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Drake removed from Astroworld lawsuits

Drake has been dismissed from lawsuits relating to the 2021 Astroworld festival tragedy.

Ten people died and hundreds more were injured during the fatal crowd crush at the November 2021 event in Houston, Texas. All of those who died suffered from compression asphyxia.

The Canadian rapper, real name Aubrey Graham, appeared as a special guest during festival founder Travis Scott’s headline set, but attorneys for Drake had argued that since he was not involved in organising the concerts, he was not liable for the casualties that occurred.

“Mr Graham did not receive any security briefings, was not informed of any crowd control issues, injuries or deaths in the crowd, or any stop show orders at any time either before or during his 14-minute performance,” wrote the star’s lawyers.

USA Today reports the Harris County District Court of the 11th civil district granted Drake’s request for a summary judgment in the case and dismissed “all claims asserted against [Drake] by all plaintiffs and intervenors in this multidistrict litigation”.

District judge Kristen Hawkins dismissed seven companies and individuals who had been sued, but denied motions to dismiss that were filed by 10 other companies and individuals, including Apple, which livestreamed the concert, and Scott’s company Cactus Jack Enterprises.

The first trial from the lawsuits is slated for 6 May

In June last year, a grand jury declined to indict Scott, nor anyone else associated with the festival. However, more than 300 lawsuits were filed naming Scott, promoter Live Nation and other companies involved in the event.

Almost 5,000 people have claimed they were injured in the disaster, with lawsuits filed in each of the 24 district courts in Harris County. Nearly every claim alleges negligence such as “failures of safety and security rules, crowd control and emergency response measures, and failures to provide adequate security, supervision, training and care”.

The first trial from the lawsuits is slated for 6 May, while a number of cases have already been settled.

According to court documents, the head of safety for the festival raised concerns about the number of people that could be near the stage, ten days before the event took place.

Earlier this month, a Texas judge ordered Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino to give testimony in the lawsuits brought against his company and others by families of those who died at the festival.

 


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R&B legends unite for Missy Elliott’s first headline tour

Hip-hop pioneer Missy Elliott will hit the road this summer on her first headline tour, joined by Ciara, Busta Rhymes, and special guest Timbaland.

The Live Nation-promoted, 24-city run OUT OF THIS WORLD — The Missy Elliott Experience tour will bring the R&B superstar to arenas across North America, kicking off at Vancouver’s Rogers Arena (19,700-cap) on 4 July.

“This is an incredible time in my life as I am experiencing so many milestone ‘firsts.’ Being the first female hip-hop artist to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and now going out on my first headline tour,” Elliott says.

The arena tour will make stops at Los Angeles’s Crypto.com Arena (20,000), Atlanta’s State Farm Arena (16,888), New York’s UBS Arena (19,000) and Barclays Center (19,000), before wrapping up at Allstate Arena (18,500) in Rosemont, Illinois on 22 August.

“Fans have been asking me to tour forever but I wanted to wait until I felt the time was right because I knew if I was ever going to do it, I had to do it big, and I had to do it with family!” Elliott says. “We can’t wait to share this experience with the fans!”

A lineup of legendary R&B stars will join the four-time Grammy-award-winner on the road. Multi-platinum singer Ciara, hip-hop star Busta Rhymes, and hit-making producer Timbaland fill out the bill, all of whom Elliott has regularly collaborated with during her 30-year career.

“Elliott is a true path breaker in a male-dominated genre”

The multi-artist tour is co-produced by Elliott’s manager Mona Scott-Young, CEO of Monami Entertainment, who says the squad will “deliver a start-to-finish, nonstop, high-octane, OUT OF THIS WORLD concert experience”.

“Missy has always been an iconic groundbreaker and continuously pushes herself to be bolder and go where she has never been before – and surprisingly, one of those places is headlining her own tour!” Scott-Young says.

The 52-year-old star made history last year as the first female hip-hop artist to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which declared her “a true pathbreaker in a male-dominated genre.” In 2019, she became the first female hip-hop artist and third-ever rapper to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Her most recent EP, 2019’s ICONOLOGY, was met with critical acclaim, peaking at 24 on the Billboard 200. The debut EP broke the hitmaker’s 14-year hiatus, becoming her first new release since 2006’s greatest hits compilation Respect M.E.

Presales will run from today ahead of the general sale this Friday, 12 April, at 10:00 local time. VIP packages are also available, boasting premium tickets, an onstage group photo, exclusive lounge access, and more.

 


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Rapino ordered to testify in Astroworld lawsuit

Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino has been ordered to give testimony in the lawsuits brought against his company and others by families of those who died at the 2021 Astroworld festival.

Ten people died and hundreds more were injured during the fatal crowd crush at the November 2021 Astroworld event in Houston. In June last year, a Texas grand jury declined to indict rapper and festival founder Travis Scott, nor anyone else associated with the festival.

However, more than 300 lawsuits were filed naming Scott, Live Nation and other companies involved in the event. Lawyers representing the plaintiffs presented the court with evidence of correspondence between Rapino and other people involved in the event in an effort to show that he had significant knowledge about Astroworld.

Live Nation’s attorney, Neal Manne, told the court that only six of those messages dated from prior to the festival, including one where the CEO had asked whether Live Nation was the event’s promoter – proving that Rapino had no involvement in the planning of Astroworld.

“The court finds that Michael Rapino has personal and direct knowledge of relevant information”

Lawyers for the plaintiffs point out that in the immediate aftermath of the crushing tragedy, Rapino had correspondence and conversations with a number of people involved in Astroworld, and as such his testimony is relevant to the litigation.

One claim in the lawsuits is that Live Nation subsidiary Scoremore might not have had sufficient experience to set up the Astroworld festival site, and lawyers appear keen to question Rapino about the corporate structure of Live Nation.

Despite the fact that the lawsuits filed over Astroworld were not able to name Rapino as a defendant in his own right, judge Hawkins agreed with the plaintiffs that his testimony could involve vital information about culpability in the tragedy, and therefore ordered that the CEO sit for a deposition to answer questions under oath.

Ruling that the company’s top executive would have to participate in a deposition, Judge Kristen Hawkins wrote, “The court finds that Michael Rapino has personal and direct knowledge of relevant information. The court finds that Michael Rapino has superior knowledge of discoverable information and that he is the only individual with personal knowledge of the information. The court finds that the information is not available through other sources.”

 


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South Africa’s Calabash festival expands, secures stars

Robbie Williams and Green Day have been revealed as Calabash South Africa’s headliners for the touring festival’s second edition, set for January 2025.

Landing in both Johannesburg and Cape Town, the touring event is stretching to two days across two weekends next year, doubling from its single-day programme in the same cities.

The Big Concerts-promoted outing is set to visit Johannesburg’s FNB Stadium (94,736-capacity) — Africa’s biggest stadium — from 18-19 January 2025 and Cape Town’s DHL Stadium (55,000) from 22-23 January 2025. The festival announced the 2025 event aspires to etch “a new chapter in South Africa’s rock ‘n’ roll legacy.”

UK superstar Williams’ headlining set marks his first gigs in the country since 2006, when he opened his Close Encounters world tour with three sold-out stadium shows in Pretoria, Cape Town, and Durban.

The festival will mark Green Day’s inaugural show in the country. In May, the Grammy-award-winning group will embark on The Savior Tour, performing across US stadiums and UK/European festivals throughout the year.

American punk band The Offspring and local rockers Fokofpolisiekar are set to join the Calabash bill with Green Day, with additional acts to be announced for both days.

“We expeect touring to expand across Africa, with new markets and new venues being added to the touring circuit”

Earlier this year, Maroon 5 led the debut of the festival and was joined by local and international artists including Will Linley, Keane, and Ava Max, among others.

The expansion of the festival could signal a new era for international acts visiting the African nation, with Big Concerts CEO Justin Van Wyk telling IQ the future looks bright for the African market.

“We anticipate a boom in new venue development and also expect touring to expand across Africa, with new markets and new venues being added to the touring circuit to bolster the economics for tours,” he says.

Big Concerts, which was acquired by Live Nation in 2016, is promoting shows by James Blunt, Kool & The Gang, and Cigarettes After Sex within the next year.

A new two-day country music festival, the ‘biggest outside the US’, will also take place in Cape Town’s DHL Stadium this October.

 


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Jennifer Lopez NA tour rebranded for greatest hits

American pop star Jennifer Lopez is rebranding her forthcoming North American summer tour after cancelling several dates.

The Live Nation-promoted trek, originally titled This Is Me… Now and announced in February alongside a musical film and 13-track album, was originally set to visit 30 cities across 34 dates from 26 June.

Since the original tour announcement, the Bronx-born star has cancelled the final seven dates, including shows at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena (20,000-capacity), Atlanta’s State Farm Arena (16,888), and Houston’s Toyota Center (19,000).

Organisers have rebranded the tour as a career-spanning concept to encourage fans of the 54-year-old superstar who may not have connected with her most recent release. The This Is Me… Now | The Greatest Hits tour is now set to span 30 dates across the US and Canada.

Amid the seven cancelled performances, three additional shows have been added to the schedule

Three shows have been added to the tour, with extra nights added for Miami’s Kaseya Center (19,500), Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena (19,800), and Lopez’s homecoming at New York City’s Madison Square Garden (19,500). The two Madison Square Garden dates bookend the tour on 16 and 17 August.

The chart-topping star’s latest material, her first album since 2014’s A.K.A., debuted at 38 on the Billboard 200. This Is Me… Now sold 14,000 copies in its first week, landing atop the Billboard Top Album Sales Chart.

Her ninth studio album corresponds with a larger passion project for Lopez, adding to the $20 million self-financed Amazon Original musical film, This Is Me… Now: A Love Story, and behind-the-scenes documentary, The Greatest Love Story Never Told, both released in February.

 


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DLT Presents plans ‘all-inclusive’ London fest

DTL Presents is launching a new all-inclusive summer festival in London’s Gunnesbury Park called The Recipe.

The 15,000-capacity event will take place on 6 July, with live music, unlimited food & drinks, amusement rides and beauty experiences included in the yet-to-be-announced ticket price.

Grammy Award-winning R&B star Jazmine Sullivan has been announced as a headliner for the west London event, marking her first UK performance in a decade.

Other artists booked to perform include SiR and Grammy-nominated R&B singer Alex Isley, with more to be announced in the coming months.

“We wanted to introduce The Recipe because we noticed a consistent inclination to seek festival line-ups and experiences abroad that resonated with us,” festival co-founder Anthony Iban told The Independent.

“Recognising the absence of such an immersive experience in London, we set out to fill that gap”

“I travelled all the way to Philadelphia for a festival and was captivated by its fusion of food, community, and music in a single venue. Recognising the absence of such an immersive experience in London, we set out to fill that gap and want the event to become a staple in people’s festival calendar.”

Food vendors confirmed for The Recipe include Santa Nata, which specialises in authentic, traditional Pastel de Nata and Sweet Dee’s Jerk, which offers Caribbean-inspired bowls, wraps and bagels. Tacos and Mexican small-plate dishes will also be available from Breddos Tacos.

DLT (Days Like This) was founded in 2016 and organises daytime and brunch parties in London, New York, Amsterdam, Toronto, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa.

The promoter also organisers an annual four-day festival in Malta for 4,000 people. The third edition, headlined by Kaytranada, will take place on 6–10 and 13–17 June at Bora Bora Ibiza Malta resort.

 


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Madonna confirms Copacabana Beach tour finale

Madonna has confirmed rumours that her 40th anniversary tour will wrap up with a historic free concert in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – the biggest show of her career.

The Queen of Pop will bring her Celebration Tour to a close on Copacabana Beach on Saturday 4 May. Promoted by Bonus Track in partnership with Live Nation, it will be her first gig in Brazil since 2012 and will be the only South American date of the tour.

No tickets are required for the event, with entrance to be applied on a first come first serve basis on the day of the performance, which will be broadcast live on Brazilian free-to-air television network TV Globo.

“The confirmation of this show is a great gift for all Madonna fans,” says Bonus Track partner Luiz Guilherme Niemeyer. It will truly be a unique moment, with one of the most successful musical tours expected across several countries, and the artist chose exactly Rio de Janeiro for this grand finale. Much more than a show, we will show the world the impact of this great event, open to the public, held on Copacabana Beach, a scene that dominates the global imagination as an example of natural beauty.

“Furthermore, it is important to highlight here the numerous positive impacts of this event for the city and the State, with the increase in tourism and the economy.”

The stage will be located in front of the Belmond Copacabana Palace Hotel. The event is presented by financial services company Itaú, and sponsored by the City of Rio de Janeiro, the State Government of Rio de Janeiro and Heineken, with support from Deezer.

“All Brazilians can celebrate and be inspired together with us in this story that transcends generations”

“We are turning 100 years old and celebrating this date alongside our customers in this historic and free Madonna show in Copacabana is something very special and as big as the history of Itaú Unibanco,” says the bank’s CMO Eduardo Tracanella.

“To celebrate our centenary, [there is] nothing like bringing the icon of this campaign, free of charge, so that all Brazilians can celebrate and be inspired together with us in this story that transcends generations. We will soon be releasing new features for Itaú customers.”

Launched in London last October with the first of six sold-out nights at The O2, The Celebration Tour has spanned 14 countries, with its European leg grossing $77.5 million from 429,000 ticket sales, according to Billboard Boxscore.

The run continues this week in North America with two dates at Houston’s Toyota Center. Upcoming dates also include stops in Atlanta and Tampa, as well as three nights at Miami’s Kaseya Center and five nights at Palacio De Los Deportes in Mexico City.

Madonna’s most well-attended show to date was a performance at Parc de Sceaux in Paris, France on 1987’s Who’s That Girl World Tour, which drew 131,100 concertgoers. However, free concerts on Copacabana Beach have routinely attracted in excess of one million people to concerts in the past. The Rolling Stones’ famous 2006 show pulled in an estimated 1.5m fans, while a 1994 New Year’s Eve gig headlined by Rod Stewart reputedly drew 4.2m.

 


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Touring power players enjoy stock market surge

Live music powerhouses have recorded big six-month gains on the stock market, with CTS Eventim sailing to its highest ever share price.

Shares in the German pan-European ticketing and live entertainment giant reached an all-time high of €77.90 yesterday (19 March) – representing a 13% upswing in the last month and a huge 40% rise on six months ago.

In its latest financial results, published last month, the company reported it had “significantly exceeded” its 2023 forecast thanks to a “very strong” Q4. It enjoyed a record year, attaining consolidated revenue of €2.359 billion – a 22.5% increase on the previous year’s €1.926bn.

“The CTS Eventim share has been in a long-term upward trend since January 24, 2024 and has gained +28.96% in value during this period,” reports Boerse.

Live Nation is also on a significant upward trajectory. Its current price of US$103.47 (€95.31) is 12% higher than a month ago and has leapt 27% over the last six months. The firm posted all-time highs for attendance, ticket sales and sponsorship activity in its financial results for full-year and Q4 2023.

“The live music industry reached new heights in 2023, and demand for live music continues to build,” Live Nation president and CEO Michael Rapino told investors at last month’s earnings call.

Furthermore, Madison Square Garden Entertainment shares have jumped 18.8% in half a year to their current price of $38.87, while shares in its Sphere Entertainment spinoff have seen a 28% uptick in the same period to $46.73.

German live entertainment power player DEAG postponed its return to the Frankfurt Stock Exchange earlier this year

Sphere Entertainment encompasses the first Sphere venue in Las Vegas as well as MSG Networks and Tao Group Hospitality businesses. The company reported revenues of $314.2m for fiscal 2024 Q2, an increase of $154.6m on the prior year quarter, and an operating loss of $159.7m, (up from the prior year’s quarter $109.9m).

In addition, MENA streaming service Anghami, owner of Dubai-based event management company Spotlight Events, has climbed 63% in six months to $1.30, while music company ATC, which listed on the Aquis Growth Market in London in December 2021, has risen from 92.5p to 115p. The UK-based company announced in February 2024 that it had raised £2.3 million through a subscription of 2.2 million shares priced at 105p each.

And Roblox Corp, the company behind social gaming platform Roblox, is up 40.5% since September 2023 to hover at $36.88.

Meanwhile, German live entertainment power player DEAG postponed its return to the Frankfurt Stock Exchange earlier this year.

The group was due to list in Q1 2024 with an offer consisting of a capital increase of €40-50 million, together with an additional offering of existing shares from the holdings of current shareholders. However, it announced that the management board has decided to continue conversations with investors at a later date as it is “currently in advanced conversations with several acquisition targets”.

The Berlin-headquartered firm first went public in 1998 and delisted in January 2021 in the wake of the pandemic after accepting a takeover offer from its largest single shareholder Apeiron Investment Group and its Malta-based subsidiary Musai Capital.

 


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Live Nation’s Neste Live! promotes trio

Neste Live!, a Live Nation subsidiary based in Tennessee, has announced promotions for three key executives: Andrew Fortin, Jill Kopecky and Annette St. Onge.

Fortin has been upped to vice president of fairs & festivals and will oversee Neste Live!’s portfolio of ticketed events while targeting growth in the fair and festival space for both domestic and international markets, according to a release.

He will continue to be responsible for booking the California Mid-State Fair, the Los Angeles County Fair, Country Fan Fest, Night in the Country, Country Stampede, Stars of Texas Music Festival, Oregon Jamboree, and the Deadwood Mountain Grand Casino, among other accounts.

Kopecky has been promoted to vice president of corporate & private events to spearhead business development in the company’s corporate and private event market.

She has built a reputation among her clients as a premier corporate talent buyer, having booked and produced events including NASCAR’s Speedway GLOBE and the Utah State Fair. She has also built a strong client portfolio with recent expansion abroad to Spain and the Middle East.

“I look forward to the continued success and innovation they will undoubtedly bring as they lead their respective divisions”

St. Onge, meanwhile, has been elevated to director of operations and will oversee the company’s full scope of business operations while guiding strategic planning. Her experience in the live music business includes managing large-scale events such as the inaugural Music City Jazz Festival, corporate talent buying, and owning a boutique artist management company in the private event sector.

“These promotions reflect Andrew and Jill’s outstanding contributions to our team and their ability to navigate the dynamic world of live events, while never overlooking the integrity we built this company upon,” says Gil Cunningham, president and owner of Neste Live!.

“I look forward to the continued success and innovation they will undoubtedly bring as they lead their respective divisions in strategic expansion plans in the festival and private event spaces.

“Promoting Annette, who has such a depth of experience in the industry and impressive knowledge of business operations, has already increased our efficiency while streamlining our processes, setting us up for success as we scale the business. We are fortunate to have her.”

Neste was established in 1995 as a corporate sponsorship and event marketing agency for the festival market, later expanding into talent buying and event production. The company was acquired by Live Nation in 2019.

 


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Usher’s London residency reaches double figures

Usher’s residency at The O2 in London as part of his 2025 European tour has stretched to a tenth and final show.

The 45-year-old R&B superstar has already sold out nine nights at the venue for 1-2, 5-6, 8-9 & 11 April and 6-7 May, and will now also perform on 29 March due to “incredible demand”.

London’s flagship venue hosted four concert and residencies in 2023 by Elton John (10), Micky Flanagan (9), Madonna (6) and Chris Brown (6), with 2024 highlights set to include Take That (6), The Killers (6), Girls Aloud (5), Olivia Rodrigo (4) and Liam Gallagher (4).

“Residencies are something that are becoming more and more important in the way we programme the venue,” says Emma Bownes, VP of venue programming at The O2, told IQ last year.

“There is a huge demand for live music at the moment at arena, stadium and outdoor level, so artists are realising they can serve the amount of fan demand by sitting down at The O2. We’re lucky that we’re in London and there’s a huge catchment area of really active music fans. I can see that an artist will opt to play potentially 10 shows at The O2 rather than looking at a stadium or a festival headline slot.”

The USHER: Past Present Future run has sold out 16 concerts across Europe so far

Next year’s USHER: Past Present Future run has sold out 16 concerts across Europe so far, also including stops at Accor Arena in Paris (15-16 April), Amsterdam’s Ziggo Dome (22-23, 25-26 & 28 April) and Berlin’s Uber Arena (1-2 & 4 May).

Aside from his eight-night residency at Paris’ La Seine Musicale in 2023, the Live Nation-produced dates will be his first European shows since 2015’s UR Tour.

The eight-time Grammy Award-winner headlined the Apple Music Super Bowl LVIII Halftime Show last month, joined by special guests Alicia Keys, Ludacris, Lil Jon, H.E.R., Will.i.am and Jermaine Dupri. The performance followed his two-year My Way: The Las Vegas Residency run, which grossed more than $100 million from 100 sellout shows.

He has also extended his upcoming North American tour, which runs from August-November 2024, to almost 60 dates.

 


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