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SXSW expands to Australia for 2023

US conference and showcase festival South By Southwest (SXSW) is expanding beyond Austin, Texas to debut in Sydney, Australia from 15-22 October 2023.

A celebration of the tech, film and music industries, SXSW Sydney is a collaboration with promoter TEG, the NSW government and tourism agency Destination NSW.

The week-long event will be the official annual Asia Pacific instalment of SXSW, which first took place in March 1987 in Austin, Texas.

“SXSW Sydney will establish a new SXSW touchpoint, enabling the international and cross-sector connections that deliver the most innovative products and content”

“We couldn’t be more excited and honoured to work with TEG and the New South Wales Government via Destination NSW on an event that brings to Australia the professional opportunities and unexpected discoveries that make SXSW unique,” says Roland Swenson, CEO and co-founder of SXSW. “The purpose of SXSW is to help creative people achieve their goals, and Sydney is the ideal city to serve as a home for the cross-collaboration that exists within the many industries we bring together.”

“SXSW is an event without equal internationally that has launched the careers of so many creative professionals,” adds Geoff Jones, TEG group CEO and event producer for SXSW Sydney. “Through showcasing the creator industries of the Asia Pacific to the world, SXSW Sydney will establish a new SXSW touchpoint, enabling the international and cross-sector connections that deliver the most innovative products and content.

“I would like to welcome Colin Daniels as the managing director of SXSW Sydney and thank the NSW Government, Destination NSW, and the team at SXSW for their foresight and support.”

 


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Friday round-up: world news in brief

Welcome to IQ‘s brand-new weekly round-up of news from around the world. Here, in bite-sized chunks, we present a selection of international stories you may have missed from the last seven days…

UNITED KINGDOM:

Vince Power Music Group (VPMG) has announced AXS as its official ticketing partner for all its London venues after inking a new five-year deal. VPMG venues include: the former Dingwalls, PowerHaus (cap. 500), The Fiddler (cap. 120), Nells (cap. 350) and Subterania (cap. 600). AXS is the official ticketing partner for several UK venues including The O2, The SSE Arena, Wembley, Dreamland Margate, British Summertime Hyde Park, All Points East and AEG Presents’ touring business.

NETHERLANDS:

European showcase festival and conference Eurosonic Noorderslag (ESNS) in Groningen has moved entirely online from 19–22 January 2022 in response to the government’s the latest Covid-19 measures. The digital edition will include a conference programme as well as the festival programmes of Noorderslag, Eurosonic and the Music Moves Europe Awards award ceremony.

UNITED STATES: 

Foo Fighters say they have axed a 2022 tour date due to the venue’s “refusal to agree to the band’s Covid safety measures”. The band were due to play Huntington Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on 3 August, but are now looking for a replacement venue. A spokesperson for the University of Minnesota, which operates the venue, said its current measures relating to vaccines and mask-wearing were in line with state and federal guidelines, and declined to change its existing protocols for large events.

GERMANY:

CTS Eventim is acquiring regional ticketing providers in the Rhineland region, Kölnticket and Bonnticket. The companies previously belonged to media houses Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger Medien in Cologne and Rheinische Post Mediengruppe in Düsseldorf, and had previously partnered with CTS on ticketing software and platform technology. The deal will give CTS Eventim a significant presence in the region as well as numerous contacts in the local entertainment scene.

UK/US:

The British Music Embassy has announced its live return to South By Southwest (SXSW) with its biggest presence yet. The intimate 250-person UK music showcase will return in 2022 with a capacity of 700 at Cedar Street Courtyard, an open-air SXSW venue, from 14-20 March. It will be the first in-person British Music Embassy since 2019 as the 2020 edition of SXSW was one of the first major festivals to be cancelled due to Covid-19.

GERMANY:

The ASM Global-managed, Arena Oberhausen in Germany is to be renamed after 20 years as the Konig Pilsener Arena. From next year, the 12,650-capacity venue will be known as Rudolf Weber Arena, in the largest naming rights deal in the Oberhausen-based venue’s 25-year history.

BELGIUM:

Five more names have been confirmed for Rock Werchter 2022. The War On Drugs will play the Festivalpark on Thursday 30 June. Lewis Capaldi and Greta Van Fleet join the line-up for Friday 1 July, Yungblud is scheduled for Saturday July 2 and Royal Blood will put in an appearance on Sunday 3 July. Headlined by Pearl Jam, Metallica, Imagine Dragons and Red Hot Chili Pepper, the festival runs from 30 June to 2 July.

UNITED KINGDOM:

Two internet ticket touts sentenced to a combined six-and-a-half years in prison following a landmark court case have failed in their appeals against their conviction for fraudulent trading. Peter Hunter and David Smith, who operated as the company BZZ Limited, were jailed for four years and 30 months, respectively, in February 2020 following an investigation by the National Trading Standards eCrime Team, and trail at Leeds Crown Court. The pair committed offences between May 2010 and December 2017, making a net profit of £3.5 million in the last two years of fraud alone, buying and reselling tickets to concerts by artists including Ed Sheeran, McBusted, Taylor Swift and Coldplay. On the appeal Smith and Hunter raised a large number of legal and procedural grounds. They appealed the verdict, alleging the judge wrongly directed the jury on the law and “acted unfairly and prejudicially in his conduct of the trial”, arguing the restrictions attaching to the sale of the tickets were “void and invalid”. However, the Court of Appeal rejects their appeals, upholding the conclusion of the judge at trial that the restrictions imposed by event organisers were valid, adding the judge “acted properly in all relevant respects and that the convictions are safe and lawful”.

IRELAND:

Irish-headquartered Tixserve has partnered with UK ticket agency Gigantic to provide a “secure and interactive digital ticket fulfilment service” for its live entertainment ticketing. The partnership will see Irish-Headquartered Tixserve provide Gigantic with a white label digital ticketing app – delivering via a full API technical integration, a sophisticated and seamless fulfilment service for Gigantic clients and customers.

UNITED KINGDOM:

International booking agency Midnight Mango has announced four new agents – Nigel Morton, Addison Paterson, Sam Bryant and Hanna Bright – after initiating an Agent Freelancer Platform in the early days of the pandemic. After delivering training and guidance to four agents back in the spring, the firm took on a further four new agents in September. The new appointments work with acts such as Gretchen Peters, Bicurious, Dom Martin and The Kakatsitsi Master Drummers, expanding the agency’s roster to more than 150 artists, represented by a 15-strong workforce.

 


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British artists rock virtual SXSW 2021

The British Music Embassy, South by Southwest (SXSW)’s venue for hotly tipped UK artists, hosted 35 artist showcases during last week’s SXSW Online, which took place from 16 to 20 March.

The British Music Embassy – a joint venture between AIM, the BBC, BPI, the Department for International Trade, PPL, PRS for Music and PRS Foundation – typically takes over a venue every year at SXSW in Austin, Texas, putting a spotlight on the best new music from around the UK. With the showcase festival going online only for 2021, the embassy recorded live performances which could be watched during the event on the SXSW portal.

A selection of performances will also be made available for all to view on SXSW’s YouTube channel.

Among the performers at the British Music Embassy, which is also supported by ATC, media partner DIY Magazine and Belfast City Council, were Onipa, Olivia Dean, Chubby and the Gang, Phoebe Green, 404 Guild, Tayo Sound, Finn Askew, the Goa Express, Lilla Vargen,  Squid and Black Country, New Road.

“For 15 years, the global industry has been able to rely on the British Music Embassy to discover what’s next in British music at SXSW,” comments James Minor, SXSW’s head of music festival.

“I am delighted that we are continuing to support UK artists during the pandemic and can ensure the UK remains a world leader in music’

Graham Stuart, exports minister at the Department for International Trade, says: “The UK music industry is one of the greatest British exports, bringing millions to our economy each year. We are proud to have worked over many years with industry partners to promote new talent at SXSW, including Bastille, Celeste, Rag’n’Bone Man, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Dave, Sam Fender and more than 450 others. I am delighted that we are continuing to support UK artists during the pandemic and can ensure the UK remains a world leader in music.”

“Showcasing in overseas territories has proven to be a crucial stepping stone to progressing talented UK music creators’ careers and their sustainability, which is why at this unprecedented time it is so important we have adapted our International Showcase Fund support to enable export-ready artists to still be able to showcase at key overseas events such as SXSW,” adds Joe Frankland, CEO of PRS Foundation.

“I’m delighted that we are supporting at least 15 artists to showcase their performances at this year’s event and that the International Showcase Fund partners, together with our friends at the Department for International Trade and the BPI, have forged a UK Sounds opportunity and platform for export-ready music creators and to shine a spotlight on talented underrepresented groups in the UK.”

Since 2008, the British Music Embassy has hosted over 450 UK artists, positioning them in front of a global audience in order to help them to break into new markets and advance their careers. The British Music Embassy also uses UK-only production and equipment, giving artists from the UK an unparallelled platform on the world music stage.

 


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Virtual event to replace cancelled Burning Man 2020

Burning Man is the latest US festival to be called off due to the coronavirus pandemic, with organisers announcing that the famous Black Rock City will take the form of a “virtual metropolis” instead this year.

The countercultural gathering was set to take place from 30 August to 7 September in Nevada’s Black Rock desert.

“After much listening, discussion, and careful consideration, we have made the difficult decision not to build Black Rock City in 2020,” reads a statement on the Burning Man website.

“Given the painful reality of Covid-19, one of the greatest global challenges of our lifetimes, we believe this is the right thing to do.”

The event, often dubbed as an “anti-festival”, will go ahead online, however, with fans invited to enter the Virtual Black Rock City 2020, in keeping with the event’s 2020 theme, the Multiverse.

“Given the painful reality of Covid-19, one of the greatest global challenges of our lifetimes, we believe this is the right thing to do”

Unsure what form the online gathering will take, the Burning Man team says although it “will likely be messy and awkward with mistakes”, the virtual event will also be “engaging, connective, and fun”.

The first round of Burning Man ticket sales took place last month, with 4,000 tickets prices at $1,400 sold during the ‘FOMO’ ticket sale in March, as well as those sold through Direct Group Sale (DGS). The event’s main ticket sale was postponed earlier this month.

Organisers state they are “committed” to providing refunds to “those who need them”, adding that they hope some “will consider donating all or a portion of your ticket value, and/or making a tax-deductible donation to (non-profit festival organiser) Burning Man Project”.

“Substantial” staff layoffs, pay reductions and other cost-cutting measures will be needed to ensure the organisation remains operational into next year’s event season, say organisers.

Burning Man joins other major US events to be cancelled due to the Covid-19 outbreak, including South by Southwest, Governors Ball, Boston Calling, Firefly Festival and Ultra Miami, with Coachella, Bonnaroo, BottleRock, New Orleans’ Jazz Fest and Electric Daisy Carnival Las Vegas all pushed back to later in the year.

Photo: Bureau of Land Management/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) (cropped)


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Byron Bay Bluesfest to go ahead as planned

The organisers of Byron Bay Bluesfest have confirmed that the festival is going ahead as planned from 9 to 13 April, despite the spread of Covid-19.

“We are all aware of COVID-19 in Australia and want to update you. Bluesfest Byron Bay will be going ahead as planned,” reads a post on the festival’s Facebook page, last updated today (12 March).

“Both NSW Health and the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC), the federal body, report that attending public events such as Bluesfest are low risk.”

Fan are assured that their tickets are “fully insured” in case of a coronavirus-related cancellation.

The New South Wales festival, organised by Peter Noble, is entering its 31st year in 2020, featuring acts including Lenny Kravitz, Dave Matthews Band, Kool and the Gang and John Butler.

“We are all aware of COVID-19 in Australia and want to update you. Bluesfest Byron Bay will be going ahead as planned”

Extra safety measures and additional facilities, such as hand sanitisation stations, will be put in place at Bluesfest to further safeguard the health and safety of guests.

Covid-19 was yesterday declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Major festivals including Coachella, Ultra Miami, South by Southwest and Tomorrowland Winter have been cancelled or postponed due to the virus.

Events affected in Australia include Miley Cyrus’ cancelled headline performance at the World Tour Bushfire Relief concert in Melbourne, Victoria. However, Robbie Wiliams’ appearance as part of the same event series is going ahead as planned, along with the Australian grand prix.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian today said there will be a “further review of mass gatherings” across the state, saying, “there is no need to massively change what you are doing but it’s not business as usual. We are asking everybody to be alert.”

13 new cases of the virus were reported in NSW yesterday alone, bringing the state’s total to 78, half the total number of cases reported across the whole country.

 


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Mixed fortunes for live events as Covid-19 spreads

The live music industry is being affected differently in markets around the world by the continuing spread of coronavirus (Covid-19), with over 110,000 cases now reported worldwide.

Politicians in the UK today (9 March) reiterated that there was no need to cancel large events to prevent further spread of the virus.

At the International Live Music Conference (ILMC) last week, top agents expressed their resolve to carry on with business as usual, with CAA’s Emma Banks saying the agency would not take shows off sale “unless we have to”.

Reacting to a suggestion from Germany’s health minister Jens Spahn that all events over 1,000 capacity be cancelled due to Covid-19, DEAG today announced that “all events will be carried out according to scheduled dates regardless of the number of participants.”

“DEAG will carry out a responsible analysis of each event in close coordination with the respective artists, their partners and of course the local authorities and will make an appropriate decision on a case-by-case basis,” reads the statement.

A spokesperson from German powerhouse CTS Eventim, which operates in 15 markets across Europe, states that Covid-19 is having only “isolated effects” on its business, such as in Italy and Switzerland.

“The majority of our events and functions take place in the summer and in the second half of the year,” continues the Eventim spokesperson. “Based on the current situation, there is no reason to believe that the major festivals will not be held outdoors in the summer. We cannot observe an increased return of purchased tickets.”

“Based on the current situation, there is no reason to believe that the major festivals will not be held outdoors in the summer”

The Italian government recently extended its ban on all public gatherings in the north of the country until 3 April, whereas all events in Switzerland over 1,000 capacity have been banned until 15 March, in a measure deemed “disproportionate” by Swiss Music Promoters Association (SMPA).

In France, a ban imposed on events over 5,000 capacity led to the cancellation of Tomorrowland Winter, set to take place from 14 to 21 March at the Alpe d’Huez ski resort.

“It is with a heavy heart that we have to inform you that the French government has decided to cancel this year’s edition,” reads a post on Tomorrowland Winter’s Facebook page.

“The French government is taking drastic measures regarding the Covid-19 virus in France. Therefore they are enforcing the cancellation of large events, bringing together people from different nationalities on closed festival grounds and event locations.”

Asian tour dates by international acts including Avril Lavigne, Green Day, BTS, Mariah Carey, Stormzy and Khalid are among those to have been called off amid coronavirus concerns.

A joint statement issued by Japanese music bodies reads: “We have decided to cancel or call off the majority of shows, following a recent request to cancel or postpone events from the government.”

The bodies, including Japanese promoters’ association (ACPC), federation of music producers (FMPJ) and association of music enterprises (JAME), state they will work to provide all the appropriate information to the public and “deliver high-quality entertainment again soon”.

Events in the United States have also taken a hit recently, with the cancellations of Austin showcase festival and conference SXSW and the Miami edition of EDM event Ultra Music Festival.

 


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P-C Rae joins Music+Sport & Jockey Club Live team

Music+Sport, the company behind ‘Jockey Club Live’ – the successful joint venture with Jockey Club Racecourses, as well as several successful partnerships with other major sporting venues – has announced a major new addition to their executive team.

P-C Rae, who is best known for his work as an artist booker for a diverse portfolio of events around the world, including festivals such as Slottsfjell in Norway and SXSW in Austin, Texas, has joined the Music+Sport team as Artist Booker with responsibility for overseeing and acquiring talent for the company’s wide range of live music events at sporting venues.

The partnership between Music+Sport and The Jockey Club was established in 2013 to increase the popularity and commercial success of live music events at the 15 Jockey Club owned racecourses around the UK.

In 2015, the company expanded its portfolio and has a number of rugby partnerships in place while actively looking at promoting similar shows at a range of other sporting events moving forward.

“I am relishing the opportunity to help them secure the right artists for their shows moving forward.”

P-C Rae says, “I’ve enjoyed watching the emergence of Music+Sport as a major player in the UK live music market over the last four years. They have come a long way in a short space of time and have done an amazing job bringing sporting and music audiences together. They know what they are doing and they have a very clear vision of what they want, so I am relishing the opportunity to help them secure the right artists for their shows moving forward.”

Andrew Wilkinson, CEO of Music+Sport adds, “Bringing someone with the experience and expertise of P-C Rae on board to oversee our Artist Booking is a fantastic coup for Music+Sport and puts us in a really strong position as we start thinking about our 2019 programme of events.”

 


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StubHub to invest $3m into music education

Through its charitable StubHub Foundation, secondary ticketer StubHub is to invest US$3 million over the next three years into buying musical instruments for US state schools, it announced at South by Southwest today.

Building on a 2015 commitment that has already put more than $2m in instruments into schools, the latest round of funding extends the company’s partnership with the Mr Holland’s Opus Foundation (MHOF) charity to provide more “at-risk [state] school music programmes” with new musical instruments.

“We believe that music needs to be a core component of education in America,” says Perkins Miller, StubHub’s North America GM. “Numerous studies have shown the benefits that music education plays in student enrichment and development, which is why we are proud to support the efforts of Mr Holland’s Opus Foundation and all those who help keep music alive in schools across America.”

The initiative, known as the Next Stage programme, kicks off at SXSW today, with the first school, Bedichek Middle School in Austin, Texas, receiving more than $12,000 in musical instruments. Bedichek students are today invited to a private acoustic SXSW performance by Jukebox the Ghost, and will then serve as the opening ‘performers’ for StubHub’s two-day SXSW Next Stage showcase at Banger’s in Austin.

Schools interested in the Next Stage programme are invited to inquire directly through MHOF.

 


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Italian artist on ESTA deported from US

In news that bodes ill for international acts hoping to play South by Southwest 2018 with ESTA or tourist visas, Italian singer Damien McFly was forced to cancel a planned appearance at the NAMM Show in Anaheim, California, after failing to gain entry to the US under the ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation) visa waiver programme.

Padua-based McFly (real name Damiano Ferrari) was booked to play a set at the NAMM Show, the world’s biggest musical instrument/pro-audio industry conference, on Saturday 27 January, but found himself detained for 26 hours at LAX then sent back to Italy after authorities denied him entry.

He explains: “I left Venice thinking about the sense of freedom I feel every time I tour the US, performing in the land of folk, country, blues – all the music that inspires me. Unfortunately, this time that was not the case. After passport control the Department of Homeland Security decided to further check my documents and the type of performance I had to attend at NAMM Show.

“ESTA is a very restrictive visa – actually I think it is not even a real visa. And my showcase was not officially sponsored by the Italian government. So they declared me inadmissible, seized my phone and baggage and kept me in a detention room until I could take the next flight home, 26 hours – and some regret – later.”

“They declared me inadmissible, seized my phone and baggage and kept me in a detention room until I could take the next flight home”

The incident has echoes of South by Southwest 2017, when at least ten artists were barred from entering the country after attempting to enter on ESTAs or tourist visas – a previously common practice for showcases or other non-commercial shows.

Fees for performance (or “nonimmigrant worker”) visas for the US have skyrocketed in recent years, most recently jumping a huge 42% at the end of 2016. Writing in IQ shortly after, Tamizdat’s Matthew Covey, an immigration lawyer, explained that the increase in fees is “not the [only] problem with the US artist visa process. The problem is that the process is so slow that almost everyone has to pay the government’s $1,225 ‘premium processing’ expediting fee, and it is so complex and unreliable that almost everyone has to hire a lawyer to get through it (costing anywhere from $800 to $8,000).”

Amid last year’s controversy, SXSW took the side of the performers, saying a tourist (‘B’) visa should be sufficient for playing unpaid showcases. Following the hike in visa fees, it is likely many artists decided to try their chances on B visas or ESTAs – although it remains to be seen how many foreign acts will risk doing so in 2018.

 


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Visas and work permits

“One thing that you can always count on is that everything is in a constant state of flux, and the changes will probably happen quicker than you can keep up with,” says Michelle Rubio about navigating the many challenges and potential pitfalls that exist within the complex world of visa services, immigration and work permits.

“The goalposts are always changing, and very often people aren’t on the same page,” elaborates Rubio, a senior manager for Los Angeles-based Creative Mind Access Visas & Passport Services. She casts her mind back to this summer for an example of just a few of the many unexpected complications that can derail the process and – in the worst-case scenario – potentially lead to delayed or cancelled shows.

“I had just submitted some visa applications to the Russian consulate in San Francisco when President Trump ordered its immediate closure,” recalls Rubio. “Thankfully, there was a delay with the courier and they didn’t show up on time, so the applications couldn’t be submitted. Otherwise, all my [clients’] passports would have been stuck there.

“I’m normally cursing couriers, but, oh, my god, that was a wonderful mistake.”

“In the current political climate, with increasing local labour protectionism, planning strategically … is more important than ever”

The incident also gives some small insight into the wealth of unpredictable hurdles that immigration specialists can face on a day-to-day basis when applying for permits.

“In the current political climate, with increasing local labour protectionism, looking ahead, planning strategically and understanding the visa process requirements and consulate processing times is more important than ever,” agrees Sophie Amable, director of AE Visas USA, which primarily deals with UK and European artists and crew travelling to North America.

“Immigration is changing globally, and US immigration is also changing all the time, so getting expert advice before the time of booking is really important and can save you a lot of time and money,” she states.

 


Read the rest of this feature in the digital edition of IQ 74:

 

 


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