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ABBA Voyage team ‘in talks’ for Elvis virtual show

The Swedish entertainment firm that helped bring ABBA Voyage to life is reportedly in talks to revive Elvis Presley in hologram form for live shows.

The Financial Times reports that Pophouse Entertainment, whose co-founder is ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus, has engaged in discussions with Sony Music, which owns the rights to Presley’s work, and investment company Authentic Brands Group, owner of the singer’s image and likeness.

Ulvaeus teased the potential agreement at a conference in Germany earlier this month, saying: “I would like to see the young Elvis come alive again.”

Pophouse, Sony and ABG declined to comment on the report, which claims the talks have focused on a commercial partnership rather than a sale of the music rights or IP, as opposed to the recent deal that saw Kiss sells the rights to their name, music, image and likeness to Pophouse. The firm has confirmed plans for a Kiss avatar show in 2027, along with a biopic and themed experience.

Presley, who died in 1977 aged 42, was introduced to a new generation in 2022 via the smash-hit big screen biopic Elvis, directed by Baz Luhrmann.

A separate production, Elvis Evolution, is due to launch in London this November

A separate production, Elvis Evolution – a collaboration between Elvis Presley Enterprises, Authentic Brands Group and immersive specialist Layered Reality (LR) – is due to launch in London this November, with further stops planned in Las Vegas, Berlin and Tokyo.

The virtual concert will feature “a life sized digital Elvis” who will “share his most iconic songs and moves for the very first time on a UK stage”, made possible thanks to LR’s “unique blend of technology, augmented reality, theatre, projection and multi-sensory effects”.

A previous show, Elvis In Concert: Live On Screen, toured UK arenas in 2016. The concert experience, which was promoted by Kennedy Street and AAA in conjunction with Elvis’ estate, featured archive performance footage of Presley on video screens, accompanied live on stage by The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The production returned to The O2 in London last year.

ABBA Voyage, which blends the virtual and physical worlds, has sold more than two million tickets since launching at the demountable 3,000-cap ‘ABBA Arena’ in 2022. Producer Svana Gisla gave an insight into the show during  Touring Entertainment Live (TEL) at this year’s ILMC.


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‘Live music is going to get bigger, for longer’

Former Spotify and PRS for Music economist Will Page has offered a stirring forecast for the live music business after revealing the global value of music copyright topped $40 billion (€37bn) for the first time last year.

Page calculated the all-encompassing figure of £41.5bn – up 14% on 2021 – as part of an annual report published on his Pivotal Economics platform. His research involves consolidating three sources of industry analysis – the IFPI’s Global Music Report, CISAC’s Global Collections Report, and Music & Copyright’s analysis of music publishing.

Royalties from live and public performance rose 69.9% to €2.7bn in 2022, prompting CISAC president and ABBA member Björn Ulvaeus to declare that live music has “surged back”.

“The CISAC network is once again throbbing with concerts, exhibitions and festivals, and the royalties they generate to help creators make a livelihood,” he said.

The CISAC report noted, however, that the sector fell short of a full recovery – remaining 7.9% below its pre-pandemic level as local events and smaller venues struggled to match the recovery in international tours and big festivals. Just this week the Music Venue Trust said it was lobbying the UK government for a compulsory £1 levy on tickets sold for live music events above 5,000 capacity after grassroots venue Moles in Bath was forced to shut down this week, while organisers of independent festival Nozstock The Hidden Valley have announced its 2024 edition, set for 18-21 July, will be its last.

Page previously reported that UK music fans spent £2.1 billion (€2.4bn) on gig tickets last year, with UK stadiums and festivals now making up half of all box office spend, compared to 40% in 2019 and just 23% in 2012.

“Live music prices in experiences that can’t be purchased anywhere else”

“If we step back from the detail, I think it’s fair to say part of the bounce back is the bottlenecks of the pandemic unravelling and part is this new phenomena of stadiums and festivals increasing frequency, ticket prices and demand,” he tells IQ.

“Live music is going to get bigger, for longer. Rolling all this back up to the $41.5bn figure, which is just copyright (i.e. not the gross but the declarations to the PROs), and it’s striking to see that performing rights income exceeded that for labels’ digital income.”

Though Page acknowledges that concerts have “bounced back beyond anyone’s expectations” from the pandemic, he is confident the level of growth is sustainable.

“It’s very sustainable, because the promoters have learned that the experience economy is a ‘merit good’ – increasing the quality of the experience increases the perceived value which allows prices to rise and demand to rise with it,” he says. “Be it investment in huge ‘jumbotron’ screens or small LED bracelets, these are all producing memories that make people want more. Sure, I’ve seen Coldplay perform in the Bull & Gate in Kentish Town in the 90s, but seeing 80,000 yellow bracelets light up in Wembley was worth every penny, and I want to do it again. Live music prices in experiences that can’t be purchased anywhere else.”

Page admits to being surprised at the sheer scale of the increase since he started crunching the numbers in 2015, when copyright revenues stood at just $24.37bn.

“It speaks volumes for our industry that we’re no longer the ‘sick cousin’ of all the media verticals,” he says. Now, what happens when we add on top the gross box office – which is not copyright – to this number? If I do some rough maths in my head, are we looking at a business that’s worth $75bn? If so, that moves us to eye level with the streamers like Netflix et al. That’s what I want IQ readers to take away from this work – to stand up a little taller when discussing the industry we all work in.”


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CISAC reports 70% rise in live performance revenue

Global royalty collections for creators reached a historical high of €12.1 billion in 2022, growing by a record 26.7% in a full recovery from the pandemic, according to the latest report by the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC).

Royalties from the live and public performance sector, including concerts, background, exhibitions, and theatres, increased 69.9% to €2.7bn in 2022 as festivals, music tours and businesses reopened.

Despite this, CISAC says the live sector’s return to health fell short of complete recovery, remaining 7.9% below the pre-pandemic level of 2019.

The majority of the growth was in Europe, where royalties increased by more than three-quarters of a billion euros, while collections in Latin America more than tripled, underscoring the importance of that market to the music industry.

“This is a remarkable return to growth as our whole sector fully recovers from the disastrous three-year pandemic”

The confederation says that although live and public performance collections rose by nearly 70% in 2022, they still remain 7.9% below the 2019 figure. Virtually all CISAC’s collection society members reported sharp increases in all 2022 events generating live collections, from concerts and festivals to theatre plays and exhibitions.

The live music sector, slower to recover than public performance, bounced back sharply, with data from a sample of 116 CISAC member societies showing that live music royalties rose 185.7%, while background music was up only 34%.

The rate of recovery in live and background also varied by geography. Collections in Latin America and the Caribbean rebounded very strongly in 2022. This region had the highest growth rate of 218.9% but remained 16% short of pre-pandemic levels. Elsewhere, public performance revenues continued to suffer in some countries from the enduring damage caused by the pandemic. For example, AEI-Guatemala reported that 48% of all bars and restaurants have not reopened after the lifting of Covid restrictions.

In 2023, CISAC notes, live entertainment has continued to rebound after three years of pent-up demand. “Live and background royalties appear on course for further sharp growth, recovering well beyond pre-pandemic levels for the first time,” it states in its annual report.

However, CISAC warns its members that there are still some concerns that this bubble will burst after 2023 due to consumer spending cuts and constraints on artists’ touring budgets.

“Streaming and subscription have not just revived the status quo, they have transformed the market, changed the game for creators and paved the way for future growth”

Overall, collections are now 19.8% higher than their pre-pandemic level, driven by continued strong growth in digital income and the recovery in live and public performance contributions.

Digital collections, boosted by continued growth of streaming and subscription, rose to €4.2bn, and is now, for the first time, creators’ biggest income stream, overtaking TV and radio, with 35% of total collections.

In a significant rebalancing of income streams since the start of the pandemic, digital collections are up 100%, TV and radio up 4.6% and live and public performance down 7.9% on their pre-Covid levels of 2019.

All regions and all repertoires saw collections growth in 2022. Music collections, the largest segment, rose a record 28% to €10.8 billion, 21.4% up on 2019.

“[AI] demands international leadership and a strong united front from all parts of the creative industry”.

Commenting on the report, CISAC director general Gadi Oron says, “This is a remarkable return to growth as our whole sector fully recovers from the disastrous three-year pandemic. While live and public performance have bounced back strongly, the recovery is driven most of all by digital which has now become creators’ largest source of income. Streaming and subscription have not just revived the status quo, they have transformed the market, changed the game for creators and paved the way for future growth.”

Meanwhile, CISAC president Björn Ulvaeus takes the opportunity to voice concerns about the future impact of AI on creators’ collections, stating, “CMOs have the backs of the creators they serve and are now delivering more money to more creators than ever before. And that is good news – because, fresh from Covid and the economic squeeze, what we now face is another very serious, existential challenge – that of artificial intelligence. AI will radically change the world for creators and the creative industry. It demands international leadership and a strong united front from all parts of the creative industry.”


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CTS Eventim buys into Mamma Mia! The Party

CTS Eventim has acquired a 49% stake in Björn Ulvaeus’s Mamma Mia! The Party, the theatrical and dining experience based on the Mamma Mia! musical.

Abba co-founder Ulvaeus, who retains the other 51%, launched Mamma Mia! The Party in Stockholm in 2016, following the success of Mamma Mia! The Movie. It has run in Stockholm for four sold-out years and in September 2019 debuted at the O2 in London, where it ran successfully for six months. (CTS is the exclusive ticket agency for the London show.)

Set at the Greek-inspired Nikos Taverna, the event combines a four-course Mediterranean dinner with live performances of Abba hits and a post-show disco and party.

Ulvaeus, the show’s executive producer, says: “We are delighted to bring CTS Eventim further into the Mamma Mia! The Party family, following a successful collaboration during our first year in London.

“This is a vote of confidence both in Mamma Mia! The Party and in the recovery of live events generally”

“Despite the challenges of Covid-19 and the real hardships and uncertainties we and the wider industry face due to the pandemic, this is a vote of confidence both in Mamma Mia! The Party and in the recovery of live events generally.”

Eventim CEO Klaus-Peter Schulenberg adds: “Björn Ulvaeus is the creative mastermind behind Mamma Mia! The Party. Together with him and CTS Eventim’s extensive live entertainment know-how and marketing expertise, we will take this exciting production to a new international level, as soon as the restrictions of Covid-19 are relaxed.

“Even if the corona crisis is a major setback for the entire event industry, we firmly believe in this project, which has already proven its potential.”

The acquisition is Bremen-based Eventim’s third of 2020, following Switzerland’s wepromote and Norway’s Nordic Live (via FKP Scorpio) in January and a new company jointly owned with Michael Cohl, set up in February.


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Esports and music hub to open in Stockholm in 2021

Space, a music, videogaming and media company run by leading Swedish record label execs, has announced Space Stockholm, a seven-storey, 7,500m² (80,000sqft) gaming and music hub set to open in the Swedish capital in the first half of 2021.

The complex, to be located in Stockholm’s main square, Sergels Torg, will include recording studios, a co-working space, a gym, a nightclub and around 500 high-end gaming stations – along with an arena that, at a capacity of up to 800 seats, will be the largest permanent esports venue in Europe, according to the company.

Space’s co-founders are Gustav Käll, head of Universal’s esports label, Enter Records, Per Sundin, the former MD of Universal Music Sweden, and Lars Bloomberg, a partner at architecture firm DAP Group. Sundis is now CEO of Pop House Sweden, partly owned by Abba’s Björn Ulvaeus, which has invested an undisclosed amount into the project.

“Gaming, music and content creation are the three biggest pillars in terms of what the youth enjoy”

“In online culture, people are interested in gaming, music and content creation. They are the three biggest pillars in terms of what the youth enjoy,” Käll, who remains head of Enter – a JV between Universal Music and Electronic Sports League (ESL) – tells the Esports Observer. “We want to bring that under one roof.”

“Space Stockholm, with its unique location at the heart of Sweden’s capital, is poised to become a cultural landmark, not only for the city, but for the entire country,” says Anna König Jerlmyr, mayor of Stockholm, in a statement. “It promises a bright future for Sergels Torg by creating a modern, progressive hub for digital culture.”

Esports revenues are on track to exceed $900m this year, as a growing number of sponsors and investors show interest in the competitive gaming sector. Live music companies that have invested in, or partnered with, major esports competitions and teams in recent years include Deutsche EntertainmentAEGCAATEG and Madison Square Garden Company.


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Session launches Creator Credits, backed by UMG and Avid

Session, the Swedish music start-up co-founded by Abba’s Björn Ulvaeus and songwriters Max Martin and Niclas Molinder, has launched Creator Credits, an initiative that aims to help music creators be correctly credited for their work.

Creator Credits – described as “the world’s first end-to-end ecosystem for creator credits, in collaboration with leading music industry players” – enables music creators (songwriters, producers, musicians, artists) assign credits in the studio at the point of creation and automatically supply those credits ‘downstream’ to managers, record labels, publishers, performing rights organisations (such as partner society PRS), distributors and streaming platforms.

Session’s initial collaborators include MXM Music, the production and publishing company of hitmaker Max Martin, who has written 22 number-one hits; Universal Music Group (UMG); and Avid, which will embed Session’s technology into its industry standard Pro Tools recording software.

Session – formerly Auddly – announced the launch at South by Southwest (SXSW) in Texas on Friday.

“We are super-excited to announce this project and our collaboration,” says Session CEO Molinder. “I’m convinced that the best way to involve the creators in the data collection is as early as possible in the creation process. Session’s technology performs a short handshake with music society systems to authenticate creators and associate their vital industry identifiers with their account.

“When a creator walks into a Pro Tools powered studio their presence will be automatically detected and their identifiers, along with their typical contributions, can be easily added to a song.”

Barak Moffitt, executive vice-president of content strategy and operations at Universal Music, adds: “UMG is proud to work with Session’s team to make the process of assigning credits even easier and to ensure that the important work of contributors to songs and recordings are widely available.

“All contributors to a piece of music or any audio work should be clearly identified, recognised and rewarded appropriately”

“In addition to our own efforts, we have been working closely with Björn and Niclas for a couple years on the development of this platform as part of our commitment to a robust and effective crediting system for the benefit of the entire music ecosystem.”

With Session’s platform, the creator credit metadata travels with the song in the music industry standard DDEX RIN format as it is delivered to record labels and publishers. The creator credits package accompanies the audio and includes crucial industry identifiers for songwriters (IPI) and performing artists (IPN), as well as the emerging ISNI identifier, believed to be key to closing the ‘value gap’ between creators and digital platforms exploiting their work.

Finally, this creator identification information, along with their contributions to the recording and song, are assembled with the ISRC (recording identifier) and ISWC (composition identifier).

Once the song is then distributed to a streaming service, fans will have the opportunity to access more information about songs, while streaming platforms will enable consumers to follow their favourite songwriters, performers and producers.

“With Pro Tools software at the core of many of today’s music production environments around the world, the Avid team shares in the vision that all contributors to a piece of music or any audio work should be clearly identified, recognised and rewarded appropriately throughout the production and distribution process,” says Francois Quereuil, director of audio product management at Avid.

“We are particularly excited to enter a technology collaboration with Session and work with key players in the music industry to provide a durable solution to the challenges associated with capturing and recognising creators’ credits in an increasingly complex digital world.”


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Eventim partners with new ‘Mamma Mia! The Party’

Following on from three sold-out years in Stockholm, Mamma Mia! The Party will launch at London’s O2 next spring, with CTS Eventim as its exclusive ticketing partner.

The show first launched in the Swedish capital in 2016, a co-production between Björn Ulvaeus, former Abba member, and Ingrid Sutej, a veteran European live music and entertainment producer. Speaking about the show’s new home in London, Ulvaeus says, “We believe bringing Mamma Mia! The Party to The O2 will add to this already vibrant cultural destination and provide the perfect location for our exciting new show.

“[The show] has been created to let guests continue enjoying the party and enjoy being part of the show themselves.”

Set to the sounds of Abba, the show will transform one of the O2’s venues into a “wonderfully exotic Greek taverna,” telling the story of its landlord Nikos and his family. Alongside theatre and music, the 500-capacity show will serve guests a three-course Mediterranean meal.

“We want to do our part to ensure that as many visitors as possible will enjoy the timeless and joyful music of Abba”

Last week, Eventim was named as the show’s exclusive ticketing partner in the UK. Tickets will go on sale this autumn for next spring, with 200,000 being made available annually. On the exclusive partnership, Klaus-Peter Schulenberg, CEO of Eventim, comments: “I firmly believe that the show in London will seamlessly build on its overwhelming success in Stockholm.

“We want to do our part to ensure that as many visitors as possible will enjoy the timeless and joyful music of Abba.”

Mamma Mia! The Party adds to Eventim’s growing live entertainment portfolio, which has already helped the company achieve significant gains in the first half of 2018. Details of ticket pre-sales will be made available later this year, on the show’s official website.


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PRS partners with Björn Ulvaeus’s Auddly

UK performance rights organisation PRS for Music has agreed a long-term licensing agreement with Auddly, a start-up whose “digital handshake” technology the PRO will use to increase the speed and accuracy of its royalty payments.

The deal, says PRS, will enable its songwriter, composer and publisher members to capture their song and composition data – including agreement of shares – and register their works, with PRS at the point of creation, using a new tool powered by Auddly.

Auddly was co-founded by Abba’s Björn Ulvaeus, a PRS member who is the main investor in Auddly, and fellow Swedish hitmakers Max Martin and Niclas Molinder.

Its tool will enable creators to communicate directly among themselves to propose and agree share splits, cutting down on admin for publishers while capturing data in a consistent, standardised and transparent way for all interested parties, according to a PRS statement, preventing inaccuracies occurring as data travels along the value chain.

“Now’s the time for the world to realise that no one in the music industry is more important than us songwriters”

The new tool will also make it possible for industry identifiers such as ISWC (International Standard Musical Work Code) and ISRC (International Standard Recording Code) to be assigned at the same time, allowing both sets of data to travel along the value chain together.

“When I joined PRS for Music a few years ago, long before Auddly, I did so because I had the feeling that PRS were at the forefront of collecting societies,” says Ulvaeus. “They seemed flexible and willing to adapt to future technologies and, as I am a bit of a tech geek, I like that. [And] I was right.

“I’m immensely grateful to PRS for sharing Niclas’s and my vision and I’m proud to be his partner in this great collaboration. We share the goal to help songwriters get quick and fair payments and, not least, get credits whenever and wherever their songs are played. Now’s the time for the world to realise that no one in the music industry is more important than us songwriters. It all starts with a song!”

PRS agreed a new live music tariff of 4% – or 2.5% for qualifying festivals – with industry stakeholders last month, after three years of negotiations.


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No touring plans as Abba announce new music

A spokesperson for Abba has said there are no plans for the Swedish superstars to go back on the road – in person, at least – following this morning’s surprise announcement of new music.

Digital likenesses of the four-piece, who originally split in 1982, are set to tour as hologram ‘Abbatars’ in 2019 or 2020. In a statement, Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid ‘Frida’ Lyngstad – collectively one of the most successful acts in the history of popular music – said today “the decision to go ahead with the exciting Abba avatar tour project had an unexpected consequence. We all four felt that, after some 35 years, it could be fun to join forces again and go into the recording studio.”

The two new songs – one of which is titled ‘I Still Have Faith in You’ – will be performed by Abba’s “digital selves” in an NBC/BBC television special, set to be broadcast in December.

The band last performed together in person in June 2016 at a one-off private event in Stockholm.

Speaking to IQ, Abba spokeswoman Görel Hanser says there “no touring plans whatsoever”, with the Abbatar tour providing an opportunity for fans to “remember Abba as they were”.

Another source close to the band echoes Hanser in saying, “it’s a shame, but they absolutely won’t tour again”.

“It’s a chance for peopel to remember Abba as they were”

The Abbatar project was revealed in Brussels earlier this month, with Ulvaeus promising the TV special will be a “global television moment” to rival the Eurovision Song Contest.

The project, a partnership with Universal Music Group and former Spice Girls manager Simon Fuller, is being billed as “a groundbreaking venture that will utilise the very latest in digital and virtual-reality technology” that “enable a new generation of fans to see, hear and feel Abba in a way previously unimagined”.

The band will appear as they looked in 1979, as “we thought we looked good that year”, says Ulvaeus. He describes the effect as “simply mind-boggling […] You’ll hear the voices of Abba coming out of the mouths of the Abbatars.”

Abba have sold more than 400 million albums but – in contrast to many of their contemporaries – have resisted offers to reform. Aside from the private party in 2016, the band have not performed live since 1986.

Their final full concert tour was 1979–1980’s Abba: The Tour, which visited arenas in North America, Europe and Asia. According to Billboard, total gross from five typical shows in North America – Pacific Coliseum (13,499 tickets) in Vancouver, Concord Pavilion (8,096) in California, Milwaukee Auditorium (6,120), Boston Music Hall (4,200) and Maple Leaf Gardens (16,400) in Toronto – was US$441,482, from 48,315 total tickets sold.

For comparison, 2017’s top tour, U2’s Joshua Tree 2017, grossed an average of $8.32m – per show.


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