Opinion and analysis of the day's music business news.

-- Spend some time looking through Twitter comments about Ticketmaster’s new blog and initiatives and you’ll come to a few conclusions. First, many people say they care less about the timing of fee transparency and more about the existence of fees. A lot of the reaction was surprisingly negative. The improvement to the way Ticketmaster discloses prices was met with most negative reaction, some derision and the occasional positive comment. It’s clear the commentators don’t think Ticketmaster went far enough. Whether or not their expectations are realistic, they want face values to (at least) remain the same and extra fees to be eliminated altogether.

Second, people don’t seem to understand that fees aren’t going to go away any time soon. For venues, promoter, ticketing company and artist to greatly reduce or eliminate fees would mean they shift prices to compensate for the loss of revenue. A venue fee, for example, could be eliminated if the venue made up that money elsewhere. In theory (and only in theory) all fees could be reduced if the artist’s take was greatly reduced. While some artists may need to put their expectations in line with current economic conditions, in general shortchanging the artist is not a good way to tackle problems with ticket pricing. Over time fees will probably drop in some shape or form, but this won’t happen overnight.

Third, the generally dour reaction on Twitter may not amount to much. Ticketmaster is a company people love to hate. Even a positive development is going to be met with the kind of snark and attitude that thrives in Twitter’s 140-character-maximum messages. People may want ticket fees to be eliminated, but they’ll take improved transparency. Chances are this is just the first of many steps Ticketmaster will take to change/improve pricing.


-- Wicks Group has acquired New York City-based Verse Music Publishing for an undisclosed sum. Verse was formed in 2006 by record producer Curt Frasca and his wife, songwriter Sabelle Breers. Its writers include Nikki Gregoroff (Lady Gaga’s “Wunderland”), Anton Bass (“Ashley Tisdale’s “Who I Am”), i am jen, and Breers (Avril Lavigne, Ryan Cabrera, Stacie Orrico, O.A.R.).

Wicks is a private equity firm that focuses on the media, information and education industries. Its third and latest fund is $535 million and began investing in 2004. Its first fund totaled $62.2 million and its second was $383 million. Book publishers, newspapers and radio and television broadcasts dominate its current portfolio. No longer in its portfolio is Vibe Media Group, the publisher of Vibe magazine. Vibe went out of business in June 2009. (The Middle Market)


-- More competition for music at iTunes: Disney is close to a deal with Apple to rent ABC television shows at iTunes at 99 cents apiece. (Wall Street Journal)


-- Universal Music Group is the only secured creditor of Playlist.com, the music streaming site that has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Playlist would like to put to use the cash that serves as collateral for its debt to UMG, but the world’s largest music company has protested this move.

From court papers cites by the Wall Street Journal:
“UMG, as the debtor’s largest creditor and secured creditor, and the owner of countless copyrights which are being infringed even now, cannot in good conscience consent to use of cash collateral for the conduct of a business based upon the illegal use of copyrighted material owned by UMG and other entities.”

Playlist says it needs to use the cash to pay for operations and continue its search for new investors. The company explains that it plans to negotiate new licenses and offer a premium version to consumers. Given the majors labels’ hesitance about ad-supported music services, a paid premium version may be a requisite for obtaining licenses. However, getting additional investments is another matter. UMG is also Playlist’s top unsecured creditor, as revealed in the bankruptcy documents. The company is owed $16.6 million via a promissory note. Warner Music Group is owed a $4.1 million promissory note while Sony Music Entertainment is owed $3.2 million for licensing fees and EMI Music North America is owed a $2.1 million promissory note. Other top unsecured creditors include BMI ($1.7 million), I.T. services provider Limelight Networks ($803,000) and ASCAP ($$377,000). The document notes that UMG and EMI dispute the claims listed. (Wall Street Journal, Hypebot)


-- A new piece of information has come from the lawsuit against Montgomery County’s taxpayer funding of a Fillmore venue in Silver Springs, Maryland: public funding for the project is expected to be $11.2 million, not the $8 million city council officials had stated. The Live Nation venue is scheduled for a September 2 groundbreaking. Seth Hurwitz, co-owner of I.M.P. and IMI, sued Maryland officials in June for their part in approving and financing the Fillmore deal. Hurwitz’s argument is that Live Nation’s deal was approved without public disclosure of the actual costs and without competitive bids. (Washington Post)


-- After Sufjan Stevens’ new album sold 10,000 units in a weekend using its platform, Bandcamp did a Q&A with Asthmatic Kitty’s John Beeler. Here’s Beeler on the state and future of the record industry: “I think the music industry has been in a state of constant mope since Napster showed up and this year is no different. But I think I can speak for everyone at Asthmatic Kitty when I say that yes, it’s a dangerous time to be a label, but it’s also very, very exciting. The ways in which we find and discover and support good music are changing so quickly it’s hard to predict what’s next. There will always be a ‘Napster’ – whether it’s torrents or RapidShare or psychic hologram transmission (the next big wave!) – but we believe that fans of our music are good people at heart and will always find a way to support us and the artists.” (Bandcamp blog)


-- Songwriter Brad Crisler has signed with House of Fame Publishing, the publishing house of Muscle Shoals’ Fame Studios. Steve Williams was hired as creative director last year. (MusicRow)

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