fees while different festivals compete to secure their presence. And despite the improving health of the live music industry on the whole, for some festivals, making a profit is no longer a given. One or two of the existing festivals are beginning to pull up stumps. This will be the last year of Secret Garden Party, for example, and there are rumours that other long established festivals might not appear next year.

As the figures show, live music has more than weathered the changes to the wider music industry. The live market has always been a valuable revenue generator for established artists, and this will always be the case. Nevertheless, the future may not look so bright for smaller festivals and small music venues. Their fate remains to be seen.


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V Festival set for rebrand as Virgin sponsorship ends

After 22 years, Virgin Group is ending its relationship with V Festival, Virgin founder Richard Branson announced today, with V 2017 the last year of the UK festival in its current guise.

“V Festival has always been a special weekend for everyone at Virgin,” says Branson. “We’ve been proud to sponsor V Festival for the past two decades and there have been some incredible performances on the stage. Now, after 22 very enjoyable and successful years, 2017 was Virgin’s last V Festival.

V Festival, promoted by Live Nation, Metropolis Music, MCD Productions and SJM Concerts, debuted in 1996 as twin festivals in Hylands Park, Chelmsford, and Victoria Park in Warrington, with headliners Pulp, Paul Weller and Elastica. The northern England leg moved to Leeds in 1997, before settling in its current home of Weston Park in Staffordshire in 1999.

Branson describes working with the festival as “a brilliant journey filled with great people, fun times and exceptional music”, but says Virgin is now focused on “look[ing] at new ways we can disrupt the industry to ensure music is a force for good.”

“After 22 very enjoyable and successful years, 2017 was Virgin’s last V Festival”

“Virgin already is investing in exciting music initiatives such as Sofar Sounds, who bring artists to perform live in an intimate venue and give you the chance to just be still and listen,” he continues. “Seeing my first Sofar gig reminded me of the early days of Virgin Records, where we sat on beanbags and drifted away with the music as we found new bands to sign and fall in love with.

Relaunched music station Virgin Radio is also going strong in the UK, along with our thriving radio stations with hundreds of thousands of listeners tuning in from all over the world.

“We’re really excited about the future ahead and can’t wait to share our plans with music lovers across the globe.”

Speaking to Music Week, Festival Republic MD Melvin Benn confirms the festival will continue under a new name over the same weekend in August, with plans to expand from two to three days at both sites. Programming, meanwhile, will “very much continue to have a pop and dance focus”.

Live Nation bought a stake in V in 2013, while Metropolis joined the company this January.


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Greek philosophy: CAA’s Mike Greek at 50

The professional career of CAA agent Mike Greek started where many a music industry story begins: in the pub.

Or, more specifically, a number of pubs in Aberdeen. During a two-week placement at DF Concerts (named Dance Factory at the time) working for Stuart Clumpas, Greek was challenged with locating the support act for a Martin Stephenson and the Daintees show who had gone missing on his quest for Dutch courage. “The show was at the Aberdeen Music Hall, and about 30 minutes after doors, we couldn’t find the support artist,” Greek remembers. “I was tasked with going around the pubs of Aberdeen looking for him, and, luckily for me, he was in one of the locals near the venue. It was so ridiculous, it was brilliant.”

That led to a summer stint with MCP Promotions, led by Tim Parsons and Stuart Galbraith, and involved working in the office and helping out on outdoor shows.

“When working at Milton Keynes Bowl on a Bon Jovi concert, everyone else was staying in a Travelodge, but to keep costs down I had to sleep on the portakabin floor with the Liverpool scaffolders”

“When working at Milton Keynes Bowl on a Bon Jovi concert, everyone else was staying in a Travelodge, but to keep costs down I had to sleep on the portakabin floor with the Liverpool scaffolders. It was certainly a baptism of fire and I learnt that my strengths were not on the technical side of things. I gained some valuable insight into what it takes to put an outdoor concert together and loved how everything came together in the end.”

Greek has come a long way since those days of portakabin accommodation. After a chance encounter with Ian Flooks led him to join Wasted Talent at the same time as Emma Banks in 1990, he was involved in building the agency that became Helter Skelter into one of the biggest independent agencies in the world.

Since 2006, Greek has had phenomenal success as co-head of CAA’s London office, alongside Banks, representing an eclectic array of artists including Franz Ferdinand, Paloma Faith, Sam Smith, Thirty Seconds to Mars, the Black Keys, the Script, Olly Murs, 5 Seconds of Summer, Jamie Cullum, MGMT, Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Tears for Fears and Band of Horses, to name a few. This year, Greek celebrates his 50th birthday after dedicating more than half of his life to music.


Continue reading this feature in the digital edition of IQ 73:


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Songkick Discovery “not going anywhere” after WMG buy

In contrast to its soon-to-be defunct ticketing platform, Songkick’s concert discovery app is “not going anywhere” following its purchase by Warner Music Group (WMG), the company has said.

Recorded music giant WMG acquired “selected assets” of Songkick – ie everything bar its ticketing business and all “pending litigation” associated with its legal battle with Live Nation – in July, with an announcement following earlier this month that its fan-club ticketing platform, formerly known as Crowdsurge, is to shut down at the end of October.

Despite the shuttering of its ticketing business, Songkick CEO Matt Jones said its lawsuit against Live Nation and Ticketmaster – which the company initiated in December 2015 over alleged abuses of the defendants’ “monopoly power” to stifle competition in the US ticketing market – will “continue unabated”. A source close to the situation tells IQ Songkick has retained a “skeleton crew” of “perhaps a dozen” ticketing staff to work full time on the court case.

Perhaps in response to conflicting media reports – articles in Pollstar, Exclaim!BrooklynVegan and elsewhere suggested the entire company is closing up shop – Songkick has moved to clarify that it’s still business as usual for its popular Discovery service, which it says is “still here for you for all of your concert needs”.

“Though we won’t be selling tickets, we’ll always be your trusted home for live music online”

“First things first, we’re not going anywhere!” reads a post on Songkick’s blog. “This summer we, the Songkick Discovery app and team, became part of the Warner Music Group family. Together we’ll be doubling down on our mission to improve the live experience, bring fans and artists closer together and, of course, make sure you never ever miss your favourite artists live. It’s a super exciting step for us, and for our awesome users, and we’re psyched about what the future holds.

“You can still count on us to be the first to tell you about new concerts, and to point you to the fairest, safest places to buy tickets. Though we won’t be selling tickets ourselves, we’ll always be your trusted home for live music online.

“In short, Songkick and [artist platform] Tourbox are still here for you for all of your concert needs. We’re excited to keep moving fast, doing cool shit and putting fans first. So stay tuned for exciting news coming soon  –  and here’s to the future!”

The Songkick–Live Nation trial is set to kick off next month, although IQ understands it is now likely to be delayed until the new year.


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DHP Family makes three promotions

DHP Family has made three internal promotions, appointing a new head of marketing, marketing manager and head of creative.

Kelly Bennaton, who joined the UK promoter/venue owner from the Association of Independent Music (AIM) three years ago, becomes head of marketing, overseeing marketing for more than 1,600 shows annually, as well as DHP’s festival business and its corporate marketing strategy.

Sophie Power is the company’s new head of creative, tasked with developing its creative output and overseeing visual communications at its venues, festivals and concerts, while Anwyn Williams becomes marketing manager, delivering campaigns for some of DHP’s biggest shows and tours and its multi-venue Dot to Dot festival.

Power joined DHP eight years ago, initially as marketing and design assistant, while Anwyn, like Bennaton, came on board in 2014. DHP Family managing director George Akins says he is “delighted that we have been able to turn to the talent we have working within the company to fill these three roles”.

“I’m delighted that we have been able to turn to the talent we have working within the company to fill these three roles”

“I’ve been lucky enough to have some fantastic female mentors: Lara Baker and Alison Wenham at AIM and Lauren Barley and Allison Schnackenberg at Southern Records,” says Bennaton. “They were always hugely encouraging and that made the sexism I came across in the wider industry” – as recently highlighted by IQ – “much easier to deal with. DHP have also been very supportive; it’s great to have a boss that recognises the importance of equality in the workplace.”

Williams adds: “I’m looking forward to helping develop the amazing marketing team we have at DHP Family and the work we do, and very excited to be contributing myself to loads more of the great shows and festivals we’ll be putting on.

“It’s good to see that ‘women in the music industry’ is becoming a topic that’s talked and cared about a lot more, and it’s definitely inspiring to see more women working in music and being recognised for their achievements, especially with getting to work alongside so many here at DHP.”


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