Lady Antebellum’s New Name, Lady A, Is Already Taken by a Black Blues Singer

Lady A, formerly Lady Antebellum, playing in 2012. Photo Credit: zqvol

Yesterday, Digital Music News was first to report that Grammy-winning country band Lady Antebellum had changed its name to Lady A. However, it appears that the group failed to research the history of the title, which blues singer Anita White has been using for over two decades.

The original Lady A – a 61-year-old African American woman who works and lives in Seattle, Washington – said she learned of the Lady Antebellum name swap not while browsing the internet, but through frantic phone calls and text messages from friends and associates.

After confirming the switch for herself, Lady A voiced her disproval with the band’s failure to reach out before making the change, while also questioning the motive and timing of the shift. Lady Antebellum formed back in 2006.

More pressingly, White indicated that she doesn’t intend to part with the title and, on the contrary, plans to release another album on her 62nd birthday, which will arrive on July 18th.

At the time of this writing, the newer Lady A hadn’t yet taken to social media to address Anita White’s concerns. But reports are emerging that the three-piece Nashville, Tennessee, group is in the process of contacting White, and with any luck, both parties will come to an amicable agreement and understanding sooner rather than later.

For those who stand to benefit from a quick refresher on the precise meaning of antebellum – a number of social media users appear to be unfamiliar with the term’s nuances – Digital Music News took an in-depth look at its definition earlier today.

Yesterday, both YouTube and Apple announced that they will establish $100 million funds to support minority communities and, specifically, African Americans. And on Wednesday, an array of black music execs operating out of the UK issued a firmly worded list of demands to their industry associates.

Coachella, Stagecoach Offer Full Refunds for Canceled 2020 Dates

Fans who purchased passes to the recently canceled Coachella and/or Stagecoach music festivals will have the opportunity to receive refunds.

AEG-owned Goldenvoice outlined its refund plans for Coachella and Stagecoach earlier today in an email to Digital Music News. Passholders for both festivals will receive an email with refund-request instructions by the end of the day on Monday, June 15th.

According to Goldenvoice’s website, would-be attendees will be eligible to get their money back for 30 days following this email’s delivery; those who don’t move to secure a refund within this window will simply have their passes transferred to 2021’s event.

Additionally, Goldenvoice and AEG Presents have finalized Coachella and Stagecoach 2021’s dates. Though rumors circulated that Coachella would occur during autumn of next year, it has been tentatively booked for the weekends of April 9th through the 11th and April 16th through the 18th.

Stagecoach, for its part, will span the weekend of April 23rd and 25th, 2021.

On social media, it appears that a large portion of passholders will opt for the refund option.

“I would want my refund. Thanks!” wrote one individual.

“I’ll use my refund from Coachella for my Hawaii trip lol,” tweeted another fan.

“That refund from Coachella doesn’t sound too bad tbh,” posted a different Twitter user yet.

Notably, Goldenvoice’s email suggested that the festivals’ lineups have been shaken up as a result of the delay: “We look forward to sharing our new lineups and more information.”

Previously, DMN reported that AEG Presents was approaching its Coachella 2020 headliners – Rage Against the Machine, Travis Scott, and Frank Ocean – and asking them to push their spots back to the 2021 edition.

It’s unclear at this time whether they have agreed to do so, or whether other previously booked acts, including Lizzo and Lana Del Rey, will perform at Coachella 2021.

SiriusXM Announces $1.5 Billion Debt Offering to Counter Coronavirus Ad Drops

Satellite radio mainstay SiriusXM has announced that it will issue $1.5 billion in senior secured notes as part of an effort to offset a coronavirus-fueled drop in ad revenue.

SiriusXM revealed the debt offering in a series of press releases, which were shared with Digital Music News.

The New York City-based brand laid out the bonds’ specifics in an initial press release. As required under the Securities Act of 1933, the senior notes will be offered only to “qualified institutional buyers” – not individuals in the United States.

Along with “cash on hand,” SiriusXM stated that it will use the debt’s generated revenue to pay a previously issued round of senior secured notes, which are set to mature in 2025.

Shortly after publishing the first press release (presumably following interest on behalf of investors), SiriusXM upped the debt by $500 million, bringing the sum to a total of $1.5 billion. Additionally, the brand relayed that the notes will be due for repayment in 2030, at an annual interest rate of 4.125 percent.

This second press release also indicated that SiriusXM will use the debt offering to cover the previously mentioned 2025 senior secured notes, as well as a second set of secured notes that will mature in 2023.

SiriusXM’s stock, bought and sold under the symbol SIRI, dropped slightly (about 2.4 percent) following the debt-offering announcement. At the time of this writing, the company’s shares were trading for $6.36 apiece.

In late April, we were first to report that SiriusXM had parted with 143,000 net subscribers during 2020’s first quarter, in what was otherwise an encouraging overall performance (including revenue and profit growth of six and seven percent, respectively).

Predictably, however, advertising revenue has fallen as part of the coronavirus’s overall market shakeup.

Leading concert promoter Live Nation issued $1.2 billion in debt last month, for “general corporate purposes.” The offering was initially worth $800 million, but was subsequently increased by a third.

Sony Music Donates $100 Million to Racial Justice Causes

In the wake of nationwide protests and chaos, Sony Music Group has established a $100 million social justice fund.

Sony Music Group (encompassing both Sony Music Entertainment and Sony/ATV Music Publishing) announced the substantial fund in a press release, which was shared with Digital Music News.

And per this press release, Sony Music will immediately begin using the $100 million fund “to donate to organizations that foster equal rights.” However, the non-profit organizations set to benefit from the initial round of aid weren’t disclosed.

Addressing the newly founded fund, Sony Music CEO Rob Stringer said: “Racial injustice is a global issue that affects our artists, songwriters, our people and of course society at large. We stand against discrimination everywhere and we will take action accordingly with our community fully involved in effectively using these funds.”

On Tuesday, Sony Music, along with its Big Three record label counterparts, participated in “Black Out Tuesday,” a protest initiative designed to raise awareness of violence against African Americans. Though the music industry conceived and planned Black Out Tuesday, an array of non-music individuals and groups too partook in the movement.

Yesterday, we were first to report that Universal Music Group (UMG) had equipped its own social justice task force, dubbed “The Task Force for Meaningful Change,” with a $25 million “Change Fund.” The latter, like that of Sony Music, will assist social justice charities whose missions align with the task force’s long-term objectives.

The final Big Three record label, Warner Music Group, has partnered with the Blavatnik Family Foundation (the charitable wing of billionaire Leonard Blavatnik, who owns WMG’s parent company Access Industries) to form a different $100 million social justice fund yet. An advisory panel is expected to determine which groups and causes the capital will be directed towards.

Black Out Tuesday’s organizers indicated recently that they are planning additional protest initiatives.

Summerfest Milwaukee Officially Cancelled After September Postponement

Photo Credit: Hanny Naibaho

Summerfest Milwaukee executives have canceled their much-anticipated event’s 2020 edition due to uncertainty stemming from the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.

The Milwaukee World Festival, Inc.’s board of directors made the unfortunate announcement this morning; the news was quickly shared with Digital Music News.

Previously, the directors moved to postpone Summerfest from its original dates in June until September. Now, however, the continued risk presented by COVID-19 – and particularly for crowd-based live events – prompted organizers to opt out of 2020’s iteration.

Former MLB executive and current Summerfest President and CEO Don Smiley indicated: “Given the information available today, and the uncertainty surrounding very large gatherings, we cannot in good conscience proceed with the festival this year. The immediate future presents multiple levels of risk for our fans, and we choose the side of safety.”

The 64-year-old Wisconsin native proceeded to state that the cancellation decision was especially hard to make given the preparation efforts of employees during the last couple months, besides the $186 million economic impact that Summerfest would have had on the local market. Additionally, Summerfest 2020 was set to take place in the newly constructed American Family Insurance Amphitheater.

This cancellation marks the first time that Summerfest has been nixed in its 53-year history. Refunds are currently available for those who purchased general admission tickets via Ticketmaster or Summerfest.com, and Summerfest 2021 dates are expected to be announced in the near future.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced organizers and artists to delay or cancel virtually all upcoming music festivals and concerts. Coachella and Bonnaroo, two of today’s foremost festivals, have been postponed until October and September, respectively – though it’s far from guaranteed that they will actually take place this year.

To be sure, Coachella 2020 headliners have reportedly been asked to move their performances to 2021’s edition.

That said, promoters are slowly (and carefully) welcoming fans back to concerts. Live Nation began testing socially distanced shows in Auckland, New Zealand, last Friday, and Travis McCready successfully staged America’s first socially distanced performance.

Apple’s Mega-Bundle (Apple Music, TV+, News+) Is Getting Closer to Reality

Photo Credit: Roberto Nickson

Code found in the latest beta version of iOS hints that an Apple subscription ‘mega bundle’ is coming.

The services bundle is suspected to include Apple Music, Apple TV+, and Apple News+ as one subscription. Last year Apple introduced several subscription services – leading many to complain of subscription fatigue. Bundling all Apple subscriptions into one service may help relieve that feeling among consumers.

For now, 9to5Mac says it has found references to ‘bundle offer’ and ‘bundle subscription’ in the code. These references did not exist in previous versions of the iOS beta.

A report from Bloomberg in November 2019 suggested an Apple subscription bundle is on the way.

One hiccup with that plan may exist in Apple’s contracts. The Financial Times reports that Apple’s contracts for Apple Music do not include a bundle agreement. Of course, contracts can be amended to include those provisions, however.

Apple is working on making each of these individual subscriptions more appealing to its users. This week, Digital Music News reported that Apple News+ might be getting more spoken word content. Code from the same iOS beta reveals references to long-form articles being available as podcast-like listens.

Adding features to Apple News+ will help make the feature more attractive to podcast listeners.

Apple is expanding its service in much the same way as Amazon’s Audible. Amazon is investing heavily in Audible originals, more podcast-like spoken-word content. The move makes sense for both companies, as Americans are now listening to more spoken word content than ever.

The short answer here is yes. Subscription fatigue is a real thing that affects not only Apple but other services. Between Netflix, Spotify, HBO Max, Disney+, and other newly launching streaming services – no one wants to pay for a ton of different subscription services.

Second $1,200 Stimulus Check ‘Highly Unlikely’ as Protests Intensify Nationwide

As dozens of American cities grapple with intensifying protests over racial injustice, Congress is indefinitely delaying discussions of a second $1,200 stimulus check.  The pause is erasing hopes of a quick second payment.

The initial, $1,200 stimulus checks have already been dispersed, with the latest batch getting confused for junk mail by many Americans. But that problem is now trivial compared to the intense demands that protests are now placing on city governments, local police departments, and members of Congress.

Just last month, one Atlanta musician told Digital Music News that his $1,200 stimulus check arrived fairly quickly, but quickly ‘got zapped’ by demands for rent, utilities, and food. And without the ability to actively record sessions, play gigs, or pitch music for productions, incoming revenue has nearly ground to a halt.

That story is now familiar to tens of millions of Americans who were abruptly put out of work by the coronavirus. But despite lots of earlier discussions about approving a second stimulus check — for amounts of $1,200 and even $2,000 — one Congressional staffer familiar with the legislation told Digital Music News that debate on that matter is now practically nonexistent because of intensifying protests and accompanying violence in cities across America.

Accordingly, the chances of a second $1,200 stimulus check getting mailed anytime soon appear “highly unlikely,” with the matter “on indefinite pause,” according to the source.  In fact, it may never receive a vote given the current backdrop of events.

That’s an unfortunate shift, though it doesn’t erase the possibility of further aid down the road. Just weeks earlier, Donald Trump noted that a second stimulus payment was likely ahead, while even outlining a rough timetable. “I think there will be a second payment to help Americans move on,” Trump stated once initial $1,200 check deliveries got moving. “We will give them money towards the end of the outbreak. Right now, we are focusing on reopening the country,” Trump continued.

But the President has largely shifted his focus away from coronavirus and economic recovery issues to focus on widespread civil unrest.

That includes dealing with growing protests directly outside the White House, as well as roiling looting, vandalism, violence, arson, and related issues both in Washington, D.C. and major cities nationwide. The protests on Pennsylvania Avenue reportedly forced Trump into a bunker while the White House went dark, though the President reemerged to declare himself a ‘law-and-order President’ while pledging to deploy the U.S. military to assist local police departments and already-deployed National Guard troops.

“If a city or state refuses to take the necessary action to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them,” Trump vowed.

The protests are also consuming members of the U.S. Senate, who were already cool on a beefy Democratic stimulus replenishment bill before the protests started.

The Nancy Pelosi-championed bill, dubbed the Heroes Act (H.R. 6800), was promptly declared ‘dead on arrival’ by a Republican-controlled Senate that urged a tapping of the brakes.  The Heroes bill proposed $1,200 for both individuals and children, and as much as $6,000 for individual households.

“So let me state the obvious,” said John Barrasso, a Republican Senator from Wyoming, last month. “What [Speaker of the House] Nancy Pelosi is proposing will never pass the Senate.”

Others, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, were also critical of the Heroes Act but indicated that future stimulus checks could be forthcoming. Now, however, with protests overwhelming both the White House and Democrats and Republicans alike, the stimulus matter has received scant attention.

That strongly suggests that a second $1,200 stimulus check is highly unlikely, especially since an alternative to the Heroes Act hasn’t even been conceptualized.

But there is some hope that Congress can refocus on economic recovery issues if protests begin to quell over the coming weeks and months. At this stage, however, it’s incredibly difficult to predict when — or even if — things will calm down.

NetEase Tees Up $2.7 Billion Hong Kong Stock Offering

An exterior shot of a NetEase office in Hangzhou, China. Photo Credit: Raysonho

Chinese tech company and Tencent competitor NetEase is moving forwards with plans to launch an initial public offering (IPO) on Hong Kong’s stock market.

NetEase officials announced the IPO’s details in a press release, which was shared with Digital Music News.

As part of its international offering, NetEase will make 166.33 million new shares available to investors; their per-share value won’t exceed HK $126, per the press release, or $16.26. If the shares trade for this maximum price out of the gate, they’ll raise somewhere in the ballpark of $2.7 billion – a figure that’s subject to change based upon exchange-rate fluctuations and the stock’s debut price.

Additionally, it bears mentioning that some 5.15 million shares will make their way onto Hong Kong’s stock market initially, of the total 166.33 million shares that comprise the global offering. Based upon several factors, the Hong Kong offering could subsequently be upped to 20.58 million shares.

Finally, the international offering’s price will impact the total amount raised by the global IPO. According to the press release once again: “The offer price for the International Offering tranche of the Offering (the “International Offer Price”) may be set at a level higher than the Hong Kong Offer Price.”

NetEase is expected to announce a final price for the Hong Kong IPO this Friday, June 5th, and the shares are reportedly set to become available for buying and selling on Thursday, June 11th.

At the time of this writing, NetEase’s US shares were up more than four percent on the day, to just over $414.30 apiece. The company is one of the few to have gained value since the domestic onset (and corresponding market shakeup) of the novel coronavirus; each of its shares was worth about $310 at March’s start.

NetEase, which has developed a Chinese edition of Minecraft, is currently working on Diablo Immortal. The company’s music-streaming service, NetEase Music, has secured ample additional funding and subscribers in recent years.

Spotify Moves to Seal Court Documents In Eminem, Kobalt Royalty Battle

Yesterday, Digital Music News was first to report that Spotify had filed a third-party complaint against Kobalt Music Publishing as part of its ongoing legal battle with Eminem publisher Eight Mile Style. Now, the leading music streaming service has moved to seal potentially sensitive documents introduced as the matter proceeds through court.

The Stockholm-based company just recently submitted the privacy-minded request to a Tennessee federal court, and we quickly obtained a copy of the corresponding form.

The page-long filing states that Spotify “respectfully moves for leave to file under seal select portions of its Third-Party Complaint,” besides indicating that the plaintiffs [Eight Mile Style and Martin Affiliated, LLC] support and have agreed to the request. Similarly, it was noted that elements of the third-party complaint had been redacted to conceal details that “concern confidential agreements.”

Eight Mile Style initiated the lawsuit last August, alleging, among other things, that Spotify had infringed upon a whopping 243 Eminem tracks, including hits like “Lose Yourself” and “Till I Collapse.”

The plaintiffs are seeking $150,000 in damages for each of these of these alleged unlicensed uses, totaling $36.45 million. Additionally, Eight Mile Style maintains that it’s owed some of the billions in value that Spotify gained while featuring Eminem’s tracks.

Yesterday, however, in the aforementioned third-party complaint, Spotify reiterated that it believes that Eight Mile Style’s claims are without merit, but suggested that Kobalt Music Publishing may nevertheless be the liable party.

On the day, Spotify stock, traded under the symbol SPOT, is up about two percent, to almost $186 per share. Since announcing that it will become the exclusive home of the Joe Rogan Experience (JRE) two weeks back, Spotify’s value has hovered at a level not seen since 2018, in the months following its debut on the stock market.

Eminem’s Shady Records revealed on social media that it will be closed today in recognition of Black Out Tuesday, a protest movement designed to spread awareness of violence against African Americans.

While the initiative was conceived and planned by members of the music industry, a number of entertainment professionals (including actors Anna Kendrick and Bryan Cranston) and individuals are also participating.

AFM & SAG-AFTRA Owes Session Musicians and Background Vocalists $46 Million — Here’s How Eligible Performers Can Get Paid

As part of a proposed settlement with the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) & SAG-AFTRA, certain session musicians and background vocalists will receive a total of nearly $46 million in owed, previously unpaid royalties.

Each year, AFM & SAG-AFTRA collects and distributes millions of dollars in royalties to session musicians and background vocalists via the Intellectual Property Rights Distribution Fund (IPRDF). For reference, approximately $62 million passed through the Fund and into the pockets of hardworking singers and musicians in 2019 alone.

However, the organization sometimes lacks the personal information, including names and addresses, required to identify and contact non-featured performers who are owed compensation. Over the years, the number of unidentified IPRDF session musicians and background vocalists has swelled to over 61,250, and these individuals are entitled to a portion of the roughly $46 million that’s accumulated from their in-studio work.

Accordingly, a settlement was recently reached as part of a class action litigated by Quilling, Selander, Lownds, Winslett & Moser, P.C., and Jeeves Mandel Law Group, P.C. As part of the settlement, the parties sought the assistance of Digital Music News to broaden awareness of the settlement and the mechanics of claiming royalties. This guide is designed to fill musicians and vocalists in on the settlement’s pertinent points and help them secure the money they’re due.

A Straightforward Means of Determining Eligibility

The settlement’s main payment-eligibility requirement is participation on a song (or songs) that generated royalties via digital mediums, including satellite radio and non-interactive webcasting, per AFM & SAG-AFTRA standards.

Non-featured performers who would have received payments from the IPRDF had AFM & SAG-AFTRA possessed their contact information — specifically for in-studio work completed between 2011 and December 2016 — are therefore eligible for compensation from the settlement.

That said, those entitled to royalties must take a couple of steps to assure that they get paid.

Obtaining Payments from the Settlement is Quick and Easy

The process associated with securing payments from the settlement is simple enough: Eligible individuals need only fill out a Performer Information Form, which will be used to pinpoint the songs they’ve contributed to and direct the royalties they’re owed.

All eligible non-featured performers who provide the AFM & SAG-AFTRA Fund with a Performer Information Form by March 1st, 2021, will receive their payments by April 2021’s end.

Those who don’t submit a Performer Information Form by March 1st, 2021, but do so before March 1st, 2022, will receive their royalties in April 2022.

Significantly, if part of the Fund doesn’t reach eligible performers because they fail to come forward with their applications, the remaining balance will be divided (by year) among those who did benefit from class-action compensation.

How Much Will Each Eligible Individual Receive?

Right now, it’s impossible to calculate the exact amount that each eligible individual will receive from the settlement.

The precise figure will vary from person to person, depending upon how many songs he or she contributed to and how many other session musicians and background vocalists were featured on these tracks.

Additionally, the costs associated with contacting eligible performers will be subtracted from the total, and a maximum of 24 percent of the settlement funds will cover attorneys’ fees and a maximum of $86,309.32 in expenses.

The economy and the music community are experiencing hard times amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.

But between the efforts of industry professionals, donations from fans and artists, and good news like this — no-strings-attached payments to non-featured musicians and background vocalists who are hurting financially — the road towards recovery is hopefully becoming easier to navigate.

For more information about the proposed settlement, including access to the Performer Information Form, interested non-featured musicians and background vocalists can visit http://www.sessionartistroyaltysettlement.com/

Spotify Litigates Against Kobalt Music Publishing Over Eminem Claims

Leading music streaming platform Spotify is litigating against Kobalt Music Publishing in its long-running lawsuit with Eminem publisher Eight Mile Style.

The Stockholm-based company named Kobalt Music Publishing in a third-party complaint – suggesting that it may be responsible for the damages alleged by Eight Mile Style – and a copy of the corresponding legal filing was shared with Digital Music News.

To recap, Eight Mile Style initiated the courtroom battle last August, alleging, among other things, that Spotify infringed upon a staggering 243 Eminem songs and failed to pay royalties for billions of user plays.

In this most recent filing, Spotify fired back by indicating that Eight Mile Style “received substantial royalty payments from Spotify based on that streaming” for the better part of a decade, during which time the publisher didn’t question the legal authority of the streaming service to offer Eminem’s songs.

Now, Kobalt Music Publishing has been brought into the fold. In the above-mentioned document, Spotify’s legal team stated: “Spotify was, in fact, licensed by Eight Mile’s agent, Kobalt, to reproduce and distribute the Compositions [the 243 Eminem songs in question].”

While the defendants maintained that “the underlying infringement claim by Eight Mile lacks merit,” they further noted that Kobalt should be held responsible in the event that the jurors decide the case in Eight Mile Style’s favor.

The complaint proceeded to reiterate that Kobalt Music Publishing had closed licensing agreements for Eminem songs “for years,” and that Spotify believed Kobalt possessed the permission and legal authority to do so. Evidently, Spotify also paid the licensing-agreement costs under the assumption that the appropriate share would be forwarded to Eight Mile Style.

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At the time of this writing, Kobalt Music Publishing hadn’t publicly addressed the third-party complaint filed against it in the Eight Mile Style-Spotify lawsuit.

Last month, we reported that Spotify had paid more than $100 million for the exclusive rights to the Joe Rogan Experience (JRE), besides cracking down on third-party hacking tools.

Want Spotify Premium for Free? Spotify Is Now Cracking Down on Premium-Hacking Tools

Several third-party tools allow Spotify listeners to illicitly access the Premium version for free. Now, the Stockholm-based streaming service is cracking down on those responsible for creating and maintaining the workaround programs.

The hacking tools in question appear to range from simple plugins (enabling Spotify Free users to skip songs, craft playlists, and perform other actions that are typically limited to Premium) to bootleg editions of Spotify Premium (which seem to be most commonly utilized on Android devices).

Via DMCA notices sent to Google, Spotify has been targeting the companies and individuals responsible for offering and promoting the unauthorized assets. Thus far, Google has complied with a substantial portion of the takedown requests, more of which are likely incoming.

It bears mentioning that, in some of the DMCA notices, Spotify emphasized the considerable fraud risk presented to those who use the tools. Of course, it’s unclear how many listeners’ have had their personal information compromised by the entities, as well as how many individuals have utilized the tools altogether.

Last month, Digital Music News was first to report that six million subscribers joined Spotify’s ranks during this year’s first quarter. Presently, the leading music streaming service boasts more than 286 million users, including both Premium subscribers and free-edition listeners.

Interestingly, media-piracy tracking and analysis company Muso previously indicated that piracy rates have increased dramatically amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis and its associated lockdown measures. Americans visited piracy websites and apps more than one billion times in March – the most such visits of any country in the world.

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Considering that Spotify’s crackdown initiated in March, once again, it’s certainly possible that the noted hike in stateside and international piracy contributed to the decisive action.

At the time of this writing, Spotify hadn’t commented publicly on its recent moves to foil the efforts of workaround-tool creators and hacked-application coders.

U.S. Government Moves to Dismiss Burning Man Lawsuit

Photo Credit: Aaron Logan

In February, we reported that Burning Man (via its Black Rock City, LLC parent company) had officially filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of the Interior over the escalating cost of land-use permits. Now, with Burning Man having canceled this year’s edition, the federal government has moved to dismiss the legal complaint.

Digital Music News obtained an exclusive copy of the dismissal request, which was submitted to a Washington, D.C., federal court today.

In the filing, the defendants’ legal team doesn’t hesitate to refute the allegations made by Burning Man – namely that the government has levied unfair permit and land-use fees against it, to the tune of $18 million, since 2015.

Burning Man “is not entitled to the relief it seeks,” per the document, because the “APA’s ‘failure to act’ provision is well defined and provides no basis for the claims presented.” Enacted in June of 1946, the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) defines and regulates the way the federal government’s administrative agencies operate and interact with individuals and businesses.

At the time of this writing, Burning Man’s higher-ups hadn’t publicly responded to the dismissal request submitted by the federal government.

Burning Man’s 2020 edition was previously scheduled for September, but organizers were forced to cancel the function in April, owing to the health risks presented by the novel coronavirus. A digital version of Burning Man, which will take place “in the virtual Multiverse,” is being planned, and interested individuals can sign up here.

Owing to the substantial costs associated with preparing Burning Man – Black Rock City’s construction requires year-round work from a full-time team – as well as the just $10 million in reserve funding possessed by the Burning Man Project, the 33-year-old event’s future is uncertain to say the least.

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In an attempt to stay afloat, organizers have gone as far as requesting that ticketholders donate the cost of their passes (though refunds were offered to all would-be attendees immediately following the cancellation).

Kendall Jenner Slapped With $90,000 Fine Over Fraudulent Fyre Festival Posts

 

Kendall Jenner posing for W Korea in 2017. Photo Credit: Jonathan Emma

Kendall Jenner has been ordered to pay a $90,000 fine for the social media posts she published to promote the ill-fated Fyre Festival.

The whopping settlement was issued by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, which, owing to its exclusive jurisdiction over Manhattan businesses and financial firms, handles many high-profile bankruptcy cases. Digital Music News obtained an exclusive copy of the corresponding legal filing.

Per the latter, Fyre Festival organizers paid Jenner a staggering $275,000 for promoting their event to her many millions of Instagram followers (129.8 million presently). Of course, the luxury Bahamas music festival was ultimately exposed as a scam; attendees arrived to find none of the promised live performances, inadequate accommodations, lacking security, and cuisine that was far from what was promised by promoters.

At the time of this writing, Kendall Jenner hadn’t publicly commented on the $90,000 fine.

However, the 24-year-old did address her part in promoting Fyre Festival last year, during an interview with The New York Times.

About five weeks back, we reported that Fyre Festival mastermind Billy McFarland, who is serving a six-year prison sentence, had requested an early release due to the health risks presented to inmates by the novel coronavirus.

McFarland is still incarcerated at Ohio’s FCI Elkton, where nine prisoners have perished as a result of complications stemming from COVID-19. 837 of Elkton’s almost 2,000 inmates are expected to be released in the near future, though it’s unclear whether this will include the 28-year-old Fyre Festival founder.

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Andy King—one of the few employees whose reputation emerged unscathed following Fyre Festival’s unprecedented controversy—was previously set to embark on a UK speaking tour, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced him to put the “Fyre-Side Chat” on ice.

Troubled rapper R. Kelly has too requested an early release from prison because of the coronavirus—multiple times, to be sure—but judges have denied each of his applications to date.

Tekashi 6ix9ine, for his part, requested and received permission to serve the remainder of his sentence from home. Earlier this month, the 24-year-old dropped his first post-prison single, “Gooba.”

Working Through the Pandemic: Three Prominent Music Supervisors Discuss the Music Industry’s Way Forward

Between the postponement of most every crowd-based concert and the temporary closure of virtually all recording studios, as well as seemingly everything else, the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis’ impact on the music industry has been unprecedented, to say the least. So how are three of the top music supervisors in the industry making things work?

The following was created with the support of Songtradr, part of a broader partnership focused on the sync licensing space.  

Now, as many states and countries take preliminary steps to reopen their economies and resume semi-normal operations, artists are wondering more than ever what their near-term career prospects and earning potential will look like – not to mention how long it will take music to offer the same number of opportunities as it did pre-pandemic.

To provide artists and professionals with the answers and insight they need during this trying time, leading music licensing platform Songtradr recently hosted a “Happy Hour” roundtable event. Digital Music News was on-hand for the hour-long livestream, which invited three prominent music supervisors to enjoy their favorite beverages while discussing what music looks like from their perspective — particularly in terms of sync — and what they believe is on the horizon.

Emmy Award-winning music supervisor Evyen Klean, whose full-service music supervision firm, Neophonic Music & Media, is the “de facto music company for HBO,” sipped an (unspecified) white wine throughout the discussion.

Hated Industries founder Todd Porter, who’s placed numerous artists in adverts and launched no shortage of careers, enjoyed what appeared to be an independent-label beer.

25-year music industry veteran and current Songs for Film & T.V. chief creative director David Fisher, whose team has struck deals with the likes of Google, PlayStation, and Apple, opted for a hot beverage – though, the quick-moving conversation didn’t allow him to specify which.

And Songtradr founder Paul Wiltshire stayed refreshed with a gin & tonic balanced with La Croix sparkling water as he moderated.

Film and Television Production Has Ground to a Halt – But Sync Opportunities Won’t Disappear

Klean, with his direct, almost unprecedented connection to HBO and the television industry, confirmed what most fans and professionals already knew: “Once things got locked down, pretty much anything that was in pre-production, or anything in production, got shut down.”

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And that means artists have fewer film and television sync opportunities available to them presently – a point that bears mentioning because sync can provide big-name and independent acts alike with major paydays and invaluable exposure.

But the silver lining, according to Klean, is that once film and TV production does resume, sync should pick up close to where it left off:

“I would have to say that the trend, even pre-pandemic, for so much content, so many streaming services, so many different platforms, has created quite a big demand for film composers, for writing songs,” and for all of music’s other talented professionals.

Although the going is tough currently, film and television’s sync potential will ultimately reignite; leading video streaming platforms have gained subscribers during the pandemic.

Until then, the continued strength of advertising-based sync should pick up a sizable portion of the slack.

Advertising’s Tone Has Shifted, But Its Volume (and Total Sync Deals) Has Held Strong

Despite the dramatic downturn in TV and film production, advertisements are just as popular as ever – even if their general tone has shifted.

“It [advertising production] hasn’t slowed down, but the context has changed,” Porter indicated.

Predictably, footage of large, intimate groups elicits a unique blend of feelings, ranging from nostalgia to unease, and does little to inspire confidence in the company at hand. These commercials have chiefly been put on ice, per Fisher and Porter, and more understanding, supportive adverts have supplanted them.

Fisher stated that Songs for Film & T.V. has been “extraordinarily busy,” because “brands have a need to share some compassion” through commercials.

Undoubtedly, advertisements’ generally short length and comparatively simple production process are well-suited for remote collaboration and creation. Thanks to the possibilities set forth by tech and ongoing demand from advertisers, artists still have a very real opportunity to nab sync contracts – and paychecks – amid the novel coronavirus crisis.

That said, Porter doesn’t believe that artists should intentionally alter their songs’ style in an attempt to “fit” the present day’s mood and enhance their sync prospects.

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“This [the COVID-19 crisis] isn’t gonna last forever,” Porter noted in describing why artists should focus on expanding (not limiting) their new tracks’ reach – a point that Digital Music News explored in detail, albeit for different reasons, pre-pandemic.

Despite Today’s Challenges, Music – And Artists – Will Bounce Back

For the music industry, today’s challenges are more substantial than those that accompanied the 2008 financial crisis. Times are difficult all around and, to be sure, many artists are asking not when they’ll be able to continue doing what they love most, but if they’ll be able to continue doing so.

However, all three of the Happy Hour music supervisors remain confident that better things are on the horizon.

Technology is making it possible to create, perform, and earn from home. Streaming revenue and promotion (admittedly, the former leaves much to be desired) is beneficial, and on a grander scale, income-wise, so are sync deals. Via live streaming and social media, artists are staying in touch with their supporters.

Fisher, who signed three major record deals during his career as an artist, summed up these often-overlooked perks with a question: “What if it was 1982 right now?”

Fisher, Klean, and Porter might not have known it, but in connecting via webcam for the roundtable discussion, they also highlighted the music industry’s greatest strengths: creativity and innovation.

Unable to meet in person, the music supervisors simply met from their offices.

That’s because music’s artists and professionals are among the world’s most outside-the-box thinkers. They’ve overcome small and large problems alike in their quest to deliver entertainment, and not even a global pandemic can extinguish their limitless desire to collaborate, work, and bring joy to fans.

“Creators need to create. You can’t stop creating,” said Fisher. “It’s impossible.”

Artists are still creating. And every day they do so, they move one step closer to winning the battle against COVID-19.

Here’s the full session.

Podcasts Are Absolutely Exploding — But Just 17% of Episodes Contain Music

Photo Credit: Juja Han

Although podcasts are becoming exponentially more popular with each passing year, a recent study found that just 17 percent of podcast episodes contain at least 10 seconds of music.

Podcasting is clearly a high-growth segment, though there hasn’t been much research into details like music licensing or inclusion. Now, a few telling podcast stats have been released on the relative lack of accompanying music. Of the 32,402,790 original podcast episodes indexed in a recent study, only 5,447,823 (about 16.81 percent) contained 10 or more seconds of “any kind” of music.

The surprisingly small amount of music currently featured in podcasts, coupled with podcasts’ ongoing growth, is indicative of significant room for further development. It stands to reason that artists will enjoy a greater number of podcast-related sync deals in the coming months and years.

Building upon the latter point – more podcasts and more sync opportunities for artists – research firm Pex determined that the total quantity of podcast programs is “essentially doubling every single year.” Additionally, podcast episodes have become shorter during the last half decade, down from an average length of 45 minutes and 44 seconds in 2015 to 35 minutes and 27 seconds presently.

In its fourth and final tweet relating to the analysis, the company emphasized that podcasters released a staggering “6,967,370 hours” worth of shows last year – an almost 700 percent hike from 2015’s million or so hours.

Recent podcast licensing deals and acquisitions also point to a surging segment.

Back in February, Digital Music News was first to report that Spotify had acquired The Ringer Podcast Network for a reported quarter of a billion dollars. LiveXLive jumped into the world of podcasting just last week, with a $18 million investment, and two days ago, Spotify inked a $100 million deal with Joe Rogan to become the exclusive home of the Joe Rogan Experience (JRE).

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Having opened at a little over $150 per share last Friday, Spotify’s stock, bought and sold under the symbol SPOT, was trading for $196 per share at the time of this piece’s writing.

Podcasts Are Absolutely Exploding — But Just 17% of Episodes Contain Music

Photo Credit: Juja Han

Pex, an LA-based video and music analytics firm, has found that podcasts are becoming exponentially more popular with each passing year. However, the research entity also indicated that just 16.8 or so percent of podcast episodes contain at least 10 seconds of music.

Pex revealed this and other telling podcast stats on Twitter. Of the 32,402,790 original podcast episodes that the firm indexed, only 5,447,823 (about 16.81 percent) contained 10 or more seconds of “any kind” of music.

The surprisingly small amount of music currently featured in podcasts, coupled with podcasts’ ongoing growth, is indicative of significant room for further development. It stands to reason that artists will enjoy a greater number of podcast-related sync deals in the coming months and years.

Building upon the latter point – more podcasts and more sync opportunities for artists – Pex determined that total quantity of podcast programs is “essentially doubling every single year.” Additionally, podcast episodes have become shorter during the last half decade, down from an average length of 45 minutes and 44 seconds in 2015 to 35 minutes and 27 seconds presently.

In its fourth and final tweet relating to the analysis, Pex emphasized that podcasters released a staggering “6,967,370 hours” worth of shows last year – an almost 700 percent hike from 2015’s 1,000,000 or so hours.

Recent podcast licensing deals and acquisitions lend additional credibility to Pex’s findings.

Back in February, Digital Music News was first to report that Spotify had acquired The Ringer Podcast Network for a reported quarter of a billion dollars. LiveXLive jumped into the world of podcasting just last week, with a $18 million investment, and two days ago, Spotify inked a $100 million deal with Joe Rogan to become the exclusive home of the Joe Rogan Experience (JRE).

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Having opened at a little over $150 per share last Friday, Spotify’s stock, bought and sold under the symbol SPOT, was trading for $196 per share at the time of this piece’s writing.

BTS Producer, Big Hit Chairman Bang Si-Hyuk Announces a New Korean Reality Show

BTS producer and Big Hit Entertainment co-founder Bang Si-Hyuk has announced his involvement in a new South Korean reality show.

Entitled I-Land, the program will be shot as part of an agreement between Big Hit and CJ ENM, a Seoul-based entertainment and retail company. Bang Si-Hyuk, for his part, will serve as producer on I-Land, which will follow up-and-coming K-pop acts as they attempt to take their careers to the next level.

Mnet, the South Korean television channel that will broadcast I-Land, has posted a short (21-second-long) trailer for the show on YouTube. Fans will have the opportunity to catch the debut episode in a little over a month, on Tuesday, June 26th.

Mnet does in fact have an English-language website (which offers clips from Mnet’s many shows), but it’s unclear whether international fans will be able to enjoy I-Land episodes – or how long they will have to wait to do so following the original broadcast.

Earlier this year, six-piece girl group GFriend released a new EP, which Bang Si-Hyuk helped to write and create. Moreover, the 47-year-old has also written for and aided BTS creatively during its immensely successful career. 2019 saw Big Hit secure some $500 million in revenue, the vast majority of which derived from BTS.

At April’s end, Digital Music News was first to report that BTS had indefinitely postponed its “Map of the Soul” tour due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. However, the much-anticipated concert series was first put on hold back in February, as the novel coronavirus began rapidly spreading from China.

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Today, South Korea’s high-school seniors returned to class after a roughly three-month lockdown; face masks were widely worn, social-distancing measures were enforced, and plastic barriers were installed on most students’ desks.

South Korean medical professionals have diagnosed approximately 11,000 COVID-19 cases to date, and 263 citizens have perished as a result of the disease’s complications.

Spotify Accuses Indie Label of Fraudulent Plays In Aggressive Court Action

Back in November of 2019, Digital Music News was first to report that independent music label Sosa Entertainment was suing Spotify for allegedly underpaying royalties on approximately 550 million of its artists’ plays. Now, Spotify has fired back with an aggressive countersuit, claiming that the streams in question were fraudulent.

Spotify recently submitted the stunning counterclaim – and a clear-cut denial of Sosa Entertainment’s allegations – to a Florida federal court, and DMN quickly obtained a copy of the corresponding filing.

According to the legal document, Spotify introduced the countersuit “to expose and remedy a multi-year campaign of fraud and harassment” on the part of Jake Noch, Sosa Entertainment and Pro Music Rights founder. Starting in 2016, per the text, Noch formulated a plan to “artificially generate hundreds of millions of fraudulent streams on songs he had seeded” via Sosa Entertainment.

Spotify also produced a sizable stable of evidence that it claims proves Sosa Entertainment’s streaming manipulation. Specifically, the Stockholm-based company cited “highly irregular sudden spikes of streams to Noch’s content,” as well as “99% of streams” deriving from Spotify’s premium version, as opposed to the ad-supported free edition.

Furthermore, Spotify claimed to have identified “written communications” between Noch and a “bot farmer,” wherein Noch “directed the creation of millions of fake Spotify accounts” to stream songs that he would receive royalties for.

Finally, the countersuit alleged that Noch named his songs to resemble “popular song titles” – the example of XXXTentacion’s “SAD!” is given in the filing – so as to confuse fans into playing the works.

At the time of this writing, Noch/Sosa Entertainment hadn’t publicly responded to Spotify’s countersuit. Earlier today, we reported that Spotify had nabbed a multiyear deal to become the exclusive carrier of the Joe Rogan Experience, which is among the most well-known and popular podcasts available to stream and download presently.

Also Read:  Yeasayer’s Black Panther Copyright Infringement Lawsuit Against The Weeknd Will Begin in AprilUpdate: Jake P. Noch has now responded to Spotify’s counterclaim.  Here’s his statement, emailed to Digital Music News this evening:

“Spotify’s claims are laughable and blatantly false. Furthermore, if, as they allege, someone who has ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia and was 16 at the time could jeopardize their business operations, then I hope that every one of their shareholders has a very diversified portfolio. A company such as Spotify that is built on the theft of intellectual property puts every single one of its shareholders at risk, and I foresee Spotify becoming the next Enron. I also greatly look forward to the day we get to go to court, and I hope that all of Spotify’s shareholders will pay close attention to these cases. These cases will show them that Spotify is just a house of cards and that a small breeze will cause the house to collapse. This is clearly evidenced by Spotify pouring so many resources into a smear campaign against someone who is only 21. Time will prove that we are right. Until then, I remain confident and joyful, knowing that Spotify will be the next Enron.”

AI-Focused MatchTune Inks 15,000-Track Deal With BMG Production Music

(photo: Franck V.)

AI-focused music-to-video platform MatchTune has closed a 15,000-track deal with advertising and media music provider BMG Production Music.

BMG Production Music and MatchTune shared news of the deal with Digital Music News this morning. MatchTune has developed an AI program capable of searching through a vast library of songs to find the ideal tracks for visual media projects (based upon the tone and mood desired by the client). Furthermore, MatchTune’s website indicates that the program can seamlessly lengthen or shorten songs based upon the duration of the video at hand.

Under the contract’s terms, BMG Production Music will provide approximately 15,000 of its production music works to MatchTune, so that they can conceivably be linked and tailored to visual media projects using AI.

Addressing the BMG Production Music agreement, MatchTune Co-Founder and CEO Philippe Guillaud said: “MatchTune is delighted to be able to work with BMGPM and demonstrate how we can help existing music catalogues and artists find a broader audience by removing the lengthy integration work required in matching music and video content, as well as finding the right tracks.”

BMG Production Music EVP & Global Managing Director John Clifford, for his part, stated: “As BMGPM continues to strengthen its offering, it is imperative to recognize innovations in technology and diversification of revenue streams. Partnering with MatchTune, we are continuing to champion our hidden hitmakers while meaningfully connecting the BMGPM catalog with a wider audience.”

Citizens and experts alike have voiced uncertainty over artificial intelligence’s influence in the workplace, and specifically, its potential for eliminating jobs and displacing employees.

A Pew Research survey asked approximately 1,900 experts of their opinion of the matter, and 48 percent of respondents indicated that AI would nix more careers than it created, while the other 52 percent of survey participants voiced the opposite belief.

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Back in January, iHeartMedia cited tech and AI capabilities when explaining why it laid off a substantial number of employees.

140 British Music Venues Saved from Bankruptcy Following a Rush of Donations

German electronic music group Moderat performing at a small venue. (photo: Yannis Papanastasopoulos)

Through its #saveourvenues initiative, The Music Venue Trust (MVT) has raised over $1.8 million for British music venues, 140 of which have been removed from the organization’s “critical” list of establishments that may soon be forced to close their doors.

Music Venue Trust officials emailed Digital Music News with the encouraging financial aid benchmark. MVT launched the #saveourvenues campaign three weeks back, and thus far, more than 3,000 fans, artists, and music industry professionals have rallied behind the cause. The fund specifically benefits 556 British music venues that MVT has determined run the risk of imminently going out of business.

Though the groundswell of support has been encouraging, MVT officials emphasized that the 140 venues aren’t out of the woods. “This activity does not mean that any these 140 venues are protected permanently,” the group stated, “and MVT are calling for more music industry donations and governmental intervention to help secure their long-term future.”

Further, 400 or so venues remain on the MVT’s “critical” list, though it’s unclear how long they can stay afloat given today’s trying circumstances. It’s also unclear how many have already been forced out of business.

Signaling urgency when addressing his organization’s fundraising success and impact on British music venues, Music Venue Trust Founder and CEO Mark Davyd said: “Whilst the immediate threat of closure for these venues has been halted they are still under real threat in the coming months as are over 400 others.”

The United Kingdom’s music community, like that of the United States and other nations around the globe, is struggling amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. Last week, Digital Music News was first to report that 20 percent of British musicians fear the pandemic will mark the end of their careers.

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To date, UK medical professionals have diagnosed approximately 246,000 COVID-19 cases, and about 35,000 residents have perished as a result of the disease’s complications.

Downtown Music Holdings Quietly Snaps Up a Pair of Publishers

In a move that dramatically expands its reach, Downtown Music Holdings has acquired two high-profile music publishers: London’s Good Soldier Songs and South Africa’s Sheer Music Publishing.

Downtown Music finalized the Good Soldier Songs buyout late last week, and a copy of the announcement message was shared with Digital Music News. News of the Sheer Music Publishing acquisition broke today.

Founded by former Warner Music UK CEO Christian Tattersfield, Good Soldier Songs has secured publishing contracts with artists including The 1975 and The Wombats. The ongoing agreement between Good Soldier Songs and The 1975 covers the latter’s upcoming fourth studio album, which is slated to release this Friday, May 22nd. The contract was included in Downtown’s acquisition.

In total, the Good Soldier Songs deal encompasses some 350 tracks.

Founded back in 1996, Johannesburg, South Africa-based Sheer Music Publishing bills itself as “the first pan-African world class music publishing company.” Per the acquisition’s terms, Sheer Music Publishing will continue to operate independently while utilizing the Downtown Music’s technology and contacts to pursue global opportunities on behalf of its songwriters.

Not a few music industry companies are establishing footholds in developing – and increasingly lucrative – markets.

About one month ago, Digital Music News was first to report that Warner Music Group (WMG) had invested in leading African digital music company Africori. Like the Downtown-Sheer buyout, the Warner-Africori deal emphasized equipping the latter with an enhanced global reach and a bolstered ability to nab international contracts.

Additionally, Warner has debuted Warner Music India (headed by Sony Music India veteran Jay Mehta) and Warner Music Vietnam (led by former Zing Media exec Lisa Nguyen) this year, as part of an ambitious plan to pursue long-term international growth.

Downtown Music Publishing’s client roster includes Alphaville and One Direction, besides late-and-great artists such as John Prine and John Lennon.

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LiveXLive May Return $2 Million PPP COVID-19 Loan to Avoid Federal Investigation

After initially refusing to return its $2 million Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan, LiveXLive appears to be reconsidering its next moves.

Just yesterday, SEC filings revealed that LiveXLive — a publicly-traded live-streaming company with a market valuation of roughly $200 million — had received a $2 million Paycheck Protection Program loan from the U.S. Government.  The discovery followed a string of high-profile companies returning their PPP grants — including ‘small businesses’ like the Los Angeles Lakers and Shake Shake — though LiveXLive appeared adamant about keeping their COVID-19 stimulus loan.

The company flatly told Billboard that it had no plans to return the loan, despite a high chance of receiving a federal audit from the U.S. Treasury, SBA, or other federal agencies.  But strangely, LiveXLive has refused to offer the same statement to Digital Music News — even after being asked twice — a situation that strongly suggests that the company is reconsidering its stance.

In a series of angry emails, LiveXLive representative Jocelyn Johnson lambasted Digital Music News for reporting that the company had refused to return the loan.  But strangely, Johnson refused to affirm whether the company was keeping the funds or returning them to the federal government.

“I did not say to you on email that we were not giving back the funding,” Johnson told DMN in an email that slid into all-caps multiple times. “This is a blatant lie in your story. [It] must be fixed.”

But the ‘blatant lie’ was merely a reference to Billboard’s story, which flatly reported that LiveXLive wasn’t returning the loan, citing an unnamed spokesperson (which was likely Johnson).  When asked for the second time whether LiveXLive was returning the funds, Johnson declined to respond.

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Johnson also ripped into Billboard’s report on the PPP loan while accusing the publication of sloppy facts and bias.  Johnson demanded that we “read [Billboard reporter Dave] Brooks’ updated version and start reporting your own facts instead of relying on a factually incorrect slanted piece that Billboard ran,” while continuing: “I told you that there were dozens of errors in his story.”

We subsequently followed up with Billboard, who broke the story on LiveXLive’s PPP loan.

At present, the ‘updated version‘ only contains two updates, including a clarification that LiveXLive’s PPP loan was $1.9935 million, instead of the ‘approximately $2.0 million’ cited in the SEC filing.  That threshold could prove critical: earlier Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin promised to audit all PPP loans of $2 million or above, ostensibly giving sub-$2 million loans a free pass.

But that’s no guarantee, especially with federal guidelines constantly changing as issues of abuse and fraud continue. Part of the problem is that LiveXLive completed an $18 million acquisition of podcast company PodcastOne just weeks after receiving the PPP tranche.  As part of the PPP application process, companies must pledge that they need the forgivable loan because of hardships caused by COVID-19, and do not have access to other forms of capital.

The PodcastOne acquisition was an all-stock deal, though the cash component was likely north of $1 million, if not more than $1.5 million.  Johnson countered that the deal isn’t slated to close until June, while claiming that ‘we did not utilize cash liquidity’ to seal the deal.

Also Read:  As Stock Slides, Live Nation CEO Buys $1 Million Worth of Shares

More as this develops.

Live Nation Issues More Debt to Survive the Summer — $1.2 Billion In Senior Secured Notes

Earlier this week, Digital Music News was first to report that Live Nation intended to issue $800 million in senior secured notes for “general corporate purposes.” Now, the leading concert promoter has upped the debt offering to $1.2 billion as part of an effort to continue operations through the summer.

As with the previously planned $800 million in debt, this $1.2 billion package will be made available through a private placement and will mature in 2027. Certified investors who back the senior secured notes will enjoy a 6.5 percent yearly interest rate, and the investment window is expected to close next Wednesday, May 20th.

If obtained, the additional $1.2 billion debt tranche will hike Live Nation’s total creditor obligations to approximately $4.85 billion.

At the time of this writing, Live Nation’s stock, bought and sold under the symbol LYV, was trading for just over $39 per share, having started the week at slightly more than $41 per share. Shares dipped into the $36 range following the senior secured notes announcement and a credit downgrade from Standard and Poor’s Global.

Predictably, with essentially all traditional concerts and crowd-based functions postponed because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, Live Nation disclosed a significant revenue drop in its Q1 2020 earnings report. However, the fiscal analysis wasn’t entirely negative, as Live Nation indicated that an impressive 90 percent of ticketholders are opting to keep their passes even when refunds are available.

Meanwhile, artists and venue professionals are experimenting with innovative methods for safely delivering live music to fans. For example, America’s first drive-in concert is set to initiate next month, after successful pilots in Europe. Undoubtedly, other such performances will follow – particularly if this pioneering effort proves successful, attendance-wise.

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Similarly, artist Travis McCready was set to play the United States’ first socially distant concert in Arkansas today, until Governor Asa Hutchinson shut down the attempt.

Separately, the Event Safety Alliance (ESA) laid the groundwork for concerts’ return by penning a comprehensive guide to simultaneously reopening venues and protecting fans.

British Songwriter, Composer Royalties Approached $1 Billion In 2019

The UK’s leading collection society, PRS for Music, secured nearly $1 billion (£810.8 million) on behalf of its more than 145,500 songwriters, composers, and publishers in 2019.

PRS for Music revealed the impressive figure – along with other interesting stats pertaining to its 2019 operations – in a release shared with Digital Music News this morning.

Last year’s total royalties represent an 8.7 percent (over $79.3 million) uptick from 2018’s figure. Additionally, the society managed to reduce the costs associated with collecting royalties by 6.7 percent from the prior year, to about $107 million, which contributed to a 13.7 percent increase in the sum paid out to members. Some $837.5 million (£686 million) reached PRS for Music members’ pockets in 2019.

A substantial portion of PRS’s 2019 revenue – nearly $340 million (£278.7 million) – derived from international royalties obtained via reciprocal agreements with other collection societies. But while the latter amount dropped by 1.1 percent, compared to the 2018 total, digital-platform royalties – including those from streaming services, video games, and downloads – grew 24.2 percent year-over-year, to more than $218.3 million (£179.1 million).

Owing to the considerable economic impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis and its associated lockdown measures, it appears likely that PRS for Music’s international and digital royalties will decrease in 2020. However, two significant elements of the society’s income are undoubtedly suffering presently: business and live performance licensing.

According to PRS for Music’s 2019 report, royalties stemming from live performances and tracks played within commercial establishments jumped 15.7 percent from 2018, to almost $271 million (£222.2 million). With essentially all concerts and music festivals having been put on ice, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson stating that the hospitality sector will reopen its doors in July at the earliest, this segment of PRS’s income is severely compromised.

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Many UK employees returned to work yesterday, following Prime Minister Johnson’s cited speech. To date, UK medical professionals have diagnosed over 233,000 COVID-19 cases, while roughly 33,600 citizens have perished as a result of the disease’s complications.

Live Nation Issues $800 Million Debt Offering for ‘General Corporate Purposes’

Live Nation has issued an $800 million debt offering for “general corporate purposes.”

Today’s leading concert promoter announced its debt sale in a statement that was shared with Digital Music News. The $800 million worth of “senior secured notes” – or those that must conceivably be repaid before other debts in the event that the issuer declares bankruptcy – will mature in 2027, per the top-level description.

Live Nation “intends to use the net proceeds from the filing for general corporate purposes,” which weren’t specified.

At its close, the document emphasizes that the debt “will be offered through a private placement and will not be registered under the Securities Act of 1933.” Accordingly, only “qualified institutional buyers” — not U.S. individuals — are eligible to purchase the notes under the Securities Act’s Rule 144A.

Live Nation’s stock, which is bought and sold as LYV, is down 70 cents per share (1.83 percent) on the day. Currently, a single share of the Beverly Hills-based company will set buyers back $37.45.

The stock-price dip may also have resulted, in part, from Live Nation’s S&P Global credit rating downgrade. Today, Standard and Poor’s Global reduced the company’s credit rating from “BB-” (which was assigned in March) to “B+.”

S&P Global’s website notes the following of companies with “B” credit ratings: “Adverse business, financial, or economic conditions will likely impair the obligor’s capacity or willingness to meet its financial commitments on the obligation.”

Late last month, Digital Music News was first to report that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had invested $500 million in Live Nation’s common stock, thereby assuming a 5.7 percent ownership of the company.

Live Nation’s per-share price dipped as low as $21.70 during the domestic onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic, but has bounced back considerably in the interim. Exactly one month ago, we reported that Live Nation had secured a separate, $120 million emergency loan.

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Coachella’s Anti-Competitive ‘Radius Clause’ Lawsuit Is Back On

In March 2019, a federal judge dismissed a case concerning Coachella’s “radius clause,” which defines relatively stringent and restrictive terms that artists must abide by to perform at the famed festival. Now, an appeals court has overturned the ruling, and the lawsuit is back on.

Judge Mary M. Schroeder, Judge Paul J. Watford, and Judge Andrew D. Hurwitz, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, heard and decided upon the Coachella matter. A copy of the corresponding legal filing was shared with Digital Music News.

To recap, Coachella’s “radius clause” stipulates that artists who perform at the annual Indio, California, festival – including recent years’ headliners like Beyoncé, The Weeknd, Ariana Grande, and Tame Impala, to name just some – have to forego playing other North American music festivals, as well as “hard ticket” concerts in Southern California, between December 15th and the start of May.

Additionally, the “radius clause” maintains that Coachella performers must wait until after January (when the festival announces its lineup) to reveal their other scheduled appearances at festivals in 45 of the 50 U.S. states, besides specifying any of their own tour stops that will take place in California, Arizona, Washington, or Oregon.

District Court Judge Michael Mosman dismissed the lawsuit with prejudice because he didn’t believe that it identified a legal violation against smaller festivals (including Soul’d Out Productions, the Portland-based promoter that submitted the matter).

The aforementioned three-judge panel, however, felt that the case was worth a second look. Stating that they “think the court erred” by tossing the suit “for lack of standing,” the judges voiced their opinion that Soul’d Out Productions “alleged a concrete and particularized injury” despite its not being part of Coachella and AEG’s performer contracts.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling proceeded to indicate that Soul’d Out aims to “vindicate its own rights,” not those of the artists themselves, in the case.

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At the time of this writing, AEG/Coachella hadn’t responded publicly to this courtroom development. Coachella 2020 has been postponed until October because of the coronavirus crisis, but its future is uncertain, especially because California is weighing a live-event ban that would nix crowd-based performances through 2020.

Children’s Charity Rejects Tekashi 6ix9ine’s $200,000 Donation

Child-hunger charity No Kid Hungry has rejected a $200,000 donation from famed rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine because of his checkered past and criminal history.

No Kid Hungry officials politely – but firmly – turned down the generous contribution from Tekashi 6ix9ine. In a statement, Laura Washburn, the organization’s managing director of strategic communications, emphasized that “it is our policy to decline funding from donors whose activities do not align with our mission and values.”

Tekashi 6ix9ine addressed the organization’s unwillingness to accept his funds in a since-deleted Instagram post, which one of his followers promptly captured: “@nokidhungry would rather take food out the mouth of these innocent children, I have never seen something so cruel.”

Since Tekashi posted and deleted that message, neither he nor No Kid Hungry has publicly mentioned the matter. Predictably, though, not a few fans are voicing their opinions via social media.

Responding to No Kid Hungry’s latest tweet, one individual wrote: “You don’t care about kids.”

Another person tweeted: “I wonder what they really do with the money. What an awful organization to get a donation of 200k that would feed thousands of kids, but declining because of a past criminal [history]. That’s just sad.”

And a different Twitter user yet stated: “Nobody should donate any money to these guys, it seems they have more than enough. They don’t even need 200k.”

Last month, Digital Music News was first to report that a judge had approved the early-release request submitted by 6ix9ine and his legal team, owing to his respiratory-health issues and the correspondingly amplified threat presented by COVID-19.

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The 24-year-old’s first post-prison single and music video, “Gooba,” dropped five days back, on his birthday. The track has garnered over 131 million YouTube views thus far, and a record two million fans tuned into Tekashi’s Instagram livestream earlier this week.

Tekashi 6ix9ine is in the process of recording two new albums — one in English, the other in Spanish — but their release dates haven’t been announced.

Hulu Faces Legal Action for Intentionally Throttling Content on PCs

(photo: Glenn Carstens-Peters)

Disney-owned video streaming service Hulu is facing a class-action lawsuit from dissatisfied subscribers who allege that its programming is being throttled for PC users.

California resident Kim Atkinson, along with New York resident Kyle Stevens, submitted the legal complaint to the Los Angeles Superior Court, and a copy of the corresponding legal filing was shared with Digital Music News.

The lawsuit is straightforward enough: Atkinson and Stevens maintain that they subscribed to Hulu because its advertising promised “high quality streaming” regardless of the system or device used to view content. However, the plaintiffs state that they have been unable to stream in high definition on their preferred devices because Hulu has allegedly made a habit of “throttling service to computers.”

Both Atkinson and Stevens “paid a substantial price premium due to the false and misleading Streaming Quality Claims” and are seeking relief for themselves and “all others similarly situated” – Hulu subscribers located in the United States.

The filing discloses multiple Hulu users’ complaints concerning the throttled quality of PC streams, before alleging that the platform intentionally pushes subscribers to utilize “the Hulu applications” because they “provide more direct access to consumer’s [sic] personal data during online and offline use.”

With this bolstered data and its expectedly larger collection of options, Hulu higher-ups can “further monetize their subscribers,” per the filing.

At the time of this writing, neither Hulu nor Disney had publicly responded to the lawsuit. Moreover, it’s unclear whether the defendants can be held liable, given that federal net neutrality laws have been rolled back.

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Earlier this month, Digital Music News was first to report that a federal judge had ordered the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reveal the IP addresses of individuals who submitted fraudulent and/or automated comments during the 2017 debate over net neutrality.

And in March, Apple agreed to pay $500 million for throttling Americans’ iPhone 6 and iPhone 7 devices in an effort to conserve battery life.

iHeartMedia Plunges Into a Tailspin as Q1 Losses Top $1.68 Billion

Against the trying backdrop of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis and widespread market uncertainty, iHeartMedia suffered net losses of over $1.68 billion during 2020’s first quarter.

The San Antonio-based company revealed this and other performance-related information in its Q1 2020 earnings report, which was shared with Digital Music News.

iHeartMedia experienced a 1.9 percent year-over-year drop in earnings, which came in at $780.6 million during 2020’s first quarter. Predictably, the brand’s cash flow deriving from continued operations decreased by a third, while EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) fell by 10.6 percent, to $140.3 million, from the same period in 2019.

Additionally, iHeartMedia’s net losses exceeded $1.68 billion through March 31st, 2020.

The earnings report wasn’t without some positive takeaways, however. iHeartMedia possesses nearly $647 million in cash, and more than 90 percent of its long-term debt will mature in 2026 or later. Company officials believe that they have “sufficient liquidity” to weather the COVID-19 storm, whether the recovery period arrives in this year’s second quarter, third quarter, or even 2021.

Furthermore, iHeartMedia’s digital revenue hiked by 22.2 percent year over year, due in large part to an impressive 80 percent growth in podcasting income.

Addressing his company’s Q1 2020 performance and long-term financial outlook, iHeartMedia President, COO, and CFO Rich Bressler said: “Given the current economic environment, iHeart has taken actions that we believe expand the Company’s financial flexibility and provide sufficient liquidity to operate effectively even in an extended period of economic weakness.”

On the day, iHeartMedia’s stock, traded under the symbol IHRT, dropped three percent, with its per-share price closing at $6.40. IHRT’s value had been hovering around $18 prior to the domestic onset of the novel coronavirus crisis.

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Previously, Digital Music News was first to report that iHeartMedia intends to shave $250 million in expenses this year. A substantial number of the company’s employees have been furloughed without pay, and CEO Bob Pittman has voluntarily relinquished his multimillion-dollar annual salary. Other top executives have taken huge pay cuts.