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Roblox plans Twenty One Pilots concert experience

Roblox and Warner Music Group (WMG) have announced a virtual concert experience with Grammy-award winning duo Twenty One Pilots.

The Twenty One Pilots concert experience will feature the first-ever dynamic setlist dictated by fans in real-time, alongside pre-concert quests, exclusive custom-designed virtual merchandise, behind-the-scenes footage, and a Q&A with the duo.

The five-song set will feature a combination of hit songs as well as new material from Twenty One Pilots’ 2021 album, ‘Scaled and Icy’.

The band follows in the footsteps of Royal Blood and Lil Nas X, each of which have delivered virtual concert experiences in Roblox – which has more than 150 million monthly users worldwide.

“We are taking virtual concerts to the next level with our Twenty One Pilots virtual concert experience”

Jon Vlassopulos, global Head of Music, Roblox, says: “We are taking virtual concerts to the next level with our Twenty One Pilots virtual concert experience. We wanted to make it truly interactive and participatory for the fans, for the band, and for our broader Roblox developer community.

“Fans will be able to decide the order of the songs that they hear by choosing with their friends. They will be able to interact with the environment in creative ways becoming part of the show, and Tyler and Josh will participate in a live chat with fans after the virtual concert.

“This is what Roblox is built for, bringing people together to interact in new and exciting ways and we are just scratching the surface of what’s possible.”

The Twenty One Pilots concert experience kicks off in Roblox on Friday 17 September at 16:00 PDT.  Fans can access the experience and join the pre-show festivities beginning today by visiting the Twenty One Pilots event page.

Fans can replay performances at the top of each hour through Sunday 19 September at 23:00 PDT.


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Music business steps up after Black Out Tuesday

After the events of Black Out Tuesday, which saw music companies worldwide down tools on 2 June in solidarity with anti-racism protestors, a number of firms have announced details of follow-up initiatives intended to deliver lasting change in both their companies and across the wider music business.

As previously reported, both Live Nation, which donated to the Equal Justice Initiative, and Warner Music Group, which established a US$100 million fund to donate to charitable causes, are backing up their words with concrete actions – but they’re far from alone, with other live and recorded music businesses similarly making good on Tuesday’s promises.

ATC Live
London-based booking agency ATC Live, whose roster includes Nick Cave, PJ Harvey, Johnny Marr and Metronomy, on Wednesday published a list of eight changes it is making to ensure its agents “do better as a team” in future.

They include committing to improving diversity among its staff and artist roster; matching donations made towards charitable causes by employees; and encouraging artists to use their public platforms as a means of promoting “positive change”.

Universal Music Group
Recorded music giant UMG, which also owns a number of festivals through its U-Live division, has announced plans for a ‘taskforce for meaningful change’ that will increase the company’s “efforts in areas such as inclusion and social justice”.

In a letter to employees, the group’s co-chairs, UMG chief counsel Jeff Harleston and Motown Records president Ethiopia Habtemariam, explain that the $25m ‘change fund’ will focus on six main areas: ‘aid/charitable giving’; ‘global’ (initiatives to increase equality and inclusion across UMG worldwide); ‘internal/institutional change’; ‘legislative/public policy’ (ie lobbying for political change); ‘partners’ (working with); and ‘programming/curation’ celebrating the achievements of black creators.

“We know our community, colleagues, artists and partners are suffering. We feel it and we’re living it, but we’re also energized [sic] to fight for change,” say Harleston and Habtemariam. “We’re asking for you to lock arms with us – we want to hear your voice. Now is the time to be heard!”

CAA
Creative Artists Agency has made a new appointment to its company board, in a move it says – along with its participation in Black Out Tuesday and the return this year of its Amplify leadership summit, which “inspires and connects multicultural leaders” – underscores its “commitment to diversity and inclusion”.

Lisa Joseph Metelus, CAA Sports’ head of basketball marketing and servicing, is the latest addition to the agency’s new leadership structure, the CAA Board, which was established earlier this year.

“It is critical that our board better reflects the real world,” says CAA president Richard Lovett. “Lisa is a force. Beyond being a proven leader in one of the most successful divisions of CAA Sports, she is among the most accomplished and respected executives in the industry. She has a powerful voice, both smart and visionary, and we look forward to further amplifying her insights and perspective across the agency.”

“It is critical that our board better reflects the real world”

Spotify
In addition to its symbolic actions on Black Out Tuesday, music streaming service Spotify says it is matching all financial donations made by its employees to organisations “focused on the fight against racism, injustice, inequity, and [for] driving meaningful change.”

Bandcamp
This 19 June (or Juneteenth, the holiday marking the end of slavery in the US), direct-to-fan music and merch platform Bandcamp will donate 100% of its cut of sales to civil rights organisation the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

The company will also provide a further $30,000 annually to organisations campaigning for racial justice and creating opportunities for people of colour.

“The current moment is part of a long-standing, widespread and entrenched system of structural oppression of people of color [sic], and real progress requires a sustained and sincere commitment to political, social, and economic racial justice and change,” reads a blog post announcing the measures. “We’ll continue to promote diversity and opportunity through our mission to support artists, the products we build to empower them, […] how we operate as a team, and who and how we hire.”

YouTube
Google’s YouTube says it has made a $1 million donation to the Center for Policing Equity, a think tank that works with police forces across the US to address discriminatory behaviour.

“We stand in solidarity against racism and injustice and are pledging $1m in support of efforts to stop it,” says the company.


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WMG announces $100m social justice fund, IPO price

Following Black Out Tuesday yesterday, Warner Music Group (WMG) has announced a US$100 million fund to support charitable causes “related to the music industry, social justice and campaigns against violence and racism”.

The fund – jointly financed by WMG and the Blavatnik Family Foundation, the charitable foundation run by WMG vice-chairman Sir Leonard Blavatnik, whose Access Industries is the group’s majority owner – will support individuals and “organisations strengthening education, and promoting equality, opportunity, diversity and inclusion” in the music industry, according to WMG.

Along with the other two major labels, Universal Music and Sony Music, and all major live music industry companies, Warner Music was supporter of #TheShowMustBePaused initiative, which saw the music business come to a halt for on 2 June in solidarity with those protesting for racial justice.

Steve Cooper, CEO of Warner Music Group, says: “This fund will support the extraordinary, dedicated organisations that are on the front lines of the fight against racism and injustice, and that help those in need across the music industry.

“This fund will support the extraordinary, dedicated organisations that are on the front lines of the fight against racism and injustice”

“Our advisory panel, which will draw from a diverse cross-section of people from our team and the wider community, will help us be very thoughtful and accountable in how we make an impact. We’re determined to contribute, on a sustained long-term basis, to the effort to bring about real change.”

Today (3 June) also sees WMG’s return to the stock market after nine years, with a previously announced flotation (IPO) on New York’s Nasdaq set to raise nearly $2 billion from the sale of 77m shares for $25 apiece. Blavatnik purchased WMG for $3.3bn in 2011.

In addition to its labels and publishing arm, WMG has multiple live music interests, including concert discovery platform Songkick, Finnish promoter Warner Music Live and management company Umbrella Artists Productions, which it owns with German promoter FKP Scorpio.

 


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Footage from major fests to be shown in WMG’s PlayOn Fest

Past performances at major festivals including Coachella, Primavera Sound and Rock in Rio, as well as from venues such as the O2 Arena, will be streamed as part of Warner Music Group’s three-day virtual event, PlayOn Fest.

The event, which kicks off on Friday (24 April) at midday EDT will stream live for 72 hours via the Songkick YouTube channel, allowing fans to “relive epic performances for one time only”.

The virtual festival will raise funds for the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Covid-19 solidarity response fund through the sale of merchandise and donations.

Performances from over 65 acts, including Ed Sheeran, Cardi B, Coldplay, Twenty One Pilots, Bruno Mars, Janelle Monáe, Green Day and Slipknot will be broadcast over the three-day event.

“PlayOn Fest is a great way to come together, enjoy good music and company, and support the WHO’s most urgent global work to combat Covid-19”

PlayOn Fest will include festival footage from Coachella, Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Primavera Sound and Rock In Rio, as well as live shows from London’s O2 Arena, Sydney Opera House and Red Rocks Amphitheatre.

“During this pandemic, we are all searching for ways to stay connected,” says Elizabeth Cousens, president and CEO of the UN Foundation, which powers the WHO’s Covid-19 fund.

“The PlayOn Fest is a great way to come together, enjoy good music and company, and support the World Health Organization’s most urgent global work to combat Covid-19.”

Over the weekend, the Global Citizen-organised, Lady Gaga-curated One World: Together at Home benefit concert, which featured live performances from acts in real time, raised $127 million for the WHO’s fund.

Read more about the booming business of livestreaming here.

Photo: slgckgc/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) (cropped)

 


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Zard leads management buy-out at Vivo Concerti

Clemente Zard, managing director of Italian promoter Vivo Concerti, has acquired the company in a management buy-out from former owner Warner Music Group (WMG).

Zard, son of recently deceased Libyan-Italian concert promoter/agent David, says Vivo Concerti will continue to work closely with Warner Music Italy, including promoting tours by its artists.

The sale of Vivo Concerti, acquired by WMG in 2011, follows similar sell-offs by Warner in France, where it passed ownership of Nous Productions to Live Nation in 2016, and Germany, where it last year offloaded Neuland Concerts to its MD, Christian Gerlach.

Marco Alboni, chairman and CEO of Warner Music Italy, comments: “It’s been a great pleasure to work with everyone at Vivo over the last six years. The company is well placed to be a key player in the live market and I want to wish everyone there all the best going forward.

“I think we have a great future as a player in Italy’s exciting live sector”

“This move will enable us to focus on our core business of A&R, content creation and providing tailored services to existing and new artists.”

“I would like to thank Marco and the whole team at Warner Music Italy for their support as we’ve gone through this process,” adds Zard (pictured, centre). “I look forward to working with them in the future as Vivo pursues its own destiny in the touring business.

“I think we have a great future as a player in Italy’s exciting live sector.”

The future, according to Italian magazine Rockol, will include its acquisition by CTS Eventim – the German ticketing outfit’s fourth in Italy since September, as it continues to grow its concert footprint following the recent buy-out of Di and Gi.

 


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Blavatnik, IMG’s Shustorovich drawn into Trump Russia probe

Two prominent entertainment business figures have been drawn into the ongoing investigation into alleged Russian interference in last year’s US presidential election.

Sir Len Blavatnik, whose Access Industries holding company owns Warner Music Group, and Alexander Shustorovich, the chief executive of performing arts agency IMG Artists, are reportedly under scrutiny from investigators led by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is overseeing a probe into the Trump presidential campaign’s alleged links with the Russian government.

According to the Dallas Morning News, political contributions by Sir Len – a Ukrainian-born American/British businessman who had previously donated to both parties – took a “hard right turn” in 2015–16, when he gave more than US$6m to Republican party political action committees (PACs).

Of that $6m, the paper says, the majority, $3.5m went to a PAC associated with Kentucky Republican senator and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, with smaller amounts donated to PACs backing senator Marco Rubio ($1.5m), Wisconsin governor Scott Walker ($1.1m) and Trump’s Inaugural Committee ($1m).

Len Blavatnik and Alexander Shustorovich are reportedly under scrutiny from investigators led by special counsel Robert Mueller

Shustorovich, a Russian-American business magnate with business interests in TV, radio and other media, similarly gave $1m to the Inaugural Committee, which was accepted by the Trump team – despite the rejection of a previous attempt to donate to the Republicans, in 2000, because of concerns over his ties to the Russian government.

Two other men, Andrew Intrater and Kukes – neither of which have any history of political donations – are also reportedly of interest to investigators. Both have been employees of Sir Len: Intrater is chief executive of Columbus Nova, a division of Renova, an investment company co-founded by Blavatnik and his business partner Viktor Vekselberg in 1990, while Kukes worked for Blavatnik and Vekselberg’s TNK from 1998 to 2003.

In addition to owning Warner Music, Access Industries is an investor in Spotify, Deezer and Songkick, the latter of which Warner partially acquired in July. Blavatnik was knighted in 2017 for his philanthropy.

Democratic representative Adam Schiff told ABC News he believes the contributions to be legal, as all donors are US citizens, “unless the contributions were directed by a foreigner”. He added, however, that they “could still be of interest to investigators examining allegations of Russian influence on the 2016 campaign. Obviously, if there were those that had associations with the Kremlin that were contributing, that would be of keen concern.”

 


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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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FKP partners with Warner, Kobalt for management venture

Promoter FKP Scorpio has partnered with Umbrella Artist Productions (UAP), an artist management collective launched at Reeperbahn Festival earlier this month, to provide live support to the new venture.

The German-based, pan-European concert and festival promoter will lend its live expertise to UAP, whose founding managers are Ulysses Huppauff (Odyssey Music Management, Germany), Markus Hartmann (Celsius Management, Germany) and James Cassidy and Barry Campbell (Jaba Music Management, UK).

FKP joins Warner ADA, which provides label services and digital marketing, and Kobalt Music, which focuses on publishing, licensing and synchronisation (synch), creating a touring/recording/publishing troika focused on breaking new artists across Europe.

UAP, which has offices in London and Berlin, will work “closely throughout Europe with the FKP Scorpio live concerts and festival business, with particular focus on the UK and German markets”, according to a launch statement.

“UAP will provide an excellent platform to launch talented young artists”

“UAP will provide an excellent platform to launch talented young artists,” comments Freddie de Wall, who joined CTS Eventim-owned FKP as COO as in April. “With the expertise of well-respected managers in various countries, combined with our know-how at FKP Scorpio as a pan-European promoter, we have the opportunity to develop the careers of promising artists from scratch.

“We are very excited about this unique set-up and are looking forward to working with our network of managers and their artists.”

Campbell adds: “UAP puts live performance top of the priority list to kickstart a new band’s career, with release and promotion schedules enhancing the touring – and the ever more important festival plot.”

 


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WMG acquires Songkick discovery platform

Recorded music giant Warner Music Group (WMG), one of the ‘big three’ record labels, has acquired “selected assets” from Songkick, including its concert-discovery app, website and the Songkick trademark.

The surprise acquisition excludes Songkick’s ticketing business – established in June 2015, when it merged with white-label ticketing platform Crowdsurge – and, crucially, the “pending litigation” associated with it. The company has been locked in a legal battle with Live Nation/Ticketmaster since December 2015, when Songkick sued the conglomerate over alleged abuses of its “monopoly power” to stifle competition.

The Songkick app will operate as a standalone brand overseen by WEA, WMG’s artist and label services division. WEA services include sales, distribution, streaming account management and playlisting, analytics, insight, artist websites, VIP experiences, fan clubs and merchandising, and the acquisition will “lead to additional offerings for Songkick users”, says WMG.

At press time the direction of Songkick’s ticketing business is unclear; IQ has requested clarification. WMG is already an investor in Songkick through its parent company, Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries, which invested a further US$15 million in last August.

“I’m excited to pass the baton on the discovery service to the great team at WMG, an ideal organisation to carry on this mission and to take it in new, innovative directions”

“Fans all over the world trust Songkick to help them find events featuring the artists they love,” says Tony Harlow, president of WEA. “It’s a passionate, highly engaged music community, always on the lookout for new experiences. Bringing together Songkick’s discovery platform and world-­class technology with our existing e­commerce expertise and global reach represents a powerful step in strengthening and evolving our direct-­to-­fan capabilities.”

Matt Jones, CEO of Songkick, adds: “Songkick was founded on the promise of improving the live experience for fans and the artists they love. Over the years, we have helped tens of millions find their next great live experience, and today I’m excited to pass the baton on the discovery service to the great team at WMG, an ideal organisation to carry on this mission and to take it in new, innovative directions.

“And, on behalf of the many artists and fans we’ve served over the last decade, we are committed to continuing our litigation against Live Nation and Ticketmaster independently.”

WMG’s other interests in live music include promoter Warner Music Live in Finland and, formerly, Nous Productions in France, which was last August acquired by Live Nation.

 


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