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Live music companies back Black Out Tuesday

Live Nation, AEG and all major international booking agencies have declared their solidarity with the African-American community, with widespread planned shutdowns across the business planned for tomorrow. The Black Out Tuesday campaign was launched amid ongoing protests sparked by the death of George Floyd last week.

Using the hashtag #TheShowMustBePaused, the shuttering is described as chance to “disconnect from work and reconnect with our community.”



Floyd, a black man, died after being arrested and handcuffed by a white police officer in Powderhorn, Minneapolis, on Monday 25 May. Eyewitness video appears to show the officer, Derek Chauvin, with his knee on Floyd’s neck while Floyd – who had been arrested after a nearby delicatessen reported he had tried to pay with a counterfeit $20 note – lay face down on the ground. Officials say Chauvin had his knee on Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes – including for nearly three minutes after he became unresponsive.

Floyd later died in hospital. Chauvin was sacked by the Minneapolis Police Department and is now being charged with both the murder and manslaughter of Floyd.

“We need to stop the racists that are literally killing culture”

The death of Floyd sparked protests in Minneapolis and across the US, well as demonstrations in Canada, Europe, Israel and Japan. In addition to seeking justice for Floyd, many of the protests – which began peacefully but in many cases turned violent – support the wider Black Lives Matter movement, while many of the international demos are also focused on local race-relations issues.

“There are great injustices impacting our brothers and sisters, and we are striving to be part of the solution,” reads a statement from Live Nation. “We need to stop the racists that are literally killing culture. We must take action.”

The company says it has also donated to the Equal Justice Initiative, an Alabama-based nonprofit that provides legal support to prisoners who lack effective legal representation, particularly those of colour.

AEG says it, too “stands with communities of color [sic] against bigotry, racism and violence” and “will not stay silent” on the issue.

“Enough is enough. We’ve seen this. We’ve felt this. We will not be silent,” reads a forceful statement from CAA. “The racial injustice and violence suffered within black communities needs to stop. We will stand up, speak up, and stand alongside our CAA family.”

ICM Partners says it “stand[s] in solidarity with the families of George Floyd” and other slain African Americans “Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery”, and WME with its “black colleagues, clients, partners and allies today and every day.”

Also sending messages of support are UTA, which has prepared a list of companies “taking action nationwide to fight for justice”, and Paradigm Talent Agency, which similarly provides links to the campaign for justice for Floyd, as well as several anti-racist resources.

 

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#BlackoutTuesday #TheShowMustBePaused

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In the recorded music industry, the big three labels – Universal, Warner and Sony Music – have also confirmed their participation in Black Out Tuesday, announcing they will suspend all business operations tomorrow as a statement of solidarity, with some cancelling the scheduled release of all music this week.

The Black Out Tuesday campaign will also be acknowledged by IQ and ILMC, which will suspend all operations for 24 hours.

 


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NIVA calls for urgent govt assistance for US indies

The National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), an alliance of US grassroots venues formed earlier this month, has written to members of the US Congress to ask for immediate assistance to a sector it says is facing an existential crisis as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The letter – addressed to House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi, House of Representatives minority leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer – asks for urgent “legislative and regulatory” aid for the association’s more than 800 members, including adjustments to the existing paycheck protection program [sic] loan scheme, as well as tax credits for refunded tickets, mortgage/rent payment holidays and the deferral of existing debt.

NIVA, which joins existing small-venue associations such as Music Venues Alliance in the UK, Petzi in Switzerland and KeepOn Live in Italy, is also asking for concrete guidelines on mass gatherings in advance of reopening, and support with complying with any new health guidelines.

“Our passionate and fiercely independent operators are not ones to ask for hand-outs,” explains NIVA board president Dayna Frank, who owns the 1,550-capacity First Avenue in Minneapolis.

“For the first time in history there is legitimate fear for our collective existence”

“But because of our unprecedented, tenuous position, for the first time in history there is legitimate fear for our collective existence.”

Established on 17 April, NIVA’s stated mission is to fight for venues’ survival amid the ongoing nationwide shutdown.

“Independent venues and promoters have a unique set of circumstances that require specialised assistance, so we’ve banded together and secured a powerhouse lobbying firm,” says Gary Witt, CEO of Pabst Theater Group and founding member of NIVA. “Akin Gump has been tapped to represent us, and that telegraphs to Capitol Hill that our needs are serious. Most of us have gone from our best year ever to a dead stop in revenues, but our expenses and overhead are still real, and many will not make it without help.

“Our employees, the artists, and the fans need us to act. But we are also an important income generator for those around us, bringing revenue to area restaurants, bars, hotels, and retail shops.”

 


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Her’s: UK band and manager killed in US car crash

Both members of Liverpool-based band Her’s and their tour manager have been killed in a road accident while touring in the US.

Stephen Fitzpatrick and Audun Laading, along with tour manager Trevor Engelbrektson, were involved in the fatal car crash early on Wednesday morning. The accident happened as the group travelled from Phoenix, Arizona to a show date in Santa Ana, California.

The self-described “international supersonic spectral wave Liverpool band” were on their second tour of North America, playing 19 dates of sold-out shows following the release of their debut album Invitation to Her’s in August 2018. The band also put out an eight-track of early releases entitled Song of Her’s in 2017.

The Liverpool duo had been touring the United States since early March, with the Santa Ana gig to be the penultimate date of the tour. Engelbrektson, a Minneapolis musician, sound engineer and tour manager who “did more for Minneapolis music than anybody could ever dream of” had been touring with the pair.

“Musically, Her’s were astonishing. An aptitude for melody, fun and entertainment combined with a complexity that was as sophisticated as it was stylish”

Her’s had played in Washington, New York, Seattle and Denver, among other US cities. The band had featured on the BBC Music Introducing programme at South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.

“We are all heartbroken,” write representatives of the band’s record label, Heist or Hit. “Their energy, vibrancy and talent came to define our label.”

“As humans, they were warm, gentle and hilarious […] Musically, Her’s were astonishing. An aptitude for melody, fun and entertainment combined with a complexity that was as sophisticated as it was stylish,” reads the social media post.

Fitzpatrick and Laading met for the first time while studying music at the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts (Lipa), graduating in 2016.

“To say they were close would be an underestimation of a friendship that was genuinely beautiful to witness; they loved one another like brothers,” reads the Heist and Hit statement.

“We have lost our friends and the world has been denied their talent.”

 


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Live Nation to book Minneapolis’s the Armory

The Armory, the newest live entertainment venue in Minneapolis, will feature “booking and programming support” from Live Nation, the company announced today.

The 8,400-capacity Armory – formerly, true to its name, a Minnesota National Guard armoury – reopened in December 2017 after an extensive renovation that introduced, among other things, a modular, scalable floorplan able to accommodate a variety of live events, including concerts and sporting and corporate events.

The venue will be open to all promoters, although Live Nation says it will tap into its “vast array of touring artists” to bring Minneapolis “even more incredible shows”.

“We look forward to delivering a constant stream of top talent to the city of Minneapolis”

“The Twin Cities [Minneapolis and St Paul] has been lacking a great mid-size hall, and the Armory fills that gap perfectly,” says Jason Wright, president of Live Nation Midwest. “With sightlines and amenities that are unmatched in the mid-west, music fans will marvel when they see a show in this space.”

Adds Ned Abdul, the venue’s owner: “We look forward to delivering a constant stream of top talent to the city of Minneapolis and working with artists in leveraging our state-of-the-art renovations to push the limits of their performances while providing an exceptional experience for fans.”

Upcoming shows at the Armory include Slayer on 24 May, Dua Lipa on 24 June, Greta Van Fleet on 3 July and 5 Seconds of Summer on 9 September.

 


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StubHub debuts ‘practical use for AR’ with immersive view

StubHub has upgraded its virtual view feature, which allows potential ticket buyers to preview their seat in virtual reality (VR) before buying, with an AR component, in a development the company’s CTO, Matt Swann, calls “an important milestone for the industry”.

The latest version of the StubHub app uses augmented reality (AR) – the same technology that allowed Pokémon Go players to catch digital creatures in real locations – to create a virtual model of the US Bank Stadium (66,555-cap.) in Minneapolis ahead of next month’s Super Bowl LII.

Using the feature, dubbed ‘immersive view’, eventgoers can visualise both the stadium and the surrounding area by pointing their iPhone/iPad camera at an open surface, where a 3D rendering of the venue will appear.

“StubHub’s immersive view experience demonstrates a practical use case for AR within ticketing and live events”

“StubHub’s immersive view experience not only demonstrates a practical use case for AR within ticketing and live events, but also serves as an important milestone for the industry,” comments Swann. “When it comes to our users, we’re passionate about providing solutions in ticket buying and selling that offer a clear value.

“As the first ticketing player to implement this technology, we hope to further enhance the purchasing experience ahead of the biggest day in [American] football.”

 


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Live Nation to reopen Varsity Theater

Famed Minneapolis venue Varsity Theater is to reopen this February, its new operator, Live Nation, has revealed.

The 950-cap. Varsity is owned by Hong Kong-based investment firm GAW Capital Partners, which purchased the venue last year for US$2.5m from previous owner Jason McLean.

The 103-year-old Varsity, bought by McLean in 2005, had been largely closed since late 2016 as allegations of sexual assault against McLean mounted, with several artists calling for a boycott of the venue. According to local media, McLean is currently on the run in Mexico after failing to show up for court dates.

“The already great Varsity experience will be even better”

The Varsity, in the city’s Dinkytown district, will reopen on 15 February with a show by Philadelphia rapper PnB Rock, with the new-look venue benefiting from a raft of upgrades, says Live Nation talent buyer Josh Lacey.

“We’re incredibly excited about the Minneapolis music scene and the role the Varsity will have in growing it even more as part of the Live Nation family,” comments Lacey.  “This venue has a unique history as a development room, having hosted a number of break-out artists over the years.

“While the venue’s ambience will stay intact, a number of upgrades are in progress. All in all, the already great Varsity experience will be even better. We’re in the midst of curating as many great artists as possible and believe our kick-off shows are a great way to welcome back the Varsity.”

 


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