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Two men face jail over $1.35m concert fraud

Two scammers face up to 20 years in prison after admitting a $1.35 million (€1.25m) fraud over a fake concert scheme in the US.

Terronce Morris, 41, of Missouri City, Texas, and Blake Kelly, 36, of Los Angeles, California, swindled a promoter out of $1.35m between December 2019 and March 2020, under the pretence of financing a music festival purportedly featuring acts such as Justin Bieber, Post Malone and Billie Eilish.

According to the US Attorney’s Office, Southern District of Florida, the pair instead used the money to “enrich themselves and finance a lavish lifestyle for themselves and their accomplices”, spending it on travelling, luxury goods and services, and dining at high-priced restaurants.

Morris and Kelly forged the artists’ signatures to create “several false and fraudulent” performance contracts. Additionally, they had an accomplice pose as Bieber during a video call to trick the victim into believing the singer had agreed to perform at the festival in Texas.

Morris and Kelly pleaded guilty to mail fraud, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft

The victim subsequently sent three wire transfers to Morris and also mailed him a $200,000 cheque made payable to Bieber, which Morris then deposited into his own personal account.

Morris and Kelly pleaded guilty to mail fraud, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in Miami federal court. The Miami Herald reports the pair were charged in Miami because much of the communication happened while the victim was visiting South Florida.

Morris and Kelly, who will be sentenced in May and March, respectively, face up to 20 years in prison for the conspiracy charge, as well an additional two years in jail for identity theft.

 


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Latin festival Besame Mucho expands in US

Latin music festival Besame Mucho is expanding to a second US city after a successful debut in Los Angeles.

The first edition, organised by Tropicália and La Tocada, took place in December 2022 at Dodger Stadium, LA, with a diverse lineup of Latin acts.

The LA debut and its second edition, due this December, are said to have sold out in minutes.

Capitalising on that success, Besame Mucho (Kiss Me A Lot) will launch on 2 March 2024 at the Circuit of the Americas racetrack in Austin, Texas.

The debut will see 60+ acts perform across four stages, including Los Tigres del Norte, Banda MS, Grupo Frontera, La Ley, Caifanes, El Tri, Alejandra Guzmán, Gloria Trevi, Café Tacvba and Molotov.

The debut will see 60+ acts perform across four stages, including Los Tigres del Norte, Banda MS and Grupo Frontera

Las Clasicas Stage, which will close with Los Tigres, is dedicated to the classics and will feature 30 groups, including Grupo Frontera, Bronco, Los Tucanes De Tijuana, Ramón Ayala and Alicia Villareal.

The Banda Stage will have performances from Banda El Recodo, La Adictiva, Banda Los Recoditos, Banda Machos, Cuisillos and more, and the Rockero Stage will feature a number of notable rock bands, including Cafe Tacvba, Juanes, El Tri, Maldita Vecindad, Panteón Rococo and Hombres G.

Along with Trevi, Alejandra Guzmán, Belanova, Reik, Sin Bandera and Ha*Ash are among the 18 acts to perform on the Te Gusta El Pop? Stage.

Presale for Besame Mucho Austin starts on 3 November, with ticket prices ranging between $275 for general admission and $950 for platinum.

The second edition of Besame Mucho LA will return to Dodger Stadium on 2 December and includes some of the same artists scheduled for Austin.

 


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WME acquires True Grit Talent Agency

WME has acquired True Grit Talent Agency, a Texas-based company founded in 2016.

As part of the deal, WME signs True Grit’s entire roster which includes Cody Jinks, Charles Wesley Godwin, Whitey Morgan, Ward Davis, and Dexter and The Moonrocks.

The agency’s team, including agents Mike Krug, Carrie Creasey and Shelby Vanek, have also joined WME and will continue to work out of Austin.

“We are very excited that what we do caught the eye of a company like WME,” says Krug. “We are proud of all we have built here in Austin and know that joining WME will create exponentially more opportunities for our clients.”

“We’ve long admired the business and roster that True Grit has developed”

Jay Williams, WME partner and Nashville office co-head, adds: “We’ve long admired the business and roster that True Grit has developed, and we are excited to bring their artists and the team into the WME family and expand WME’s footprint in Austin.”

Arthur Penhallow, founder of the True Grit companies, is continuing on as True Grit Management with clients including Charles Wesley Godwin, Whitey Morgan, Erin Viancourt and Coleman Jennings. Additionally, Reed Turner is now a partner at True Grit Management.

WME notes that this year’s acquisitions of True Grit Talent Agency and Red 11 Music have expanded the agency’s presence in Texas, as well as in the American Roots music genre.

Elsewhere within the genre, WME represented all three headliners (Luke Bryan, Kane Brown and Chris Stapleton) at Stagecoach festival in 2023 and its clients won the most categories at the Academy of Country Music (ACM) and Country Music Association (CMA) Awards multiple years in a row.

 


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Live Nation Urban revives Exodus festival

Live Nation Urban and gospel artist Kirk Franklin are reviving Exodus Music & Arts Festival, following two sold-out editions in 2018 and 2019.

The festival resumes at The Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory in Dallas (Texas) on 20-21 May, marking the first time the festival has spanned two days.

Once again, Franklin will personally host and headline the show. Yolanda Adams, Tasha Cobbs Leonard, Tamela Mann, Natalie Grant, Naomi Raine, Taya, and more will also perform.

“This was the first festival partnership Live Nation Urban entered into when the company was formed a few years back”

“Kirk Franklin and his team have been amazing partners for Live Nation Urban, this was the first festival partnership we entered into when the company was formed a few years back,” says president of Live Nation Urban, Shawn Gee. “It’s great to see the event grow and scale and we will continue to invest in the Gospel music community as it’s an area of priority for LNU.”

Kirk Franklin adds: “I am absolutely thrilled that our music festival is back and bigger than ever, now extending to two full days of unique voices and talented artists that will inspire and uplift all those in attendance.

“Exodus has always been about bringing together fans and artists in celebration of the power of Gospel music, and it’s a true honour to be a part of this incredible event once again. I’m also incredibly thankful for our partnership with Live Nation Urban, which has allowed us to create an unforgettable experience for everyone involved.”

The Exodus Music & Arts Festival welcomed such gospel stars as Mann, Marvin Sapp and Tye Tribbett during its aforementioned inaugural year.

For its second year in 2019, the festival boasted a lineup that featured Cobbs Leonard, Fred Hammond, The Clark Sisters and Travis Greene, among other acts.

 


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$375m Moody Center opens in Austin, Texas

New multi-purpose 15,000-seat arena the Moody Center has opened in downtown Austin, Texas.

Developers of the US$375 million project, which replaces the city’s 42-year-old Frank C. Erwin Jr Center, include Oak View Group, Live Nation/C3 Presents, The University of Texas at Austin, and Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey.

It has been named in honour of a $130m grant from Texas-based charitable organisation the Moody Foundation, and promises to provide a “world-class venue for top touring concerts and shows” in the self-styled live music capital of the world, which hosts the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) conference and festival.

The arena, which will also host basketball and other sporting events, debuted to the public last night (20 April), with the first of two concerts by John Mayer and officially launched with two sold-out gigs by George Strait with special guests Willie Nelson & Family and Randy Rogers Band from April 29-30.

“The Moody Center will be a must-play arena and we look forward to bringing our concerts and tours there”

Speaking in 2019, Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino said: “The Moody Center will be a must-play arena and we look forward to bringing our concerts and tours there as soon as the doors open in 2022.”

Other artists scheduled for Moody Center in 2022 include Bon Jovi, Justin Bieber, The Who, Dave Matthews Band, Eagles, Machine Gun Kelly, Andrea Bocelli, Florence + The Machine, James Taylor, Leon Bridges, Shawn Mendes and Daddy Yankee.

Jeff Nickler, who was previously SVP of Arena Alliance, a collection of 29 NBA and NHL venues in North America, will serve as the arena’s general manager. Facilities include 44 Suites, nearly 2,000 club seats, three premium clubs, 57 loge boxes and one super VIP club, the Moët & Chandon Impérial Lounge.

 


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Taskforce publishes Astroworld tragedy report

A US taskforce has made a series of recommendations on how to improve concert safety in response to last year’s Astroworld Festival tragedy.

Ten concertgoers were killed and more than 300 were injured after a crowd surge during co-founder Travis Scott’s headline set in Houston, Texas on 5 November. The 50,000-cap festival at NRG Park was promoted by Live Nation and its Scoremore subsidiary.

The Texas Task Force On Concert Safety (TFCS) was announced by Texas governor Greg Abbott in the days following the disaster.  Led by Texas Music Office Director Brendon Anthony, the group comprised safety experts, law enforcement, firefighters, state agencies and music industry leaders, who held several meetings and one-on-one discussions to develop ways to enhance security at live music events in the state.

“The recommendations in this report are narrowly tailored to address gaps that were identified as contributing to safety failures at the Astroworld event,” states its newly published conclusions. “The TFCS also proactively used this process to enhance the state’s standard of safety practices for mass gatherings of all types.

“While some level of risk is inherent in any mass gathering, it is the opinion of the TFCS that proper planning will allow Texans to enjoy safe performances, concerts, and other culturally significant events.”

“The recommendations, findings and solutions detailed in this report will help the state of Texas prevent another tragedy like that at Astroworld Festival from happening again”

One of its key proposals is for the creation of a centralised Event Production Guide – outlining and encouraging best-practice for event design and crowd control – which could serve as a one-stop shop for promoters to access existing legal requirements. The guide would include a list of robust training resources for promoters, staff, and first responders for site walkthrough drills, security briefings, communication trees, and show-stop triggers and responses.

“I thank the Texas Task Force on Concert Safety for their commitment to safety and security for all concertgoers and for their collaboration with stakeholders on this critical report,” says governor Abbott. “The recommendations, findings and solutions detailed in this report will help the state of Texas prevent another tragedy like that at Astroworld Festival from happening again.”

The task force supports a requirement that promoters determine which emergency service would respond to a 911 call on the site of their event, and recommends that local authorities stop the show when it is determined that an event has been organised without a permit or has breached the bounds of the issued permit.

“The recommendations in this report are narrowly tailored to address gaps that were identified as contributing to safety failures at the Astroworld event”

It has also called for a Concert Attendee Code of Conduct as part of the ticketing process, which makes clear what behaviours will lead to ejection, and recommends that venues communicate with other venue representatives that have previously hosted the artist.

It adds that promoters should partner with artists to encourage safety, since messaging from the artist can be “uniquely persuasive” for fans.

 


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1 killed, 11 injured at outdoor concert in Dallas

One person was killed and 11 others were injured during a shooting at an outdoor concert in Dallas, north Texas, at the weekend.

In the early hours of Sunday (3 April), officers responded to a field in southeast Oak Cliff where the Second Annual Epic Easter Bike Out & Field Party was being held.

Police said a preliminary investigation found that during the concert, one person fired a gun into the air, then another unknown individual fired a gun in the crowd’s direction, according to AP News.

Near the concert stage, police found 26-year-old TikTok creator Kealon Dejuane Gilmore lying on the ground with a gunshot wound to the head. Gilmore died at the scene.

Near the concert stage, police found 26-year-old Kealon Dejuane Gilmore lying on the ground with a gunshot wound to the head

Police say that 11 other individuals were shot during the concert, all of whom were taken to hospitals either by ambulance or by private vehicles.

One person was in critical condition and the others were in stable condition. Three of the people hurt are juveniles, police said.  As of Sunday afternoon, no one has been arrested.

The event, reportedly attended by around 2,000 people, would have been headlined by Memphis-based rapper Big Boogie, who did not end up performing.

The event included live performances, an Easter egg hunt and a trail ride. ATVs or horses were welcome at the event.

Organisers had advertised that Dallas officers would be on-site to provide security, a claim that the Dallas Police Department is now looking into.

Sunday morning’s shooting happened two weeks after 10 people were shot on 19 March during a spring break party at a Dallas event venue.

 


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Hundreds of Astroworld lawsuits to be consolidated

Hundreds of Astroworld lawsuits are being formally consolidated into a single case following a court ruling.

Ten people, aged between nine and 27, died and hundreds of others were injured following the crowd crush during Travis Scott’s headline set at the festival at Houston’s NRG Park on 5 November 2021.

Lawsuits were filed against Scott and promoters Live Nation and Scoremore, along with other parties, 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 Texas Judicial Panel On Multidistrict Litigation has now ruled that 387 suits, representing almost 2,800 alleged victims, can move forward as one case.

“The agreed motion alleges the lawsuits arise out of incidents leading up to, during and following a live performance by Travis Scott during the Astroworld Festival outside NRG Park on November 5, 2021,” states the court papers. “We conclude that the cases arising out of the incident are related, and we find that transfer of those case would result in more efficient pre-trial of the related cases.”

“Houston Police Department continues to lead the investigation”

Billboard reports the move towards a single case was agreed upon by both sides. Scott previously requested to be dismissed from multiple lawsuits relating to the disaster, with a representative saying the rapper “is not legally liable” for the tragedy.

Live Nation, Scoremore and NRG Park owner Harris County Sports and Convention Corporation also deny all allegations against them, but have not asked for their dismissal.

Criminal investigations are still ongoing. Last month, Houston police appealed for Astroworld attendees to submit any photos or videos taken at the event.

“Houston Police Department have already viewed countless hours of video evidence as part of our ongoing investigation into the Astroworld event,” it tweeted. “To ensure that we have captured all possible evidence for a complete investigation, we have partnered with the Federal Bureau Of Investigation for additional technical assistance. The FBI has created a website where the public can upload any photos or video taken at the concert venue. Specifically, we are seeking any photos or videos of the main venue area from 8pm to 11pm. The website to upload your photos or video is fbi.gov/astroworld.

“HPD continues to lead the investigation and we appreciate the assistance from our federal partners at the FBI.”

 


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Travis Scott’s Astroworld Festival to expand for 2021

Grammy award-nominated rapper Travis Scott has announced that his Astroworld Festival will return this year with an expanded format due to ‘overwhelming demand’.

The third edition of Astroworld Festival will take place on 5 and 6 November at NRG Park in Scott’s hometown, Houston, Texas, with a line-up curated by the artist himself.

Scott has revealed that he will be headlining Astroworld Festival 2021, which will adopt the theme ‘Open Your Eyes To A Whole New Universe’, while the full line-up will be announced closer to the time.

The previous two events have sold out before line-ups were revealed.

In 2019 the festival became the largest single-day artist-curated music festival in the country

According to Live Nation, in November 2019, the festival became the largest single-day artist-curated music festival in the country, as well as the largest music festival in Houston as the sold-out event played host to over 50,000 fans.

The festival, which celebrates hip-hop, pop music, has hosted the likes of Post Malone, Rosalia, Pharrell Williams, Da Baby, Lil Wayne, Young Thug, Playboi Carti and Megan Thee Stallion.

Two-day GA passes will be available for purchase beginning next 5 May at 10 am CT on AstroworldFest.com.

A portion of proceeds from Astroworld Festival 2021 will be donated to the festival’s official charity partner, Cactus Jack Foundation, founded by Scott.

The expansion of the festival follows Astronomical, Scott’s record-breaking in-game concert event which took place in Fortnite in April 2020 and attracted more than 12 million players.

 


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Two killed in Texas music venue shooting

Two people were killed and at least five injured in a shooting during a concert at the Ventura in San Antonio, Texas, on Sunday night (19 January).

Police were called to the music venue at 8 p.m. last night, after a gunman opened fire inside the club. According to San Antonio police chief William McManus, the shooting occurred after an argument broke out in bar.

The concert, dubbed ‘Living the Dream’, featured multiple emerging acts and local musicians including Jonathan Tyler, Hoax and MikeNo$leep.

The shooting prompted a mixed reaction on the venue’s Facebook page, with some users defending the bar as “an excellent spot for up-and-coming musicians” and stating that similar issues had never occurred before. Others criticised the venue for a perceived lack of security enforcement.

A police search for the gunman is ongoing.

 


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