Officials with the arena hosting President Donald Trump’s reelection rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday are requesting his campaign supply a health and safety plan in advance of the event.
ASM Global, which manages the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, has asked for a written plan “detailing the steps the event will institute for health and safety, including those related to social distancing” after the Oklahoma Department of Health posted record increases in COVID-19 numbers in the state. On Wednesday, 259 new cases were reported — the highest single-day number of positive tests Oklahoma has seen so far — while Tulsa County officials reported 96 new cases.
“I’m extremely concerned,” Tulsa City-County Health Department director told school officials Monday night, according to the Tulsa World newspaper. “I think we have the responsibility to stand up when things are happening that I think are going to be dangerous for our community, which it will be. It hurts my heart to think about the aftermath of what’s going to happen.”
The Trump campaign has asked individuals attending the event to sign a waiver acknowledging the risk of contracting the novel coronavirus at the event. Campaign officials released a statement earlier this week that more than 1 million tried to get tickets for the “Make American Great Again” rally, with Trump supporters already lining up around the block to attend.
ASM Global officials said the campaign has agreed to conduct temperature checks and provide attendees with a mask and hand sanitizer upon entering the building.
“The BOK Center will encourage all attendees to remain masked throughout the duration of the event until they exit the building,” the ASM Global statement reads.
“Among the many other safeguards, all building staff will be tested, temperature checked and provided with personal protection equipment. The venue will be cleaned and disinfected repeatedly throughout the event, with special emphasis on high touch areas,” it continues. “Plexiglass partitions will be placed at all concession locations. Four hundred hand sanitizing stations have been placed throughout the building for attendee and employee use.”
The Oklahoma Supreme Court will rule Friday whether the event would need to adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for social distancing, which would significantly lower the capacity.
In an election year crucial for the future of the United States, a number of A-list stars joined Rock the Vote’s Democracy Summer campaign Thursday (June 18) with a two-hour virtual concert, encouraging viewers to register to vote.
Katy Perry headlined the show, draped in stars and stripes as she delivered a powerful rendition of her uplifting new single, “Daisies,” and her hits “Roar” and “Chained to the Rhythm.”
The event, co-hosted by actors Logan Browning and Rosario Dawson, also featured remote performances by the Black Eyed Peas, Ne-Yo, Big Freedia, Lucy Hale, Amara La Negra, Saweetie, Sklyar Astin, Max, Leslie Grace, Dove Cameron, Sofia Carson, Rich Brian and Michael K. Williams.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro also made appearances.
“I’m excited to be a part of this kickoff to Democracy Summer 2020 with so many amazing talents, activists and speakers,” Perry previously said in a statement of her involvement. “The young people of America are speaking loud and clear on the streets and online, and come November, it will be more important than ever to fight for justice and equality, and against systemic racism, with our ballots.”
Rock the Vote is planning additional Democracy Summer activations throughout the summer including on the Fourth of July and on Aug. 6, the anniversary of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. For more information, see Democracy Summer’s website here.
Jay Z’s Roc Nation is suing its New York City landlord for declaring the entertainment company in default on rent for its Garment District office space. Roc Nation says it temporarily stopped paying rent due to the “unforeseen hardships caused by COVID,” according to court papers filed Tuesday (June 16).
Roc Nation filed the lawsuit Tuesday in New York Supreme Court against landlord company 1411 IS-SIC Property LLC at 1411 Broadway where it rents the 38th and 39th floors. Per the lawsuit, Roc Nation is tied into its lease agreement until 2024. The space was Roc Nation’s headquarters until 2018 when the company outgrew the offices and moved operations to a different building.
According to the lawsuit, Roc Nation has been asking the landlord prior to the COVID-19 outbreak to permit it to sublease more than 10,000 square feet to two separate companies, but the landlord had repeatedly denied the request to approve the sublets.Then on April 20 Roc Nation informed the landlord that the effects of the coronavirus pandemic triggered the force majeure clause of their lease contract because it created unforeseen hardships. The company argues the pandemic represents an “act of God” and because of that it began temporarily withholding rent as it could not make use of the premises.
However, the property company maintains that “mere financial difficulty is not a force majeure event” and has insisted the Roc Nation pay its full rent payments. The property company is now seeking to draw on the $1.3 million line of credit that Roc Nation put down as collateral, according to court papers.
Roc Nation is urgently requesting that that a judge step in and order its landlord to allow them to sublease the property and to confirm it is entitled to temporarily withheld rent payments as a result of COVID-19. It is also asking the court to bar its landlord from being able to draw on that line of credit.
While the United States doesn’t have a performance right for master recordings except for digital transmissions, U.S. officials are including that issue and a variety of other copyright improvements in trade negotiations with other countries, like Canada and the U.K., according to RIAA senior vp George York.
How trade agreements could impact music industry renumeration was just one of many music business issues discussed during three panels at A2IM’s virtual IndieWeek conference, held June 15–18.
On Wednesday, panelist also wrestled with such topics as what impact a potential deal between iHeartMedia and Liberty Media — which already owns a controlling stake in Sirius XM, which owns Pandora; and about a 33% stake in Live Nation, which owns TicketMaster — could have on the music industry and recording artists.
Other panelist looked at how the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) are pushing for deregulation and how that would impact airplay; how indie label recording contracts negotiations are conducted; and the importance of ARPU (average revenue per user) in measuring the success of the music industry’s economics.
U.S. Trade Deals Boosting Music Industry
On the subject of U.S. trade negotiations, York said trade agreements matter to the music industry “because they can affect renumeration” to artists and labels in songwriters and publishers.
For artists and labels, the recent USMCA trade agreement with Canada and Mexico — which replaced the North America Free Trade Agreement — includes a provision that U.S. artists are to be treated no less fairly than their Canadian counterparts.
What that means is that if Canadian artists and labels receive royalties when their songs are played on terrestrial radio, so too should American artists and labels be paid. “This is the end of a major piece of discriminations” against American artists, York stated. “In Canada for the past 20 years, U.S. repertoire couldn’t get renumeration but Canada artists and producers can get it.”
As a result of that trade agreement, U.S. artists and producers can get “renumeration” from Canadian terrestrial radio. This will produce payments to U.S. artists and producers totaling 24 million Canadian dollars, so it’s “an important win,” he said.
The trade agreement touches on a few other parts of copyright law including Canada extending the life of copyright to align with the U.S., bringing the term in Canada is for life of author plus 70 years. Previously, it had been life of author plus 50 years there.
Moreover, York reported the copyright term gains from the USMCA trade agreement are also part of the negotiations with the U.K. trade agreement, which is necessitated by that country’s withdrawal from the European Union.
Does Radio Consolidation Lead to Homogenization?
Another panel looked at consolidation’s impact on the U.S. radio industry, focusing on Liberty Media’s potential acquisition of a controlling interest in iHeartMedia and the possibility that radio deregulation could happen in the U.S.
On the latter possibility, the NAB and its radio lobby are pushing hard for deregulation of radio ownership rules, which currently place limits on how many radio stations a company can own in any market, reported lawyer Rachel Stilwell of Stilwell Law, which represents the Music First Coalition on this matter.
While deregulation has been an issue for many months now, Stilwell said that the NAB is using the COVID-19 pandemic “to get this deregulation done now.”
The NAB argues that it needs this deregulation so it can compete against the digital services and satellite radio. But the music industry counters that it will hurt independent owned radio stations and smaller chains.
Besides the music industry, Stilwell said this type of deregulation will also hurt the smaller radio station owners, which will be “competing against enormous supersized clusters,” as well as the same digital services that the bigger radio stations owners have to compete against.
If the deregulation occurs, the industry “knows it would be the homogenization of music” broadcasting, Stilwell argued. Josh Hurvitz, a partner with the Washington, D.C. lobbying firm NVG, which represents A2IM, agreed, pointing out that the NAB “wraps themselves in the argument that they are serving local communities at every turn.” Yet, he noted, iHeartMedia has already laid off about 1,000 DJs and others at the local radio stations they own in an attempt to seek synergy and savings. “That means they already are going down the homogenization road and away from having a local feel,” he said.
Historically, local radio has played a role in breaking out regional acts, which would be lost if deregulation occurs, Hurvitz pointed out. In general, the music industry is opposed to this deregulation because, it fears it will result in less diversity in programming and homogenization so that local tastes are no longer reflected by radio, Stilwell said.
Also troubling is the potential deal between iHeartMedia, the country’s largest radio conglomerate, and Liberty Media. If allowed to proceed, this would give Liberty a controlling interest in the largest radio chain to add to its already controlling interests in SiriusXM and Pandora, and roughly 33% stake in Live Nation, the world’s largest concert promoter and owner of Ticketmaster, the world’s biggest seller of live event tickets.
Hurvitz said that Liberty and iHeartMedia have asked the Department of Justice — which oversees antitrust matters — for a preliminary take on that deal. Radio play and touring is important for artists and this deal could impact both those areas for the music industry. If a band has a relationship with the 9:30 club in Washington DC, Hurvitz posited, it’s possible that if the iHeart/Liberty deal is allowed to go through, a band’s airplay could be tied to waving goodbye to playing at the 9:30 club and being pressured to go into a LiveNation venue down the road. “That kind of behavior will likely happen if this deal goes through,” he said.
“It blows me away in the number of ways [this deal] can take money away from artists,” said Ron Knox, a senior research and writer for the Institute for Local Self Reliance, a non-profit that says it challenges concentrated economic and political power and a proponent of decision making accountable to local communities. He said that with this deal, Liberty would have its “hand in the pocket” of too many artist income streams. LiveNation has already got into trouble with the DOJ for its ticketing practices, Hurvitz pointed out. “Imagine if they had the power of radio behind them, he added.
Yet, A2IM president and CEO Richard James Burgess sees some possible relief on the horizon, at least in terms of antitrust matters and regulations for digital companies. “The pendulum swung very hard beginning 20 years ago with the dot-com boom, and now it may be swinging back,” he said in a panel in a session in which he introduced Hurvitz as A2IM’s new lobbyist. Later, he conceded, “I don’t know that it’s swinging back, but it seems to have reached its zenith.”
“The major tech players have been the wonder children of our economy and in Washington they were seen as the cool kidsm so Congress didn’t want to tussle with them,” Hurvitz added.
But now there seems to be a groundswell among Democratic office holders and candidates against the big tech companies. This is also gaining momentum with the Trump administration, with the DOJ looking into Google and the House Judiciary Committee looking into Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple.
Temperature Check: U.S. Music Industry
Russ Crupnick, the managing partner of MusicWatch, looked at the economic health of the U.S. music industry currently and historically.
While artists, songwriters and their managers often look at the per-stream rate, the major music companies more often focus on digital services’ ARPU. That measures how healthy a service is and if it has a lot of subscribers and ARPU is going up, then that’s the sign of a healthy business model.
On the other hand, if ARPU is going down, it could be the sign of an unhealthy business model — but there also could be mitigating circumstances. For example, a digital service ARPU could be doing down because it is in a customer acquisition mode, which means it is discounting its fee; or if it is in expansion mode to other countries where the average monthly rate for subscription services are lower, he explained.
Looking at SiriusXM, Crupnick reported its most recent financials show ARPU at $13.95 per subscriber, which translates into about $167 a year. Meanwhile, Spotify’s ARPU is about $7 a month or about $90 a year — and it’s going down, he added, due to trial subscriptions in a move to gain more subscribers and expansion efforts globally.
When discussing expansion and customer acquisition strategies, Crupnick posed a question: Would you rather have 1 million users spending $8 a month or would you rather have 10 million customers spending $4 a month? “I would take the $40 million,” he said.
Today, in the U.S. there are about 80 million paid subscribers, he said. Back in 1999, citing earlier research apparently conducted when he was at NPD Group, he said there were about 180 million people buying CDs in the U.S. spending about $84 annually — or $122, adjusted for inflation.
Since then, annual ARPU has fallen, especially as the sale model lost luster. It was about $61 in 2004 and down to about $50 in 2014. Now, with streaming the dominant form of music consumption, sales is contributing about $29 per year, per consumer.
But with streaming, nowadays in the U.S., ARPU is at about $84 per music consumer — and holding steady he said. “So we are in the same place as , or behind it if adjusted for inflation,” Crupnick said. “So the question is how to raise ARPU and how to get more customers.”
If the industry would add $9 per consumer, that would bring the U.S. industry another $1 billion, he said. How do we improve spending on streaming he asked?
For starters, Crupnick said, the industry could raise prices, try to crack down on subscriber sharing and weed out illegitimate family plan users, and get subscribers to trade up by offering more premium content or bundling.
Singer-songwriter Travis Denning watched as his second single, “After a Few,” debuted at No. 58 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart dated March 23, 2019. And watched and watched.
At last, in its 65th week on Country Airplay, it ascended to the summit, on the chart dated June 13, 2020. The song broke the record for the longest run to No. 1 and most total time on the survey, as it added a 66th frame on the June 20 list.
Mercury Records’ vice president of promotion Damon Moberly was charged with inspiring his crew to talk to program directors about the song every week for over a year. “The motivation for this run really came from the promo team’s belief in Travis as an artist first, and our belief in the song second,” Moberly tells Billboard. “Travis is excellent at understanding how to build relationships with people, programmers and fans. He has invested heavily in that aspect of his career in a big way and we’re all very emboldened by his work ethic. We had some great early research from several stations that played ‘After’ a lot early on. That gave us confidence that we had something worth fighting for.”
So what does a 27-year-old from Warner Robbins, Georgia, do to celebrate his first chart-topper? He goes fishing, of course. Billboard caught up with Denning while he and a couple of friends were on Old Hickory Lake outside Nashville.
I don’t want to interrupt this fishing trip. Do you have your line in the water now?
Nah, I’m good. I got my legs kicked up and I already scored a six-pounder.
You grew up in Georgia. Was fishing as important as listening to music?
It was big, and I did my share, but I got my first guitar when I was 11. Santa brought it to me [laughs]. So, all I did after that was play my guitar and listen to music. I listened to lots of AC/DC, The Allman Brothers Band, The Marshall Tucker Band. I was hooked. I actually wanted to play drums at first and still sit behind a kit sometimes.
On “After a Few,” the drums are way out front.
To me, the biggest thing is that I want the core of it to feel like it’s a band, like a bunch of guys in the studio playing live. I am just a big fan of raw energy and want the listening experience to feel like you’re seeing the group live.
“After a Few” claimed the record for the longest trip to No. 1 in the history of the Country Airplay chart. What was it like watching that unfold?
Well man, honestly, hectic as hell and stressful. I kind of actually had to unplug a touch and not watch the charts as much as I did on my first single [“David Ashley Parker From Powder Springs”, which reached No. 32 on Country Airplay in September 2018]. As an artist, you can torture yourself when you’re constantly looking.
Were you disappointed in the performance of your first song?
Some, but it definitely got my foot in the door, established my name and the track is still a big part of our live shows.
How did you keep your sanity during the past year?
It was like, okay, I know this game pretty well, and when the song was in the 50s, then the 40s, I knew it was going to stay there a while. I had to back away and trust Damon and the promo staff that they weren’t going to give up on it. I knew they weren’t. Once the song hit around No. 30, it was fun to see it take off.
How ecstatic were you to see it hit No. 1?
It was huge to see it cross the finish line. I’m so thankful to everyone at radio for sticking with it and my team for working as hard as they did.
Do you remember the first time you heard the song on the radio?
Absolutely. I was on a radio tour and was in Salt Lake City. I heard it on KSOP around 11 a.m. I thought it was pretty badass to hear it in the middle of the day. But it never gets old anytime I hear it. It’s just like affirmation you’re doing things right.
Were you tempted to give this song to another artist?
Yes. I actually wrote it [with Kelly Archer and Justin Weaver] about four years ago and at that point I didn’t have a record deal. My first thought was to pitch it to either Dustin Lynch or Luke Bryan. I could hear either one singing it. When I signed with Mercury, they wanted me to keep it for myself.
We’re in the middle of a pandemic. You were going to be on Sam Hunt’s tour this summer. How crushing is it as a newer artist that you’ll have to wait?
For lack of a better term, it just kind of sucks. That tour was everything that I dreamed of doing. Realistically, though, it is what it is. I think people are digging into music harder than ever right now. For instance, the other day I had The Black Crowes cranked up and just hope people are doing that with my music. I do think that when we finally get to go back out and do concerts it will be a huge release for everyone.
You’ve got one EP out: Beer’s Better Cold, and the title track will be your next single. Any thoughts on maybe releasing a full album sooner than you thought you would?
We’re going to stick with the timeline of hoping to release an album this fall. I’m hoping to be in the studio in the next month or so.
What music are you listening to?
As a songwriter, name an artist you’d love to see record one of your songs.
George Strait, hands down.
Finally, Nashville is definitely a town of collaborations. Who’s your top pick for a duet partner?
Halsey. I’m a huge fan.
Tenille Townes is taking her annual “Big Hearts for Big Kids” benefit concert virtual this year, though she will be hosting the all-star event from Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium.
Dierks Bentley, Brandi Carlile, Luke Combs, Andy Grammer, Mickey Guyton, Caylee Hammack, Ashley McBryde, Lori McKenna, Chrissy Metz, John Osborne and Lucie Silvas are all set to deliver at-home performances during the livestream.
The event will benefit Alberta, Canada’s youth shelter Sunrise House, plus Girl Scouts of Middle Tennessee’s Troop 6000, which supports girls without permanent housing. Townes herself will also perform songs from her debut album, The Lemonade Stand, out June 26.
“It is a dream to be bringing ‘Big Hearts For Big Kids’ to Nashville, to be lifting up youth who need us in the world right now and celebrating with music from artists that I admire so much,” Townes said in a statement. “Watching the way this event has grown in my hometown over the past 10 years has shaped me and taught me what people coming together through music can really do.”