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BBC documentary sheds new light on Pollen collapse

A new documentary has attempted to shed new light on the spectacular collapse of UK-based music, travel and experiences start-up Pollen.

Founded in 2014 by brothers Callum and Liam Negus-Fancey, Pollen organised artist-curated weekenders such as a Bring Me The Horizon festival in Malta, the Unruly Culture Splash Weekender in Croatia with Popcaan, Diplo’s Higher Ground festival in Mexico and Justin Bieber & Friends in Las Vegas. But the firm went bust last summer – just three months after being valued at US$800 million and raising $150m in new funding.

According to a  Companies House filing, Pollen’s parent company Streetteam Software Limited owed £75 million (£59.4m unsecured) to creditors when it fell into administration. The group recorded pre-tax losses of £52.4m, £42.7m and £57.4m in 2019, 2020 and 2021, respectively.

“The legacy of the Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the growth model of the group,” said Matt Ingram of London-based administrator Kroll after the firm was appointed to oversee the sale of the London-based firm’s remaining assets.

Now, a new BBC Three documentary, Crashed: $800m Festival Fail, details luxury retreats and parties for staff – one of which reportedly cost $500,000 – which Pollen says were about building a “strong culture and collaboration”.

The documentary says the company began to show signs of trouble in late 2021 when “vendors and hotels were not getting their payments on time”.

It goes on to allege that an estimated 15,000 customers who signed up to a monthly payment plan were double and in some cases triple-charged for their instalment in unauthorised transactions worth $3.2m. Internal documents, seen by BBC Three, suggested the computer code responsible was written by a senior employee at Pollen, tested the day beforehand and then executed manually.

“Tens of millions of dollars has been recovered for creditors and impacted customers through the administration process”

In a statement to the BBC, Pollen confirmed an overcharge happened, but said it was unintentional and due to human error, adding that all affected customers were refunded within two weeks, or accepted a voucher. “No person or company benefited from the mistake,” said the firm.

Nevertheless, of the 259 claimants who responded to the documentary team, all but 10 said they were still waiting for refunds.

A spokesperson for Pollen has since hit back, telling CMU the BBC is “mistaken” in some of its claims.

“The company accepts there was an overcharge, which was an error, admitted to at the time by the employee responsible,” they say. “All customers were refunded or got a voucher; at their discretion. The refunds being referred to in the BBC Three documentary were not related to the overcharge, but due to the company entering administration.

“When a company is unable to pay its debts, it enters administration. However, tens of millions of dollars has been recovered for creditors and impacted customers through the administration process, and more money is still coming in through the sale of company assets.

“95% of customers whose events were due to go ahead post administration have either been refunded or the event has taken place.”

Pollen, which had 316 employees prior to its collapse, raised US$150m in a Series C round in April 2022, only to let over 150 members of staff go in the UK and US a month later. Earlier, it raised over $100m in venture capital funding, while the UK government’s Future Fund also previously invested in the firm.


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Michael Gudinski doc to premiere at Oz film fest

A new documentary detailing the extraordinary life and career of Mushroom Group founder Michael Gudinski will make its premiere at the Melbourne International Film Festival on 10 August, three weeks before its theatrical release across Australia on 31 August.

Entitled Ego: The Michael Gudinski Story the film will feature archive footage and interviews with Gudinski, while artists such as Kylie Minogue, Dave Grohl, Ed Sheeran, Sting, Bruce Springsteen and Jimmy Barnes will talk about the late music mogul’s impact on their careers, as well as on the wider music industry in Australia and internationally.

The documentary will be part of Mushroom’s extended 50th-anniversary celebrations

The documentary will be part of Mushroom’s extended 50th-anniversary celebrations. Gudinski, who died in March 2021, founded Mushroom Records in 1972, with his group of companies firmly establishing itself as one of the foremost music and entertainment specialists across both Australia and New Zealand.

Indeed, such was Gudinski’s legendary status in his native country, that he was honoured with a state funeral in Melbourne, with superstars such as Elton John, Taylor Swift, Billy Joel, Rod Stewart, Bryan Adams and many more recording tributes to him, while Ed Sheeran attended the memorial service and performed an emotional version of his hit Visiting Hours to honour a man he referred to as his friend and mentor.


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Lollapalooza docuseries in the works

Paramount+ has greenlit a new music docuseries exploring the history of Lollapalooza festival.

The three-part Lolla: The Story of Lollapalooza series is being produced by MTV Entertainment Studios and FunMeter, in partnership with C3 Presents, and will chronicle the relationship between the festival and its founder Perry Farrell, and the evolution of “the now global cultural phenomenon”.

“When Lolla was launched in 1991, the concert industry felt like a boring car ride that was running out of gas,” says Farrell. “We pumped new life into the live music experience and set the foundation for the youth’s counter culture to become important and exciting again. Now more than three decades young, I am happy to have this opportunity to give people an inside look at the festival’s contribution to music history.”

No date has yet been set for the series, which will be directed by Michael John Warren, whose past music projects include Jay-Z’s Fade to Black, Nicki Minaj’s My Time Now and My Time Again, and Drake’s Better Than Good Enough.

“It’s an honour to be entrusted to tell the true story of one of the most astonishing cultural touchstones in the last half-century”

“As a naive teenager trapped in the doldrums of Suburbia, USA, I attended the first-ever Lollapalooza, and it totally blew my mind,” adds Warren. “It was dangerous, beautiful and instantly widened my perspective. So, it’s an honour to be entrusted to tell the true story of one of the most astonishing cultural touchstones in the last half-century.”

The project will be the first major festival documentary since the three-part Trainwreck: Woodstock ’99, which premiered on Netflix last summer and revisited the events around the festival’s ill-fated 1999 revival.

Lollapalooza launched in Chicago in 1991 and has gone on to expand to Chile, Brazil, Germany, France, Sweden and most recently India.

The debut edition of Lollapalooza India was held last weekend at Mahalaxmi Racecourse Lawns in Mumbai and drew 60,000 fans over two days. The event saw performances from local and international artists including Imagine Dragons, The Strokes, AP Dhillon, Cigarettes After Sex, Divine, the F16s, Jackson Wang, Imanbek, Greta Van Fleet, The Wombats, and Diplo.

The next Lollapalooza US is slated for Grant Park, Chicago from 3-6 August.


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Motley Crue plot explosive touring return

Six years after signing a ‘cessation of touring’ agreement bringing down the curtain on their live career, infamous LA hair metallers Mötley Crüe are to reform, following the success of their Netflix biopic, The Dirt.

As detailed in the video above, awkwardly titled (to British ears) ‘Mötley Crüe is Back’, the notoriously tempestuous band destroyed the contract, signed after their ‘final’ show on 31 December 2015, “in true Mötley Crüe fashion, by literally blowing it up”.

“Since playing Tommy Lee in The Dirt, so many of my fans have said how they wish they could’ve seen the real Mötley Crüe play live,” comments Colson Baker, aka Machine Gun Kelly. “I never thought I would see the day when this would become a reality. But the fans spoke and Mötley Crüe listened.”

In the six months following the release of The Dirt, Mötley Crüe have celebrated a 350% increase in streams of their music across all streaming platforms, with most fans now aged 18–44.

However, say the band, “most of the new fans have never seen any of the legendary live shows that Crüeheads have relished for close to four decades.” Expect a new tour announcement soon.


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Eventbrite’s ‘A New Dawn’ looks at the future of UK nightlife

Wednesday night (6 September) saw the launch of a new documentary by Eventbrite, A New Dawn: Meet the Future of UK Nightlife, with which the ticketing/technology company aims to shine a light on the evolution of, and challenges faced by, contemporary nightlife in Britain.

The screening in London was followed by panel session, chaired by journalist/DJ Kate Hutchison, featuring four important figures from the UK’s night-time industries: Alan D. Miller, chairman of the Night Time Industries Association; Johnno Burgess of party/festival brands Bugged Out, Mighty Hoopla and Field Day; Time Out’s music and nightlife editor, Oliver Keens; and Hannah Ross of Manchester DIY collective Partisan.

“What was really great about the film was that it really shows that things aren’t appalling,” said Keens. “There’s still fun to be had in the big cities in the UK and I’m really hopeful we can stress that as much as possible.”

All four panelists, however, agreed there are major challenges for the nightlife industry to overcome. The prohibitive cost of events for budget-conscious young people was a recurring concern, as was the lack of suitable spaces in major cities, and how festival exclusivity periods make it hard for promoters to deliver bills that will attract audiences.

Burgess noted the shift towards daytime raving and special events, while Ross added the slow-moving bureaucracy of licensing is also problematic. Partisan operates under a temporary events notice which limits the venue to just 21 days of events per year – and one under which any event which runs past midnight counts as two days of their allowance.

Keens was eager to emphasise that the rise of food events in nightlife shouldn’t change the essence of the experience. “There’s an art to clubbing or nightlife that shouldn’t be forgotten about,” he stated. “My worry is that we lose all of that expression and it gets subsumed by the very professional industry that is catering, which is very economically driven.”

“Venues should have ownership and freeholds of the spaces, not just leases, so they don’t become victims of their own success”

Miller agreed with this point. He reflected that scenes such as acid house were often driven by people eager to experiment, innovate and take risks. A larger, corporate business, he said, wouldn’t generate the same atmosphere as a DIY initiative with an entrepreneurial spirit.

Miller argued that nightlife should be more pivotal in the planning of urban policy-makers. Every aspect of city life – eg police, licensing, environment and transport – has an impact upon the night scene, but their differing needs often make for frustrating contradictions for clubs.

One of Miller’s suggestions was for huge investment in affordable housing for young people, which would make city life more affordable while also providing cheaper rents for venues. That would be complemented by ensuring that clubs which add to the wealth and ambience of a location shouldn’t subsequently be priced out. “We should campaign that venues should have ownership and freeholds of the spaces, not just leases, so they don’t become victims of their own success in places like Brixton, Peckham and Hackney,” he said.

Despite the challenges, everyone was eager to assert what they’re excited about in the UK clubbing scene: from Bristol’s Al Fresco Disco to creative communities such as the Islington Mill in Salford, and even the hook-them-in-early appeal of baby raves.

Most importantly, however, Miller asserted that people need to stand up for what they believe in.

“We have to have a collective conversation,” he affirmed. “I really don’t think it’s up to people in policy or just the people who are running clubs. I think people who are clubbers and who go out and care about what they want to see should be involved in that conversation. I can’t overestimate how much influence ordinary people can have on that.”


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