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Spotify debuts virtual concert listings

Spotify has announced it will start integrating virtual concert listings into its music streaming platform.

In a Spotify for Artists blog post yesterday (15 September), the streaming giant said it has partnered with Songkick and Ticketmaster to introduce virtual event listings for individual artist profiles, as well as its main concerts page.

“With many tours postponed until 2021, the necessity for these virtual events is set to continue, and we want to make it easy for Spotify listeners to learn about virtual events for the artists they love, as well as artists they’re discovering for the very first time,” reads the post. “In light of this, we’ve leveraged our partnership[s] with Songkick – the livestream concert discovery app – and Ticketmaster to make it happen.”

“We want to make it easy for Spotify listeners to learn about virtual events”

The announcement confirms earlier rumours that Spotify was working on a virtual event discovery feature to build on its existing concert listings.

Artists are encouraged to list future livestreams through concert discovery platform Songkick, as they will populate artist pages automatically. “Select” Ticketmaster events will also be automatically listed.

Spotify will also mail users recommendations for virtual concerts, which can be staged on any platform – including Twitch, Instagram Live and YouTube – as long as they are listed through Songkick or Ticketmaster.

 


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Warner Music Group files for IPO

Label giant Warner Music Group (WMG), which owns a number of live assets in addition to its recorded music interests, has announced plans for an initial public offering (IPO).

The number of shares of common stock to be offered and the price of the offering have not yet been disclosed.

The announcement signals WMG’s return to the stock market, where it traded until 2011, before being bought by British billionaire Len Blavatnik through his company Access Industries for US$3.3 billion.

The news comes after the recent valuation of rival Universal Music Group at over US$30 billion, following Chinese entertainment giant Tencent’s acquisition of a 10% stake in the company.

The announcement signals WMG’s return to the stock market, where it traded until 2011

The Warner Music Group includes the records labels Warner, Atlantic, Elektra and Parlophone, publishing and global music distribution arms and is home to artists including Ed Sheeran, Cardi B, Dua Lipa and Bruno Mars.

WMG’s live music interests include concert discovery platform Songkick, Finnish promoter Warner Music Live and management company Umbrella Artists Productions, which it owns with promoter FKP Scorpio.

Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs are managing the flotation.

WMG’s filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commissions (SEC) can be read here.

 


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Songkick appoints new managing directors

Aaron Randall and Bill Ashton have been appointed joint managing directors of concert discovery platform Songkick.

Randall was formerly Songkick’s chief technology officer, while Ashton moves into the role from parent company Warner Music Group, where he was senior vice-president of artist services. Outgoing CEO Mark McIntyre will remain with Songkick in an advisory capacity while also working on other Warner projects.

London-based Songkick has seen strong growth since coming under Warner Music ownership, with 2019 seeing record uplift in audience, traffic and revenue figures, according to the record label group. The platform is now used by 15 million fans worldwide to discover concerts and track their favourite artists.

Warner acquired Songkick’s live music discovery business in mid-2017, while the Songkick ticketing platform was wound up after being absorbed into Live Nation following the settling of their long-running lawsuit.

“Together, they’re the perfect choice to take the lead”

In a joint statement, Randall and Ashton – who will report to Emmy Lovell, EVP of WEA Europe – say: “This is a hugely exciting time for Songkick. We’ve got ambitious expansion plans and we’re delighted to lead the team as we set about implementing them.

“Building connections between fans and artists is what really excites us and that ethos is at the heart of Songkick’s business. We want to keep developing our technology and products so we can super-serve and further grow our community of passionate, engaged users.”

“Bill was instrumental in helping bring Songkick into Warner Music and aligning its strategy with ours, while Aaron has developed its unbeatable tech that makes it such a user friendly experience,” adds Lovell.

“Together, they’re the perfect choice to take the lead as we seek to further accelerate Songkick’s growth.”

 


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Marshmello ticket searches spike after Fortnite concert

Concert discovery platform Songkick has released data revealing a vast increase in fans searching for real-life Marshmello tickets, following the electronic dance music star’s virtual concert on online video game Fortnite.

Marshmello’s in-game Fortnite concert on Saturday attracted over ten million fans, in the best attended “concert” ever. This popularity is now manifesting itself in real-life ticket sales.

Marshmello is now the most-visited artist on the Songkick platform. Since Saturday, the DJ received twice as many pages views as K-pop band BTS, voted the most popular live attraction of 2018 by Ticketmaster customers.

According to Songkick, Marshmello’s pageviews spiked 3,000% on Saturday, an increase which is yet to diminish.

On Sunday, the day after the Fortnite concert, more fans searched for Marshmello tickets on the Songkick platform than ever before.

The DJ received twice as many page views as K-pop band BTS, Ticketmaster’s most popular live attraction of 2018

The search interest is enough “to fill out an entire US sports stadium”, according to the concert discovery site.

Marshmello’s varied touring schedule includes dates in India, Thailand, Australia and Japan over the next two months, before the electronic music producer embarks on a European tour in May.

More than ten million people are believed to have attended the concert in the popular free-to-play game, Fortnite, on Saturday. The number of players that tuned in for the performance greatly surpassed the game’s previous 8.3 million concurrent player record.

The Marshmello x Fortnite concert comes following Fire Festival, a virtual music festival hosted inside Minecraft, as the concept of in-game live music events grows.

Marshmello Fortnite concert most attended in history

 


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Songkick 2.0 partners with ticket-seller Fnac

Concert discovery platform Songkick – last month relieved of the last of its ticketing infrastructure by former legal adversary Live Nation, following the shuttering of its ticket sales division in October – has partnered with French ticketing giant Fnac.

According to the International Ticketing Yearbook 2017, Fnac – which owns France Billet, Carrefour Spectacles and its own ticket agency, Fnac Spectacles – is the market leader in France, selling nearly 14m tickets annually through its online platform and its network of more than 1,200 physical shops, including its Fnac music retail stores.

Songkick, now owned by Warner Music Group, simultaneously announced a deal with Facebook to add concerts from its listings onto the social network.

The new partnerships follow deals with internet radio/streaming service Pandora and music video platform Vevo.

“Our team is growing, and our plans for the years ahead are more ambitious than ever”

“We have tapped into Warner’s global infrastructure and existing fan base to accelerate growth and solidify Songkick’s status as the best concert discovery tool in the market,” says Tony Harlow, president of WMG’s label services division, WEA. “We know that Songkick users are highly engaged passionate music fans and we strive to provide them more content, access and rewards for their enthusiasm.”

“Since we joined forces with Tony and his amazing team at WEA, we’ve been in growth mode, striking a series of deals with distribution and ticketing partners aimed at expanding our global presence,” adds Songkick’s CTO, Mark McIntyre. “Our team is growing, and our plans for the years ahead are more ambitious than ever. We’re off to a great start and are looking forward to building on this exciting partnership.”

 


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Live Nation acquires Songkick assets, settles suit

Live Nation today announced the acquisition of much of the remaining assets of the company formerly known as Songkick, Complete Entertainment Resources Group (CERG), settling out of court a costly legal dispute set to go to trial later this month.

Songkick’s concert discovery platform was acquired by Warner Music Group last July – an acquisition that specifically excluded its ticketing business, formerly known as Crowdsurge, and the “pending litigation” associated with it. As of October, a “skeleton crew” of around a dozen ticketing staff had been retained to work full time on the court case.

Live Nation’s acquisitions include Songkick’s ticketing platform, anti-touting algorithm, API applications and portfolio of patents, all of which it acquired for an undisclosed sum.

“We are pleased that we were able to resolve this dispute and avoid protracted and costly legal proceedings”

A source close to the situation tells IQ Songkick additionally accepted a US$110m settlement offer to avoid the suit – which centred on alleged abuses of the Live Nation’s “monopoly power” to stifle competition in the US ticketing market – going to trial.

“We are pleased that we were able to resolve this dispute and avoid protracted and costly legal proceedings, while also acquiring valuable assets,” says Joe Berchtold, president of Live Nation.

Matt Jones, CERG’s CEO, adds: “We are glad to have resolved this litigation and thank all the employees, artists and industry partners who contributed so much to our many successes over the last decade.”

 


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Eventim: “We will not accept” anti-exclusive contract ruling

CTS Eventim is to take to the courts in a bid to overturn a surprise ban, announced today, on its use of exclusivity agreements with promoters and box offices in Germany.

The new ruling, by the Federal Cartel Office (Bundeskartellamt), prohibits the Munich-based ticketing giant – which, with a 50–70% marketshare, is by far the German market leader, according to the International Ticketing Yearbook 2017 – of requiring partners to “only sell tickets exclusively or to a considerable extent via CTS’s eventim.net ticket sales system” – something it claims is an abuse of the company’s dominant market position.

According to the Bundeskartellamt, these “abusive exclusivity contracts with event organisers and advance booking offices” are shutting out competing ticketers and “encouraging a general trends towards further monopolisation” in Germany. Under today’s judgment, Eventim partners must have the option of selling at least 20% of their inventory annually via other ticket agencies, if their deal with the company is longer than two years. CTS has been given four months to comply with the ruling.

Andreas Mundt, president of the Bundeskartellamt, says: “As the operator of the largest ticketing system in Germany, CTS Eventim holds a dominant position in the market. Under competition law, a company with such a market position has special obligations.

“Where CTS Eventim commits its contract partners to sell tickets exclusively via its own ticketing system, the company is abusing its market power to the detriment of competition. With our decision, substantial ticket quotas will be freed up for sale via competing ticketing systems.”

The case has echoes of Songkick’s legal complaint against Live Nation/Tickmaster, which similarly alleges the US market leader is abusing its “monopoly power”, including exclusivity arrangements with major venues, to stifle competition in that market.

“We regret that the agency has not adequately considered our strong counter-arguments”

In a statement issued today, CTS Eventim says it will seek legal redress, and accuses the Bundeskartellamt of making a biased decision that fails to take into account the changing face of ticketing in Germany.

“The decision of the Federal Cartel Office ignores the fierce competition in the market for ticket services, which is constantly increasing as a result of frequent market entries by digital providers from Germany and abroad,” it reads.

“Against this background, we have to assume that the Cartel Office has gone into this procedure with a preconceived notion that does not adequately reflect this development. All the investigations in the three-year proceedings were apparently aimed at confirming this belief.

“We regret that the agency has not adequately considered our strong counter-arguments, especially as they are supported by current studies and economic expert reports. [If] they had, the investigation would have led to a different outcome.”

“For these reasons,” the statement concludes, “we will not accept the decision of the Federal Cartel Office and [will] engage the courts to correct it.”

The Bundeskartellamt last month blocked CTS Eventim’s acquisition of promoter/agency Four Artists, also on competition grounds.

 


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LN on course for another record year after ‘best Q3 ever’

Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino has praised the ‘resilience’ of the concert business to attacks such as those in Manchester and Las Vegas, as the live music giant posted its best third-quarter results to date.

Speaking to investors yesterday, Rapino said Live Nation has seen “increased ticket sales since September” and “no effect at all on the business” from the shooting at its Route 91 Harvest festival, saying a combination of the “diversity” of Live Nation’s “global business” – and the industry’s collective response to terrorism, with all major players “doing a better job over the last five years of upgrading its on-site [security]” – means the company is still on course for its best year to date.

In Q3, Live Nation’s year-on-year revenue was up 12% to US$3.6bn, with operating income up 5% (to $201m) and adjusted operating income (AOI) up 10% (to $335m); in the nine months ending 30 September, meanwhile, revenue grew 19%, operating income 26% and AOI 16%. All three Live Nation Entertainment divisions – concerts, advertising and ticketing – delivered their strongest quarterly AOI results ever, Rapino said.

Live Nation’s 20,000+ concerts were attended by 65m people – a 16% rise – with revenue climbing 11% to $2.9bn, while revenue from sponsorship/advertising grew 16% to $158m, and ticketing 17% to $532m. Underlying Ticketmaster’s growth, said Rapino, is its “product innovation”, including the roll-out of its Verified Fan platform and moving to solely digital ticketing with the National Football League (NFL).

“We are confident that our strong performance will deliver another year of record top line”

Verified Fan has reportedly reduced the number of tickets finding their way to the secondary market by 90%, with Rapino predicting that, by the end of the year, “we will deliver three million tickets to Verified Fans, saving them $100m relative to buying on secondary sites after bots got the tickets first.” (Live Nation no longer provides separate financial results for its primary and secondary ticketing platforms.)

Live Nation COO Joe Berchtold also touched briefly on the ongoing Songkick lawsuit, telling investor Brandon Ross of BTIG – who asked if the company’s legal fees (included in a loss of $41.3m associated with “other [costs] and eliminations”) would be “something that’s ongoing” – he expects, “hopefully, to get that resolved and move on, but in the near term, there is a bit of costs associated with that.”

Commenting on the results, Rapino says: “As we approach the end of 2017, we are confident that our strong performance will deliver another year of record top line, operating income and AOI.  All of our businesses – concerts, advertising and ticketing – have delivered growth for the nine months, and based on their key operating metrics, we currently expect each to deliver record revenue, operating income and AOI for the full year.

“As we look forward, we see tremendous opportunities to continue global consolidation of our concerts and ticketing businesses, and for further growth in advertising and ticketing from the concerts flywheel.”

 


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Songkick Discovery “not going anywhere” after WMG buy

In contrast to its soon-to-be defunct ticketing platform, Songkick’s concert discovery app is “not going anywhere” following its purchase by Warner Music Group (WMG), the company has said.

Recorded music giant WMG acquired “selected assets” of Songkick – ie everything bar its ticketing business and all “pending litigation” associated with its legal battle with Live Nation – in July, with an announcement following earlier this month that its fan-club ticketing platform, formerly known as Crowdsurge, is to shut down at the end of October.

Despite the shuttering of its ticketing business, Songkick CEO Matt Jones said its lawsuit against Live Nation and Ticketmaster – which the company initiated in December 2015 over alleged abuses of the defendants’ “monopoly power” to stifle competition in the US ticketing market – will “continue unabated”. A source close to the situation tells IQ Songkick has retained a “skeleton crew” of “perhaps a dozen” ticketing staff to work full time on the court case.

Perhaps in response to conflicting media reports – articles in Pollstar, Exclaim!BrooklynVegan and elsewhere suggested the entire company is closing up shop – Songkick has moved to clarify that it’s still business as usual for its popular Discovery service, which it says is “still here for you for all of your concert needs”.

“Though we won’t be selling tickets, we’ll always be your trusted home for live music online”

“First things first, we’re not going anywhere!” reads a post on Songkick’s blog. “This summer we, the Songkick Discovery app and team, became part of the Warner Music Group family. Together we’ll be doubling down on our mission to improve the live experience, bring fans and artists closer together and, of course, make sure you never ever miss your favourite artists live. It’s a super exciting step for us, and for our awesome users, and we’re psyched about what the future holds.

“You can still count on us to be the first to tell you about new concerts, and to point you to the fairest, safest places to buy tickets. Though we won’t be selling tickets ourselves, we’ll always be your trusted home for live music online.

“In short, Songkick and [artist platform] Tourbox are still here for you for all of your concert needs. We’re excited to keep moving fast, doing cool shit and putting fans first. So stay tuned for exciting news coming soon  –  and here’s to the future!”

The Songkick–Live Nation trial is set to kick off next month, although IQ understands it is now likely to be delayed until the new year.

 


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Songkick to shutter ticketing division

Songkick is to shut down its ticketing operation at the end of October, founder and CEO Matt Jones has said in an email to clients.

Songkick, a concert discovery platform, has sold tickets since June 2015, when it merged with white-label ticketing platform Crowdsurge, partnering with artists including Adele and Metallica to sell directly to fans through websites and fan clubs. Label giant Warner Music Group acquired “selected assets” of Songkick – everything bar its ticketing business and all associated “pending litigation” – in July.

That litigation concerns a legal battle with Live Nation/Ticketmaster, which the company initiated in December 2015 over alleged abuses of its “monopoly power” to stifle competition. Despite stepping back from ticketing, Jones says the lawsuit, which is set to begin in November, will continue “unabated”.

“I’m sad to write that on 31 October, Songkick will bow to pressure from Live Nation and Ticketmaster and complete the shutdown of all ticketing operations (including the design and maintenance of artist webpages) we began earlier this year when Ticketmaster and Live Nation effectively blocked our US ticketing business,” Jones writes in the letter, first obtained by Variety and confirmed as genuine by IQ. “Songkick’s concert discovery app, which was sold to Warner Music Group in July, will continue uninterrupted under the WMG umbrella.

“Our antitrust, trade secret misappropriation and hacking lawsuit against Live Nation and Ticketmaster will continue unabated, with trial currently scheduled to begin in the second week of November, just a month from now. Many of you receiving this note have helped us immensely as we prepare for our day in court, and even as we shutter our business we will remain focused on pursuing a legal victory and making the live music industry better for artists and fans.”

“Even as we shutter our business we will remain focused on pursuing a legal victory and making the live music industry better for artists and fans”

The lawsuit accuses Stephen Mead and Zeeshan Zaida, two former Crowdsurge/Songkick employees who moved to Ticketmaster, of illegally accessing confidential Songkick information with the intention of turning it over to their new employer, reports Amplify. Both have since exited Ticketmaster.

Jones concludes his letter by thanking all Crowdsurge/Songkick employees and clients, “who [have] worked tirelessly over the last ten years with nothing short of a remarkable passion to better the live experience for artists and fans”.

“If you are an artist, promoter or venue for whom we have sold tickets to a show occurring on a future date, you will be contacted individually over the following three business days to arrange for payment,” he writes. “All outstanding amounts will be paid in full.

“If you are an artist, promoter or venue currently using our services to sell tickets, list shows, store customer data or power parts or all of your website, these services will become unavailable on 27 October. 

On behalf of myself and all of my colleagues, it’s been a pleasure to work with you. Once again: thank you, for everything.”

 


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