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LN & Jeezy not responsible for US concert shooting

Live Nation and rapper Young Jeezy were not liable for a fatal shooting backstage at a concert in California, an appeals court has ruled.

A wrongful death lawsuit was filed by the family of event promoter Eric Johnson, Jr, who died in hospital following the incident at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View in August 2014.

The suit claimed that Live Nation had been legally negligent because it had insufficient security measures in place to prevent the shooting, but a subsequent trial ruled in the defendants’ favour.

Billboard reports the California Court of Appeal has now upheld the ruling on the basis that the attack was not “foreseeable”.

“A violent attack by and between artists and their guests in the backstage area of a performance is not a foreseeable occurrence”

“A violent attack by and between artists and their guests in the backstage area of a performance is not a foreseeable occurrence against which Live Nation should have provided preventative measures of the nature plaintiffs suggest,” writes Justice Stuart R. Pollak.

“The reports did not … indicate that any of the artists or their entourages engaged in or posed any danger of violence during the tour. The head of security also indicated that in her more than 10 years at the amphitheatre, there had not been any violent incidents backstage.”

Live Nation faces a similar suit over the backstage stabbing of Drakeo the Ruler at 2021’s Once Upon a Time in LA festival. Drakeo, real name Darrell Caldwell, was attacked by a group of masked assailants prior to his scheduled performance at the event, and later died in hospital from his injuries.

Organisers are accused of providing insufficient security in the lead up to the attack. Live Nation failed in its first attempt to have the case dismissed earlier this month.

 


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Woman sues drinks firm after post-gig car crash

A concert-goer convicted of impaired driving after leaving a Marilyn Manson gig is suing the company that served her alcohol at the venue.

Daniella Leis, 26, was driving home from the show at Budweiser Gardens in London, Ontario, Canada in August 2019 when she crashed her car into a house and breaking a gas line, triggering an explosion 15 minutes later.

The blast, which injured seven people and destroyed four houses, caused US$15 million (€13.8m) of damage, with Leis jailed for three years in February 2021 after admitting four counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm.

Leis and her father, who owned the car she was driving, face six lawsuits from victims of the incident. However, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reports that the pair have filed their own claim and accused Ovations Ontario Food Services of “negligence, breach of duty, breach of contract” under the Occupiers’ Liability Act or Liquor Licence Act.

The claim adds that if Leis and her father are required to pay damages, they are “entitled to contribution and indemnity” from the company.

They allege the food and beverage company had a responsibility to do more to ensure Leis’ safety that night and therefore share some of the liability. The suit reportedly claims Ovations served her alcohol “when they knew or ought to have known that she was intoxicated or would become intoxicated”, and failed to provide properly trained staff at the exits and monitor the state of intoxication for those departing.

In addition, the firm is accused of failing to check on Leis’ “intended mode of transportation… when they knew or ought to have known that she was or appealed to be intoxicated and/or impaired”, adding that staff ejected Leis from the venue while failing to take steps to ensure she would not drive home.

The claim adds that if Leis and her father are required to pay damages, they are “entitled to contribution and indemnity” from the company.

Ovations is yet to respond to the lawsuit.

 


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Sony Music to pay $160m over concert shooting

Sony Music Holdings has been ordered to pay US$160 million (€152m) in damages following a fatal shooting at a Cousin Stizz concert it organised in Atlanta.

Four people were shot after a gunman opened fire just as the rapper was about to take to the stage at the 1,000-cap Masquerade venue in Underground Atlanta on 12 November, 2017. Two of the casualties – Giovan Diaz, 22, and Ewell Ynoa, 21 – died from catastrophic gunshot wounds. A 25-year-old suspect was arrested and charged with their murder.

According to court documents, Sony Music Holdings was the promoter, planner, supervisor and manager of the show, but allegedly failed to put security measures in place and carry out reasonable inspections of the venue, reports Music Business Worldwide.

The $160m was awarded by a Dekalb County, Georgia jury for Sony’s role in “failing to protect patrons” and will be used to compensate the victims’ families. The trial, which followed several years of litigation, consisted of two previously consolidated cases.

“This verdict represents an incredible day of justice for our clients and for the safety of all people that attend concerts across America,” says lead trial counsel Parker Miller of Beasley Allen. “Obviously, these types of cases do not come around often. This was a mass shooting in a crowded concert. There were multiple deaths, and Gio and Wells suffered significantly before losing their fight for life, as eyewitnesses outlined.”

“Juries don’t award these types of verdicts unless there is a confluence of circumstances, which was the case here”

Miller continues: “The trial was incredibly emotional because of what these families, and the world, lost. One of these men had been told he would be a father just a few hours before the shooting happened. Combine that with the fact the concert endangered everyone, and this defendant refused to participate in the legal process, and you get the type of verdict we saw here.”

Sony has declined to comment on the verdict.

“Juries don’t award these types of verdicts unless there is a confluence of circumstances, which was the case here,” adds Darren Summerville of The Summerville Firm. Our system has always turned to our citizens to lend a voice when a company endangers others with wholly unnecessary suffering and death. Just as importantly, ignoring the legal process always represents a risk for an entity that thinks it need not participate.”

Tiffany M Simmons, managing partner of Simmons Law in Atlanta, Georgia, adds: “There is no excuse for how poorly secured this production was. We are humbled by the jury’s decision, and we hope this sends a message that this type of conduct will not be tolerated.”

 


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Taylor Swift fans sue Ticketmaster

More than two dozen Taylor Swift fans are suing Ticketmaster owner Live Nation for “unlawful conduct”, alleging fraud, misrepresentation and antitrust violations over the controversial presale for the singer’s 2023 stadium tour.

Swift shifted a record 2.4 million tickets for her AEG-promoted 52-date The Eras Tour in a single day last month, but the sale was marred by reports of “significant service failures” and lengthy delays on Ticketmaster’s website.

Ticketmaster went on to cancel the scheduled general sale, citing “extraordinarily high demands on ticketing systems and insufficient remaining ticket inventory to meet that demand” and issued a public apology to Swift and her fans.

Now, as part of a new lawsuit filed with the Superior Court of California in Los Angeles, the company is accused of “anticompetitive conduct… to impose higher prices on music concert attendees in the presale, sale and resale market”.

“Defendant’s anticompetitive behaviour has substantially harmed and will continue to substantially harm Taylor Swift fans,” says the 33-page filing on behalf of 26 plaintiffs.

“Global investment and financial services firm Citi last week upgraded its outlook for Live Nation”

The lawsuit is seeking $2,500 for each violation of California’s Unfair Competition Law. Jennifer Kinder, attorney for one of the complainants, tells the Washington Post that around 150 fans have expressed interest in being added to the suit since it was filed on Friday (2 December).

“They messed with the wrong fan base,” says Kinder.

The Eras Tour experienced “historically unprecedented demand” as 3.5m people pre-registered for Swift’s Verified Fan presale, 1.5m of whom were later invited to participate in the onsale. However, the Ticketmaster site struggled to cope with the traffic after being swamped by bot attacks. Seatgeek (which took on $238m in private equity investment in August) experienced similar technical issues ticketing five of the Swift dates.

Senators Amy Klobuchar and Mike Lee announced last month that a US Senate antitrust panel would look into a “lack of competition in ticketing markets”, in response to the cancelled onsale. However, global investment and financial services firm Citi last week upgraded its outlook for Live Nation, saying it was unlikely to be split up as a result of the panel.

Live Nation has not responded to the lawsuit, but previously addressed competition concerns in a lengthy statement.

“Live Nation takes its responsibilities under the antitrust laws seriously and does not engage in behaviours that could justify antitrust litigation, let alone orders that would require it to alter fundamental business practices,” it said.

 


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First Astroworld lawsuit settlements reached

The first wrongful death lawsuit settlements have been reached over last year’s Astroworld festival tragedy.

Axel Acosta, 21, and Brianna Rodriguez, 16, were among 10 concertgoers who were killed after a crowd surge during Travis Scott’s headline at the 50,000-cap festival in Houston, Texas last November, promoted by Live Nation and its Scoremore subsidiary. All of those who died suffered from compression asphyxia.

Announcing the claims brought by Acosta’s family against organisers have now been settled,” lawyer Tony Buzbee of the Buzbee Law Firm says: “Axel Acosta was a beloved son, brother, and student. He was kind and loving. He is greatly missed. Please keep his family in your prayers.”

In addition, court records show that Rodriguez’s family settled their lawsuit in July, although settlement terms have not been disclosed in either case.

Scott’s spokesperson Ted Anastasiou says that no member of the rapper’s legal team has participated in any settlement discussions

“Brianna Rodriguez was deeply loved and is terribly missed by her parents, her entire and extended family, her friends, and by her peers at Heights High School,” says a statement from Robin Blanchette and Troy Williams, attorneys for Rodriguez’s family. “Brianna’s memory will forever live within those whose lives she touched and through the nonprofit organisation, Dancing Through Bri, which has been created to provide scholarships to college-bound dancers and athletes.”

According to USA Today, Scott’s spokesperson Ted Anastasiou says that no member of the rapper’s legal team has participated in any settlement discussions. Live Nation is yet to comment.

Almost 5,000 people have claimed they were injured in the disaster, which unfolded on 5 November 2021. Earlier this year, the go-ahead was given for hundreds of Astroworld lawsuits to be formally consolidated into a single case.

 


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Andrea Bocelli sues air charter firm

Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli is suing an air charter company for breach of contract over the plane it provided for part of his 2021 North American tour.

According to AP, the 64-year-old says New Hampshire-based Private Jet Services gave him an older, noisier airplane than agreed upon.

He adds he was warned by flight crew to expect turbulence during the flight from Santa Ana, California to Cleveland, Ohio late last year, despite specifically requesting there be no mention of adverse weather due to it causing him anxiety, “because of his blindness but also because of his musical training and chosen profession”.

“He is also not a very keen flyer, as he has fear of flying and can feel anxiety related to safety issues during air travel”

“He is also not a very keen flyer, as he has fear of flying and can feel anxiety related to safety issues during air travel,” adds the lawsuit filed in the federal court by attorney Michele Kenney. “In particular, he is sensitive to the elevated noise that an older airplane tends to make in flight, with such elevated noise causing him more anxiety.”

Bocelli’s demands included that the plane not be more than four years old “to provide a higher standard” of safety.

As reported by Seacoast Online, the suit alleges that when Bocelli’s representatives complained, Private Jet Services “cancelled flights in the midst of Mr Bocelli’s tightly-scheduled concert tour, forcing him to scramble to secure jet replacement”.

Bocelli is asking for treble damages of the refund of the $569,800 he paid for 15 flights, the amount he paid for alternative flight arrangements, lawyers fees and damages.

Private Jet Services has not commented on the allegations.

 


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Coachella sues Ghana’s Afrochella over name

Goldenvoice and Coachella are suing Ghana’s Afrochella for copyright infringement.

Afrochella launched in 2017 and is due to return to El Wak Stadium, near Accra, from 28-29 December with headliners Burna Boy and Stonebwoy.

However, organisers are accused of “actively promoting music events in the United States and in Ghana using the confusingly similar mark ‘Afrochella’ and by fraudulently attempting to register plaintiffs’ actual trademarks as their own”.

According to a lawsuit filed in the US district court, the defendants “expanded their infringing conduct” into the US this year via the launch of “at least seven different” Afrochella events in the Los Angeles area and “have refused to curtail their infringing use of plaintiffs’ registered marks, necessitating the filing of this federal lawsuit”.

“Despite repeated requests from Plaintiffs, defendants have refused to adopt their own distinctive event name and marks, and as a result, instances of actual confusion have already appeared on social media,” it adds.

Referencing an August 2022 quote by Floatchella co-founder Edward Elohim, the defendants claim that Elohim essentially admitted the name was chosen “with specific intent to create a suggestion that it was a version of Coachella”.

“Plaintiffs have been forced to file this action to protect their Chella and Coachella trademarks and service marks from infringement and unfair competition”

“Plaintiffs have been forced to file this action to protect their Chella and Coachella trademarks and service marks from infringement and unfair competition, as well as to protect the public from the likelihood of confusion,” adds the suit. “Defendants even went as far as to apply in Ghana to register Coachella and Chella as their own trademarks, using the exact same stylisation as plaintiffs’ registered Coachella mark.”

Goldenvoice and Coachella are requesting a trial by jury over allegations of trademark and service mark infringement, false designation of origin, cyber squatting and unfair competition.

None of the parties have commented on the case publicly .

Coachella Festival, whose 2023 edition is scheduled for Indio Park, California from 14-16 and 21-23 April next year, registered the “Coachella” trademark for musical events in 2006. It is far from the first time the festival has launched legal action against other events over the “Chella” name.

AEG and Live Nation settled their trademark dispute over a rival music event called ‘Coachella Day One 22’ earlier this year, while Connecticut’s Floatchella was renamed Floatfest, Music on the Mystic River following a complaint from Coachella promoter AEG Presents.

Elsewhere, Los Angeles festival Hoodchella was rechristened Noise in the Hood after coming to an “amicable agreement” with AEG/Goldenvoice following legal action in 2016, and a California court ruled in Coachella’s favour in its dispute with film festival Filmchella in 2017.

 


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Lizzo can keep $5m Virgin Fest fee, judge rules

Lizzo can keep her US$5 million booking fee for 2020’s cancelled Virgin Fest in Los Angeles, a California judge ruled earlier this month.

The company that was promoting Virgin Fest, VFLA Eventco LLC, filed a lawsuit against WME in July 2020, as well as artists Lizzo, Ellie Goulding and Kali Uchis, saying the parties had agreed to return monies they had been advanced in the event of cancellation due to “an uncontrollable factor”.

The acts had been scheduled to play the debut outing of the festival at the Banc of California Stadium (22,000-cap.) and Exposition Park (160-acre) in LA on 6 and 7 June 2020 before it was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

After a two-year legal dispute, LA Superior Court judge Mark Epstein ruled on 1 September that the cancellation clauses added by attorneys for WME to its clients’ performance contracts shifted the financial risk of cancellation onto the festival.

Attorneys for WME insisted on several revisions to the original contract – especially to the force majeure clause – to make the contracts more “artist friendly.”

Thanks to those revisions, Lizzo, Goulding and Uchis are not required to pay back performance fees that were paid in advance of Virgin Fest.

Following the ruling, Virgin Fest owners Marc and Sharon Hagle are looking at financial losses in the festival business of approximately $23 million, court records show.

The festival was funded by the couple – who made their fortune in commercial real estate – and run by Jason Felts, CEO of the Virgin Group’s festival arm.

Richard Branson’s involvement with Virgin Fest was mostly that of a figurehead, promoting the festival online.

Agents at WME — including former co-head of music Marc Geiger, head of festivals and partner Josh Kurfirst, and Lizzo’s agent Matthew Morgan (who now represents her at UTA) — were vocally sceptical about Virgin Fest’s prospects for success, according to emails and communications produced in the lawsuit.

WME insisted that Lizzo be paid 100% of the fee prior to the festival announcing her as a headliner

Geiger warned Felts that staging the festival in Los Angeles, a market dominated by Live Nation, Goldenvoice and several well-established independents, was a bad idea.

Regardless, Felts pushed ahead with the festival and after Virgin Fest talent buyer Zach Tetreault raised Lizzo’s performance fee three times, ultimately landing on $5 million, the artist accepted the offer.

Goulding (represented by WME partner and global co-head of music Kirk Sommer) accepted $600,000 to perform at the festival and Uchis (represented by WME partner Kevin Shivers) agreed to play for $400,000. Another $300,000 was paid to WME to book five additional acts, among them the Marcus King Band and Banks.

WME insisted that Lizzo be paid 100% of the fee prior to the festival announcing her as a headliner and that Uchis and Goulding be paid 50% upon signing and the remaining 50% paid 90 days prior to their performances, emails produced for the lawsuit show.

Hoping to avoid any additional risk, Kurfirst instructed attorneys at WME in February 2020 to make sure the contracts were “100%,” meaning WME artists would be paid even if the festival was cancelled.

A month later, all events were indefinitely postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and WME steeled itself for a fight.

“One or more of the artists including a headliner are now going to take a position and not return the money,” Sommer wrote in a 4 June email to Goulding’s managers at TAP Management. “We have all seen unsuccessful festivals collapse and attempt to claw back artists guarantees, this festival was addressed upfront with stronger language and deposit terms for this reason.”

On 12 March 2021, Epstein issued an order that said the agreements the parties signed protected WME from being sued for what is essentially a dispute between the artists and the promoter.

That meant Epstein later dismissed four counts filed against WME by Virgin Fest including conversion and violations of California’s unfair competition law as well as a request for punitive damages.

The judge found that WME was simply following the wishes of its clients Lizzo, Goulding and Uchis, noting that WME did agree to return money to Virgin Fest for other clients who instructed them to do so.

 


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AEG sues Young Thug for $6m over contract dispute

AEG Presents is suing Young Thug for the return of a US$5 million advance, plus damages, after accusing the rapper of breach of contract.

According to court documents obtained by AllHipHop, the promoter signed an agreement with Young Thug, real name Jeffery Williams, in 2017, giving AEG exclusive rights to his concerts.

However, AEG says that Williams went on to breach the contract almost immediately and kept booking shows on the side and pocketing performance fees.

“Despite having granted AEG the exclusive right to promote Mr. Williams’ concert performances under the terms of the 2017 Artist Agreement, YSL and Mr. Williams immediately failed and refused to honour their respective obligations under the 2017 Artist Agreement by, among other things, disregarding AEG’s rights, performing concerts without AEG’s involvement, and retaining all proceeds generated therefrom,” says AEG’s lawyer, Kathleen Jorrie.

AEG is seeking at least $6m in damages

The firm also claims Williams put up some of his intellectual property rights as collateral in the deal, and is seeking at least $6m in damages, plus the rights to Williams’ Young Stoner Life (YSL) brand and the name Young Thug, along with legal fees.

Williams has denied the claims and the case was originally set for trial in October 2022 after settlement talks failed. However, it has now been pushed back to October 2023 after Williams was charged in a separate RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) case.

 


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AEG and LN settle Coachella trademark dispute

AEG and Live Nation have settled their trademark dispute over a rival music event called ‘Coachella Day One 22’.

AEG’s Goldenvoice subsidiary accused Live Nation of “contributory infringement” due to Ticketmaster selling tickets for the New Year’s Eve event.

‘Coachella Day One’ was organised by Native American Tribe Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians at a Southern California venue it named ‘Coachella Crossroads’. Twenty-Nine Palms was not listed as a defendant in the lawsuit after claiming sovereign immunity.

Coachella was granted a temporary restraining order against Live Nation last December, preventing the sale or advertisement of tickets while the case was further contested, and a judge declined LN’s bid to have the lawsuit thrown out earlier this year. However, Bloomberg Law reports the case has now been settled out of court.

Coachella Festival registered the “Coachella” trademark for musical events in 2006

Terms of the settlement have not been disclosed, but according to Law360, AEG and Live Nation entered into mediation on 9 August and drew up a binding agreement to end the litigation. A notice of dismissal will be filed “no later than 19 August 2022”.

The Goldenvoice-promoted Coachella Festival registered the “Coachella” trademark for musical events in 2006. Its most recent edition was held at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California in April. It will return from 14-16 and 21-23 April next year.

 


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