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WME freed from Virgin Fest lawsuit over artist deposits

WME has been freed from Virgin Fest Los Angeles’ lawsuit seeking to recover prepaid deposits from the event’s cancelled 2020 edition.

VFLA Eventco LLC – Virgin Fest’s organiser and the music festival arm of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group – filed a lawsuit against the agency in July 2020, as well as artists Lizzo, Ellie Goulding and Kali Uchis, saying the parties had agreed to return deposits in the event of cancellation due to “an uncontrollable factor”.

The acts had been scheduled to play the debut outing of the festival at the Banc of California Stadium (22,000-cap.) and Exposition Park (160-acre) in LA on 6 and 7 June 2020 before it was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

VFLA argued that because the government prevented the festival from proceeding, the artists were obliged to return monies they had been advanced when they were booked to play.

The judge did allow a breach of contract claim to move forward against the artists’ touring companies

However, Lizzo, Goulding and their agents argued that they could keep those payments because they were still “ready, willing and able to perform”, despite the festival being called off. Uchis’ company did not file a demurrer but did file a notice of joinder to the other defendants’ demurrers.

According to VFLA, all other agencies have returned, or agreed to return, the full amount of the prepaid deposits for the performances.

On Friday (12 March), at the LA Superior Court, Judge Mark H. Epstein issued an order that said the agreements the parties signed protected WME from being sued for what is essentially a dispute between the artists and the promoter.

According to Law360, Epstein said the court “agrees with the plaintiff that the contract does not protect WME from liability for its own wrongs. It only protects WME from being sued for what is essentially a dispute between the artists and the promoter. But that is essentially what is at issue here.”

The judge did allow a breach of contract claim to move forward against the artists’ touring companies and also said that VFLA can amend its complaint against WME, which the agency objected to.

 


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Virgin Fest sues WME, artists in bid to recover deposits

The organisers of Virgin Fest, which was set to have its debut outing this June, have filed a lawsuit against agency William Morris Endeavor (WME) and artists Lizzo, Kali Uchis and Ellie Goulding, in an attempt to recover deposits from the event’s cancelled 2020 edition.

The acts had all been scheduled to play in the festival at the Banc of California Stadium (22,000-cap.) and Exposition Park (160-acre) in Los Angeles on 6 and 7 June before it was cancelled – along with the vast majority of this year’s event calendar – due to the coronavirus pandemic.

VFLA Eventco LLC – Virgin Fest’s organiser and the music festival arm of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group – has now levied a complaint against WME, as well as Ellie Goulding’s Starry US Touring, Lizzo’s Big Grrrl Big Touring and Kali Uchis Touring, saying the parties had agreed to return deposits in the event of cancellation due to “an uncontrollable factor”.

“After the government prevented the festival from proceeding, VFLA invoked the force majeure provision and demanded the return in full of the prepaid deposits”

According to VFLA, all other agencies have returned, or agreed to return, the full amount of the prepaid deposits for the performances, but WME argues that deposits do not need to be returned as the artists were “otherwise ready, willing and able to perform.”

“[WME] refused to return the deposits and insisted that the artists it represents are entitled to keep the deposits — even if the Covid-19 pandemic constituted a force majeure event, even if the governmental orders prevented the festival from proceeding, and even if those orders likewise made it unlawful for their artists to perform on the dates and at the times and places specified in their agreements with VFLA,” reads the complaint, as published by Law 360.

“After the government prevented the festival from proceeding, VFLA invoked the force majeure provision of the artists’ performance agreements and demanded the return in full of the prepaid deposits made in connection with those agreements.”

VFLA is seeking a court order forcing WME to return the deposit money, as well as damages. From the three touring companies, the Virgin fest organiser wants additional damages for breach of contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

IQ has contacted WME for comment.

Photo: Andy Witchger/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) (cropped)

 


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Lizzo, ASAP Rocky to headline first-ever Virgin Fest

The line-up for the inaugural Virgin Fest has been announced, with acts including Lizzo, ASAP Rocky, Anderson .Paak, Major Lazer and Ellie Goulding making up the bill.

Virgin founder Richard Branson first revealed his plans for Virgin Fest in 2018, following the end of the brand’s partnership with the UK’s V Festival. The festival launched following the acquisition of the Kaaboo festival brand by Virgin’s music festival arm – also named Virgin Fest – last year.

Marking the 50th anniversary of the Virgin brand, the festival is taking place on 6 and 7 June 2020 at the Banc of California Stadium (22,000-cap.) and Exposition Park (160-acre) in Los Angeles.

As well as its music programme, which also features Jorja Smith, Kali Uchis, Japanese Breakfast, Clairo and Celeste, Virgin Fest will showcase an interactive fair with new technologies and gaming.

“By combining Virgin’s signature hospitality and ingenuity with a strong sense of purpose, our team built the festival of tomorrow, today,” comments Virgin founder Branson.

“We are proud to bring Virgin Fest to LA and to be on track to become one of the United States’ greenest festivals”

“We are proud to bring Virgin Fest to LA and to be on track to become one of the United States’ greenest festivals.”

Sustainable initiatives such as a single-use plastic ban, solar programme, surplus food donations and a partnership with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority will help reduce the event’s carbon footprint.

“Music is an emotional force of transformation – it can change people’s moods, their outlook on life, and sometimes, it can unite the world,” says Jason Felts, CEO and founder of Virgin Fest.

“We are embracing the dream that music can bring to get us to a better place – for our fans, for our people, for our communities and for our planet. We envision a tomorrow where festivals live and breathe the extraordinary – Virgin Fest looks to lead that charge.”

Tickets for Virgin Fest are available here. A two-day pass costs US$229, with VIP options available for $499 and mega VIP tickets for $1999.

Photo: Andy Witchger/ Flickr (CC BY 2.0) (cropped)

 


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Virgin Fest to debut in LA in 2020

Marking the 50 year anniversary of the Virgin brand, the inaugural Virgin Fest will take place on 6 and 7 June 2020 at the Banc of California Stadium and Exposition Park in Los Angeles, California.

Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson and CEO Jason Felts confirmed the venue and date of the weekend event yesterday (11 December).

The announcement follows Felts’ September acquisition of US festival brand Kaaboo.

The LA festival will take place across multiple stages throughout the 160-acre outdoor space of Exposition Park and 22,000-capacity indoor California Stadium. The line-up is due to be announced in early 2020, along with ticket sales.

“My love of music led me to start Virgin Records nearly five decades ago. I’m thrilled that Virgin’s musical heritage lives on through Virgin Fest,” comments Branson. “We look forward to bringing Virgin’s expertise in customer experience, innovation and entertainment to our festival in Los Angeles, a place that has always been very near and dear to my heart.”

“I’m thrilled that Virgin’s musical heritage lives on through Virgin Fest”

Virgin was formerly involved with the UK’s V Festival, promoted by Live Nation, Metropolis Music, MCD Productions and SJM Concerts. The brand ended its partnership with the event in 2017.

The year after V’s end, Branson revealed plans for a US festival, “an innovative, multi-experiential” event which would focus on “music, exploration, innovation and generosity”.

Environmental initiatives also form a major part of Virgin Fest, which will include a ban on single-use plastics, a reusable cup deposit scheme and the use of renewable energy sources such as biofuels and solar power.

“With a focus purely on people and planet, I am proud to launch a first of its kind music and tech experience built upon a foundation of positivity, equality and unmatched hospitality,” says Felts.

“We hope to uplift our shared humanity by igniting a spirit of community for all, so that our fans feel welcomed, safe and free to enjoy the experience through music and forward thinking regardless of gender, race, sexual preference, religion, political party or disability.”

More information on the line-up, ticket sales and VIP offerings will be available here.

VIRGIN FEST | JUNE 6 + 7 2020 | LOS ANGELES from Virgin Fest on Vimeo.

 


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Virgin Fest CEO Jason Felts acquires Kaaboo

Jason Felts, chief executive of the festival arm of Richard Branson’s Virgin brand, Virgin Fest, and co-founder of Virgin Produced, has acquired Kaaboo festival from its co-founders.

Through a Virgin Fest affiliate, Felts, former chief brand officer for the festival, has acquired all of Kaaboo’s assets from Bryan E Gordon and Seth Wolkov. The pair, chairman and president of Denver-based private investment holding company, the Madison Companies, launched Kaaboo in 2015 at the Del Mar Racetrack (44,000-cap.) in California.

Financial details of the sale have not been disclosed.

The Kaaboo sale  comes days after the announcement that the festival had entered into a multi-year partnership with baseball team the San Diego Padres, moving the festival to Petco Park baseball stadium and renaming the event from Kaaboo Del Mar to Kaaboo San Diego.

“I attended the first Kaaboo Del Mar in 2015 with my parents,” says Felts. “It became clear that Kaaboo shared a like-minded approach to Virgin with customer service, while delivering a unique, differentiated, multi-sensory festival product.

“It was on that basis that we first invested and supported this vision in 2016. We look forward to the future of the Kaaboo brand and its festival experiences under our ownership.”

The Kaaboo team debuted two new spin-off festivals this year, a two-day event in the Cayman Islands and a three-day festival in Texas. A 2020 Cayman Islands festival, announced immediately after the close of the sold-out inaugural edition, has since been cancelled. No announcement has been made regarding a continuation of the Texas festival.

“It became clear that Kaaboo shared a like-minded approach to Virgin with customer service, while delivering a unique, differentiated, multi-sensory festival product”

Kaaboo co-founders Gordon and Wolkov comment: “We’re thrilled and delighted to have had this unique vision and grateful to be validated by this acquisition with such an experienced and progressive team.

“We are appreciative of Richard (Branson) and Virgin’s early support of our brand and confident that, in Jason and his team’s capable hands, the journey that we started to offer adults [of] a truly differentiated festival experience is sure to live on and grow for many years to come.”

Virgin Group founder Branson announced the launch of his own “multi-experiential” music festival last year, following the termination of Virgin’s V Festival sponsorship. The festival, also named Virgin Fest, was pegged to debut in the US this year.

The final Kaaboo Del Mar wrapped up on Sunday (15 September). Acts including the Dave Matthews band, Kings of Leon and Mumford and Sons played the sold-out event, with attendance surpassing 35,000 each day.

The first edition of Kaaboo San Diego will take place from September 18 to 20 next year, held in and around the San Diego baseball stadium, Petco Park (42,445-cap.). Tickets for the event, priced from US$199 for a three-day pass to $17,500 for the ‘Ultimate Hang’ VIP package, are available here.

 


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Richard Branson announces new US Virgin Fest

Virgin Group founder Richard Branson has announced the launch of Virgin Fest, a new “multi-experiential” music festival set to debut in the US in 2019.

Virgin was formerly involved in the UK’s V Festival, promoted by Live Nation, Metropolis Music, MCD Productions and SJM Concerts. V debuted in 1996 as twin festivals in Hylands Park, Chelmsford, and Victoria Park in Warrington, with headliners Pulp, Paul Weller and Elastica. The northern England leg moved to Leeds in 1997, before settling in Weston Park in Staffordshire in 1999.

Announcing the end of the partnership, Branson said last October: “We’ve been proud to sponsor V Festival for the past two decades and there have been some incredible performances on the stage. Now, after 22 very enjoyable and successful years, 2017 was Virgin’s last V Festival.”

The Chelmsford V Festival was succeeded by a new event, Rize Festival, in 2018, although the Staffordshire event has not been replaced.

Writing on his Virgin blog after unveiling his new Hollywood Walk of Fame star, Branson says: “Once upon a time, we built the largest independent record company in the world, and that is the reason I believe I’ve been honoured with a star. Running a record company can be a lot of fun, and, yes, it did involve sex, drugs and rock’n’roll! So I had plenty of stories to share with the audience in Hollywood, from Mike Oldfield to the Sex Pistols, Phil Collins to Janet Jackson, the Rolling Stones to Boy George, Peter Tosh to the Spice Girls.

 

“I could go on and on about all of the moments that brought us here (I’ll share more of them soon), but it’s always most important for me to keep the Virgin brand moving forward and that’s exactly what we intend to do together.

“With that in mind, I’m proud to announce Virgin Fest, an innovative, multi-experiential music festival with all of the fun surprises and red-hot service that can only come from Virgin. We followed the Walk of Fame event with a special Virgin Fest launch in Hollywood, complete with a brilliant performance from Nervo (who says you can’t dance at lunchtime?!)

“Virgin Fest is coming to the US in 2019 and will be centred on music, exploration, innovation and generosity. It will feature a unique mixture of diverse music acts, cutting edge technological experiences, exclusive content, and a commitment to sustainability.”

No dates, performers or a venue have yet been announced for the new event, but Branson says its programming will reflect “the heart of the Virgin brand, [which] has always been music and entertainment”, with a “unique mixture of diverse music acts, cutting-edge technological experiences, exclusive content and a commitment to sustainability.”

“But, true to the Virgin brands,” he adds, “we will make sure Virgin Fest also focuses strongly on customer service. We want our festgoers to come away having enjoyed an amazing experience, not just another music event.”

 


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