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Live Nation acquires livestreaming service Veeps

Live Nation has acquired a majority stake in Veeps, a ticketed livestreaming platform developed by Good Charlotte’s Joel and Benji Madden.

Established by the Maddens in 2017, Veeps has in 2020 alone hosted around 1,000 paid livestreamed shows by artists including Liam Payne, Pete Yorn, Brandi Carlile, Louis Tomlinson, Architects and Rufus Wainwright.

The brothers – along with co-founders Sherry Saeedi and Kyle Heller and the entire Veeps team – will remain in place following the acquisition, terms of which were not disclosed.

According to Live Nation president and CEO Michael Rapino, the Veeps platform – which, in addition to commission-free ticketed live streams, offers functionality for merch sales, VIP offerings, social-media marketing, and chat between artists and fans – stood out in the increasingly crowded livestreaming marketplace.

“Livestreaming is a great complement to our core business, and essentially gives any show an unlimited capacity”

“We are impressed with what Benji and Joel have created with Veeps, and their platform will create new ways to enjoy thousands of Live Nation concerts,” comments Rapino. “Livestreaming is a great complement to our core business, and essentially gives any show an unlimited capacity.

“Looking to the future, livestreams will continue to unlock access for fans – whether they are tuning into a sold-out show in their hometown, or watching their favourite artist play in a city halfway around the world. The most critical element of live streaming is the artist on stage, and with Live Nation’s unmatched inventory feeding into Veeps, together we will help fans enjoy more live music than ever before.”

“Benji and I have worked extensively with Live Nation over the last two decades, and we’re very happy to be joining a company that is such a big supporter of artists and artist-led businesses. It’s a natural fit and evolution for our business,” says Joel Madden. “This partnership is a demonstration that premium, ticketed live streams have earned themselves a permanent place in the verticals of every artist business.

“Last year Veeps live streams helped artists, both big names and new acts, make over [US]$10 million for themselves, their families, their crew and their chosen causes, and we’re looking forward to helping even more artists connect with fans this year in ways that support their art and their development.”

“Last year Veeps live streams helped artists, both big names and new acts, make over $10m”

Veeps marks only the second merger or takeover for traditionally acquisitive Live Nation since the tail end of 2019, when it wrapped up the decade by acquiring a controlling interest in Malaysia’s PR Worldwide, its 20th of the year. It managed just two in 2020 – Taiwan’s Tixcraft (via Ticketmaster) and Norway’s Bergen Live – before the pandemic hit and it embarked on a near-US$1 billion programme of cost-cutting.

According to Live Nation, Veeps will act as a complement to in-person concerts when they return later this year, offering “exclusive content, new vantage points, sold-out shows and unparallelled access” to LN events in the real world.

“We’ve always believed that taking an art-first approach to livestream shows helps artists create the kind of performance they can be proud of and an experience that fans love,” comments Benji Madden. “This means applying as much creativity and thoughtfulness as you would with any in-person show.

“We will only see this platform get more innovative as concerts return and we layer into shows in even more ways. We’re incredibly grateful for our team, who continue to hustle non-stop, and we look forward to amazing things ahead alongside Live Nation.”

 


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Report: PledgeMusic funds do not belong to artists

The artists that are owed money by bankrupted direct-to-fan marketplace PledgeMusic are “unlikely” to receive the funds they raised through the platform, a report obtained by Variety has revealed.

PledgeMusic was wound up in August, after suspending operations due to financial difficulties. The company entered liquidation with £7.4 million in debt and under £20,000 in assets.

Following its demise, industry organisations including UK Music, Music Managers’ Forum and the Association of Independent Musicians acted to assess and prevent financial damage to musicians.

However, a document from the official receiver working on the PledgeMusic liquidation has cast further doubt over the likelihood of artists seeing return of the money raised through the site.

“I do not anticipate that I will need to contact you again because there is unlikely to be a payment to creditors in this case,” concludes the report.

“I can’t believe that the artists are left without what is owed to them”

The report also reveals that legal advisors to the PledgeMusic board have indicated that money paid by fans on the platform “were not trust monies”, and that all belongs to PledgeMusic, rather than to the artists.

PledgeMusic co-founder and CEO, Benji Rogers, who returned to the company as an unpaid advisor early this year to try and resurrect it via a partnership or acquisition, told Hypebot the outcome was “devastating for every artist affected”.

“I can’t believe that they are left without what is owed to them. I am so sorry I was not able to do more,” said Rogers.

Enquiries into PledgeMusic’s “failing” are ongoing, states the report, with board members attributing the collapse to “the commission charged being insufficient to meet its expenditure”.

Rogers founded PledgeMusic along with Jayce Varden in 2009. The platform served as a direct-to-fan marketplace for merchandise, tickets, vinyl and CDs. Fans also donated money to cover artists’ recording and release costs via a crowdfunding platform.

 


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4 ways blockchain can disrupt the live industry

While much has been made of the potential for blockchain – the technology behind cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin – to revolutionise the recorded music industry, the same isn’t true in the live sector.

Articles by the major tech and business publications (ForbesFortuneTechCrunch et al.) have largely focused on implications for the online streaming of recorded music, citing the benefits of ‘smart contracts’ wherein the owner(s) of songs will be paid automatically for their usage. However, while wider adoption of blockchain may, as Imogen Heap suggests, throw a much-needed lifeline to musicians struggling with paltry Spotify pay-outs, it could also radically transform the (comparatively more lucrative) live industry…

 


Tout-proof ticketing
In the same way blockchain databases monitor where a music recording has been used, the technology can be used to track the ownership of a paperless concert ticket.

Chris Carey, founder of Media Insight Consulting and the recent FastForward conference (at which IQ news editor Jon Chapple chaired a ticketing panel), suggests blockchain can facilitate the “legitimate resale of tickets by having a clear chain”. Speaking to IQ’s Eamonn Forde, Carey says by tracking secondary sales, ticket agencies could provide artists and promoters with a cut of each resale: “Tracking the ticket through its journey could actually create revenue at different steps. There is an argument to say that if you can monitor transactions through technology, the artist could get a share of the upside at every step of the way.”

Several yet-to-launch start-ups, including Amsterdam-based GUTS and the UK’s Lava, are already using the technology to bolster the both the data-gathering and anti-touting capabilities of paperless tickets.

GUTS Tickets founder Maarten Bloemers echoes Carey’s suggestion that blockchain can be used by artists to track ownership of a ticket, saying the technology “makes it possible to follow the lifecycle of a ticket from A to Z”. He tells Dutch paper De Telegraaf he had the idea for the company after hearing a discussion about black-market tickets on a radio programme. “Someone [on the show] said no one can guarantee the authenticity of tickets,” he explains, “and I immediately thought of blockchain.”

“We’re looking at a world where knowing the complete provenance of the ticket is a good thing,” adds Benji Rogers, co-founder and CEO of dotBlockchain Music (dotBC). “Unless, of course, you’re trying to hide something…”

 


Levelling the PROing field
Perhaps the most important live application of blockchain could be to give PROs a shot in the arm at a time when an increasing number of rightsholders are choosing to bypass collective licensing altogether in favour of collecting public performance royalties directly.

Rogers – unlike, for example, Mark Knopfler – believes there is “still a place for PROs to make large deals on behalf of artists”, but says they face the challenge of “not [being] competitive today”. (Little surprise, perhaps, when many are more than a century old: the UK’s Performing Right Society was founded in 1914.)

“They’re using tech not built for the size and scale of what’s coming at them,” he explains.

The Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (Socan) recently became the first PRO to partner with dotBC. Eric Baptiste, the CEO of Socan – which represents more than 135,000 rightsholders and recently saw collections from live performances grow to a record high – said last month: “We are convinced that it is possible to address payment and rights inefficiencies […] that have been a drag on the entire ecosystem for far too long.” He added: “The encouraging work of dotBC has the potential to unlock enormous value for our members”.

Rogers says PROs making use of blockchain technology will be able to compete more effectively by offering a better service to their membership. Comparing PROs to trains running on different gauges of track, he prophesies that in future collection societies will “need to work on a common rail”: “If we build the perfect sound format [.bc], we build the rail and everyone can ride on same track.”

DotBlockchain Music, then, “allows [PROs] to work together while remaining competitive,” says Rogers. “They can then compete based on how good their accounting is, how good their data side is…

“We’re looking at a world where knowing the complete provenance of the ticket is a good thing”

 


Safe streaming
Another potential application of blockchain in the live space is to enable artists and promoters to broadcast their shows live safe in the knowledge copyright owners are being paid.

Writing in IQ last year, Sziget Festival’s András Berta was enthusiastic about live streaming as a way to reach more fans, but said there are concerns about the complexities involved in licensing live streams. “In 2016, I think we still face a grey [area] when it comes to clearing streaming rights,” he wrote, “simply because the industry is far from being homogeneous. Different players hold different cards, and this can result in a losing hand in many cases.”

By using dotBC’s codec (.bc), which binds writer metadata to the track, for music files, Rogers explains festivals like Sziget will be free to live-stream on sites such as Facebook and YouTube – and artists able to sell recordings straight after the show – with the writers receiving owed royalties automatically.

Rogers, also a musician, relates an anecdote about his experience licensing live recordings. Following a concert in which his band played two covers (The Cars and Gram Parsons), he paid the Harry Fox Agency to purchase the rights to distribute a recording of the show. “We said we’d sell maybe 1,000,” he explains. “We gave them $2,500 and never heard anything else.”

There was, he says, “no itemisation or monetisation” on the bill – theoretically, the band could have sold 10,000 copies and Harry Fox might never have known. With blockchain, conversely, there is a “bulletproof digital asset” that ensures ownership of songs is always “anchored back to the writers”.

 


A new rights reality
Like live streaming, filming and distributing shows in virtual reality (VR) is being tipped as a new revenue stream for the promoters of the future, with recent research finding early VR adopters outspend the average American 2:1 on live events.

However, Rogers says VR is also currently a licensing nightmare, with a traditional sync licence – which grants the licensee the rights to synchronise music with visual media – insufficient for a live VR gig, where the setlist is liable to change.

“How do I license a VR concert,” asks Rogers, “if I don’t know what songs are going to be played?”

Rogers says that, “right now, sound recordings” – master recordings, typically owned by labels, as opposed to the copyrights to the compositions themselves, usually administered by a publisher – “hold supremacy”, but in future “PROs [performance rights organisations] are going to have to do a deal with the publishing side of things” to offer more flexible licences for new experiences like VR shows.

One company leveraging the blockchain to do just that – again backed by Imogen Heap – is Ujo Music, which aims to provide a “shared infrastructure for all music services”, independent of the traditional label/publisher/licensing axis.

“If we build a common language for music, we can scale the business infinitely”

 


While blockchain offers tremendous opportunities for promoters, artists, ticketing companies and PROs, Gregor Pryor, co-chair of the global entertainment and media industry group at legal firm Reed Smith, told IQ in issue 62 its actual take-up in live may stymied by the fact most people at the top end the top end of the concert business are actually making money.

“Live has probably been the place that artists have been running to when their digital revenues have been dropping,” he said in late 2015. “The live industry has been nowhere near as disrupted by digital as the record industry has – in fact, it has probably benefited. There has to be a reason for them to adopt it [blockchain].

“In the world of streaming royalty payments,” Pryor suggests, “there is much more of an incentive and impetus to adopt change. There is not any driving force behind change in live.”

However, as underlined above, much has changed since then. With growing unease around the state of the secondary ticket market, and the emergence of direct licensing and new, non-traditional PROs – such as Germany’s GWVR, which gives concert promoters a cut of the royalties from recordings – technology, as in so many other walks of life, may indeed provide the answer.

As it stands, music has “no common language,” concludes Rogers. “Email has POP3, Skype runs on VoIP [voice over IP]… If we build a common language for music – the perfect sound format – we can scale the business infinitely.”

 


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