Wave of illegal concerts sweeps South America
Thousands of South Americans attended illegal, non-socially distanced concerts and parties over the Easter weekend, with authorities making arrests across the continent as national governments continue to battle the coronavirus with varying degrees of success.
South America remains a hotspot for Covid-19 – with high mortality rates in Brazil, Peru, Chile and Paraguay of particular cause for concern – though the recent unlicensed live events suggest some people are beginning to chafe under ongoing restrictions on indoor gatherings.
In the town of Turuku, in Ecuador’s northern Imbabura province, local government officials, national police and the armed forces shut down an unlicensed music festival, Killary Fest, which would have been attended by an estimated 5,000 people.
Despite dismantling the stage and confiscating much of Killary Fest’s equipment, including speakers, authorities returned on the evening of Friday 2 April to “learn that, despite the warnings, the party was starting”, reports El Comercio. When they again moved to shut down the event, police and soldiers were pelted with sticks and stones by revellers.
The incident follows months of parties, concerts and other unlawful events in Ecuador, reports El Comercio.
In Punta Arenas, the southernmost city in Chile, a local election candidate is being held by police after organising a concert in a former hospital, attended by around 100 people.
Brazilian police continue to target illegal parties, which are being blamed for the surge in Covid-19 cases and deaths
In addition to not seeking permission for the event, Juan Pablo Martinez – who is standing in upcoming city council elections – failed to enforce mandatory social distancing and mask wearing at the clandestine concert, according to prosecutor Rina Blanco.
The show “endangered public health, given the number of people in close contact, and who he invited,” Blanco comments.
A music venue in Morón, near Buenos Aires in Argentina, has been shut down for 30 days after video emerged of cumbia singer Pablo Lescano playing to a non-socially distanced audience.
The event, which many have dubbed “el recital covid” (the Covid concert), was harshly criticised by the mayor of Morón, Lucas Ghi, who says organiser Vaprisana “worship[s] mischief, deception and the violation in rules” – comparing the club unfavourably to the honest businesspeople of the city, who “adhere to the norms and protocols required by the pandemic”.
Brazilian police also continue to target illegal parties, which are being blamed for the surge in Covid-19 cases and deaths in South America’s most populous country.
The most recent brought together around 100 people – half of whom were caught not wearing face masks – in the city of Sao Paolo last weekend. According to local press, the three organisers were arrested, while the venue was fined R$190,000 (€28,000).
First £10k penalties issued for illegal parties
The first fines have been issued in England under tough new measures designed to deter would-be organisers of illegal raves.
The British home secretary, Priti Patel, announced last week that anyone who organises an illegal rave, unlicensed music event or any other “unlawful” gathering of more than 30 people could be liable for a fine of £10,000.
In London, the Metropolitan Police says it broke up 21 unlicensed music events (‘UMEs’) on Saturday 29 August alone.
One raid, in Dace Road, Hackney, saw officers take “details of four individuals, who have been reported for consideration under the new legislation”, says the Met’s Commander Bas Javid. “Enquiries into this event are ongoing.”
A number of arrests were also made at an anti-lockdown protest in central London, with protester Piers Corbyn – brother of former Labour party leader Jeremy – notably hit with the maximum penalty of £10,000.
A total of 11 £10,000 fines were handed out last weekend
“One individual has been reported under the new legislation, and a fixed penalty notice [will] be issued for £10,000 for the offence of holding a gathering of more than 30 people in an outdoor public place,” adds Javid.
According to Sky News, a total of 11 £10,000 fines were handed out last weekend.
They include penalties issued to the organisers of an illegal rave in Banwen, south Wales, which was attended by 3,000 people, and a number of parties in West Yorkshire.
Another (licensed) music event in Leeds was shut down for not adhering to government guidelines on social distancing.
Also hosting UMEs over the weekend were Norfolk’s Thetford Forest, when an unlawful rave was attended by over 500 people, and Harlow, Essex, where authorities seized “thousands of pounds” worth of sound equipment just prior to the event’s start.
UK braces for long weekend of illegal events
Police, local authorities and industry associations have warned would-be party promoters against organising illegal gatherings in the UK this long weekend, after the government announced tougher fines for those found to be facilitating “the most serious breaches of social distancing restrictions”.
Britain’s home secretary, Priti Patel, announced earlier this week that anyone who organises an illegal rave, unlicensed music event or any other “unlawful” gathering of more than 30 people could be liable for a fine of £10,000.
Those who attend said events could also be punished with a fine of £100 for each violation, Patel (pictured) said.
“To the organisers of this sort of activity, I strongly advise that you seriously consider the risks you’re creating for everyone in attendance and the wider community,” says Commander Ade Adelekan, the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s lead for unlicensed music events.
Illegal raves have been on the increase in the UK in recent months amid the continuing shutdown of live entertainment, with unlicensed events also reported in France and elsewhere in continental Europe.
In London alone, the Metropolitan Police has responded to more than 1,000 unlicensed events since the end of June, receiving information on more than 200 events across the city in a single weekend, according to the Home Office.
“The government must consider safe options to allow the night-time economy and events sector to reopen”
There are fears the three-day weekend (Monday 31 August is a public holiday in the UK) could see an escalation in the number of illicit events, with councils across the country warning people against organising or attending illegal mass gatherings.
Michael Kill, CEO of the Night-Time Industries Association, says a spike in unlicensed parties over the bank holiday weekend will “escalate an already increasing number of unregulated and unsafe events placing young people at risk”.
“Small house parties and raves have been bubbling under the surface of society for many years now – but lockdown has intensified this, with young people searching for alternatives to late-night venues as they struggle to cope with continuing restrictions on their lives due to the pandemic,” he comments.
“Bank holidays present a particular challenge, but given the imminent reintroduction of student communities to university cities, and restrictions on the reopening of nightclubs and venues, we are concerned that the freshers’ period will result in an eruption of illegal house parties and gatherings. This will create challenging times for police forces up and down the country.”
He continues: “As the night-time economy and events sector is unable to reopen to provide safe spaces for young people to express themselves, DIY alternatives are being organised which are unregulated and may compromise young people’s safety. Previous illegal events have resulted in several serious incidents, but have continued to grow in popularity over the last few months.
“Thousands of businesses remain closed and struggle to survive and protect the livelihoods of their staff while unsafe illegal events continue. The government must consider safe options to allow the night-time economy and events sector to reopen to help combat the rise in illegal parties and raves across the country.”+
‘PROs have no idea what’s played’: Vnue pushes into rights
Vnue, a New York-based tech start-up that aims to “revolutionise the live music business” by recording shows and releasing experiential content to fans, is to acquire Soundstr, a music rights company that pays rightsholders based on the actual usage of their works.
“For years, the performance rights organisations have utilised blanket licensing agreements to charge businesses, such as the 62,000-plus bars and taverns in the US, large fees for music they are likely never going to play, due mainly [to the fact] the PROs have no idea what music is actually being played,” says Vnue CEO Zach Bair.
“Because of this, many rightsholders don’t see a dime from performances of their work in blanket licensed businesses. Our technology aims to solve this issue and make it fair for everyone.”
The acquisition of Soundstr will, says Vnue, speed up the development of its own music-identification technology, MiC (Music Indentification Center). With MiC, instead of paying blanket fees to license music, bars would only pay for music they actually use, eliminating costly lawsuits from collection societies that target unlicensed venues.
“The current performing rights system discourages venues from having music”
“The vision for Soundstr is to create transparency on real-world music use, ensure accurate songwriter payments when their works are used and simultaneously help licensees pay fees in accordance with their music use,” says company founder Eron Bucciarelli-Tieger. “Vnue is the natural home for Soundstr as the company seeks to carry on with that vision. I look forward to the day when general performance royalties show up on my performing rights statements.”
“The current performing rights system discourages venues from having music, and does not fairly compensate the musicians even if the venues do pay into the PRO system,” adds Bair.
“With the joining of the MiC system and Soundstr technology, we will better align the fees the venues pay with the music that’s actually played there – and by making this fee fair and transparent, increase the number of licensed venues and ultimately increase royalty payments to the actual rightsholders for the songs.”
Ascap sues 10 unlicensed venues
American performance-rights organisation (PRO) Ascap is taking legal action against ten music venues, clubs and restaurants for non-payment of licence fees.
The venues – the Adrenaline Sports Bar & Grill in Las Vegas; Carmine’s La Trattoria in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida; Dorado Western Club in Houston, Texas; The Concert Pub, also in Houston; Conrad’s Seafood Restaurant in Nottingham, Maryland; Havana Club in Atlanta; Mezzo Ultra Lounge in Providence, Rhode Island; Show Palace in Oceanside, California; Pony in Memphis, Tennessee; and Spike’s Bar & Billiards in Rosemead, California – are alleged by Ascap (the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) to have engaged in the “unauthorised public performance of its members’ copyrighted musical works”.
“By filing these actions, Ascap is standing up for songwriters”
“Hundreds of thousands of well-run businesses across the nation recognise the importance of paying music creators to use their music, and understand that it is both the lawful and right thing to do,” says Ascap’s executive vice-president of licensing, Vincent Candilora.
“However, each of the establishments sued […] has decided to use music without compensating songwriters. By filing these actions, Ascap is standing up for songwriters whose creative work brings great value to all businesses that publicly perform their music.”