Breaking Biz

Airbnb, the online room letting service which disrupted the accommodation industry so effectively it now has a price tag of $30 billion, is bedding down into the music world. The Silicon Valley firm has launched a range of international “Music Experiences,” including exclusive access to sold-out shows and intimate live performances. Airbnb pledges its new offering will “support up-and-coming and local artists by connecting people to their events and generating a little extra income,” explains Airbnb. British live music brand Sofar Sounds is partnering with Airbnb on the project.

Amazon wants in at music festivals. The e-tail powerhouse is advertising a position for a Senior Program Manager, Music who will be tasked with “dramatically” improving music fans’ festival experience in the US.

According to the job specs, the new hire will “take an idea – to have a physical festival presence with on-site food and product delivery, custom tour merchandise for purchase, artist meet and greets, and convenience amenities such as free Wi-Fi, water, charging stations, and restrooms – and bring it to life.” Amazon has been ramping up its music activities in recent months. Jeff Bezos’ company premiered its triple-tiered Music Unlimited streaming service last October and recently posted fourth-quarter group revenue of US$43.7 billion, up 22% year-on-year.

Warner/Chappell Music expands its footprint in Germany with the launch of a new office in the uber-cool capital, Berlin. The new location, which is primarily A&R-focused, joins Warner/Chappell Music Germany’s headquarters in Hamburg and its existing office in Munich. “Germany is the third largest music market in the world, and Berlin is an artistically vibrant capital,” comments Jon Platt, Warner/Chappell Music’s chairman and CEO, “so it’s great to have a dedicated team in three different cities, seeking out and nurturing talent across this dynamic country. It is our mission to help great songwriters thrive, wherever they are, and to that end, we are continually growing our global presence.”

Movers & Shakers

Congrats go to hip-hop duo A.B. Original, winners of the 12th annual Australian Music Prize for the best Australian album of 2016. A.B. Original’s no-nonsense ‘Reclaim Australia’ emerged as the winner at a ceremony last Thursday (March 9) in Melbourne.  A.B. Original — Yorta Yorta man Briggs and Ngarrindjeri man Trial — are the first Indigenous artists to win The Amp.

They share the $30,000 winner’s cheque and join an illustrious circle of previous winners, which includes The Drones, Big Scary and last year’s recipient, Courtney Barnett. All told, more than 360 albums were submitted for the AMP judges’ ears.

Gee “Genia” Davey is the new in-house Legal & Business Affairs Manager at the UK’s Association of Independent Music (AIM).  Davey joins from AIM member Cooking Vinyl, where she was Legal & Business Affairs Manager.  She starts in her new role from April 3 and reports to AIM CEO Paul Pacifico.


The Dotted Line

Sony Music has launched Masterworks, a domestic imprint catering to “mature music fans.”

Robert Rigby, Senior A&R Director, Sony Music Australia, heads up Masterworks, which opens for business here with the release of ‘Remembrance’, a 24-track poetry-and-song tribute to the soldiers of WWI.

The launch is part of “our strategic plan to deliver quality projects suitable for the discerning consumers in the adult contemporary, crossover and soundtrack music market,” comments Denis Handlin, chairman and CEO of Sony Music Australia and New Zealand and President Asia. Masterworks has a 90-year history internationally that began in 1927 as Columbia Masterworks.

R.E.M. has signed with SESAC for performing rights representation of its entire catalogue in the United States, ending a long-standing relationship with BMI. The new arrangement covers works from across R.E.M.’s career, which yielded 15 studio albums and a slew of hits. Also, the individual members of the Athens, Georgia legends (Michael Stipe, Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Bill Berry) have signed with SESAC to handle their individual performing rights. R.E.M. were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2007.

Chart Geek

Whatever way you cut it, Ed Sheeran’s ‘Divide’ has enjoyed a supreme start. In the UK, the album shifted a mindboggling 672,000 combined units in its first week, making it the third fastest seller of all time (behind Adele’s ‘25’ and Oasis’ ‘Be Here Now’) and the highest-ever opening sale for a male artist.

The sales split according to the Official Charts Company: 62% physical, 26% downloads, 12% streams. And in a feat which will have you either rolling your eyes or punching the air, Sheeran totally owns the UK singles chart, with 16 tracks from the LP cracking the top 20.

‘Divide’ also set Spotify records for first day streams (56.7 million); and for most first-week streams (375 million streams), breaking the previous record (The Weeknd’s ‘Starboy’ 223 million streams) in a little over four days. Of course, Spotify streaming records are there to be broken as its subscription base grows exponentially (50 million paid users at last count).

It’s a similar story in Australia, where Sheeran snatches the ARIA Albums Chart title and floods the singles chart with 16 of the top 20, including the #1 with “Shape Of You’ for a ninth week. The Brit has 18 tracks in the top 100. Until now, no living act has had more than 14 singles in the survey.

In the US, ‘Divide’ is heading for a huge #1 and he’s made history with 13 songs simultaneously charting on the Billboard + Twitter Top Tracks list.

Crossing Borders

Sheeran’s quest for world domination should trundle on for some months yet. The English singer’s manager Stuart Camp last week revealed his ward would tour South Asia, with an announcement due in May.

We know when he won’t be touring the region: Sheeran has announced a 48-date North American jaunt, starting June 29 and running through to Oct. 6. Assuming Sheeran heads to South East Asia in the last quarter, a victory lap of Australia and New Zealand would make perfect sense.

Singapore is emerging as a metal music hotspot. True story. The city state with a reputation for its impeccable cleanliness has recently hosted shows by Metallica and Periphery, with Megadeth to come.  Spotting a hunger for the harder stuff, promoter Street Noise Productions will be holding three separate shows in the days and weeks ahead featuring the likes of Whitechapel, Krisiun, Defiled and Aussie act A Night In Texas.

The Big Stage

The dubious practice of ticket scalping is having a rare moment in the public spotlight, and it may just stay there for some time. Consumer advocacy group Choice has referred to the ACCC the findings of its investigation into ticket reseller websites.

Choice’s dragnet scoped the likes of Ticketmaster Resale and Viagogo.

“We found Viagogo was the worst offender when it comes to dodgy pricing practices. From dripping in unavoidable fees in its online checkout to incorrectly claiming it has the cheapest tickets on offer, this company needs to clean up its act,” says Choice head of media, Tom Godfrey.

The issue blew up when tickets for Midnight Oil’s comeback tour resurfaced online at inflated prices. Choice’s action got the thumbs up from the Oils’ frontman Peter Garrett and the promoter of the Australian shows, Michael Gudinski’s Frontier Touring, tweeted it is collating stories of those who have purchased through ticket resale websites and had an “unsatisfactory experience.“ Gudinski and fellow promoter Michael Chugg ratcheted up the pressure on scalpers with a few choice words on the triple j’s The Hack last week. Watch this space.

It may not be your thang, but country music is turning over a tidy business. CMC Rocks Queensland, a co-production by Rob Potts Entertainment Edge and Chugg Entertainment, has put up the sold-out sign for its second consecutive year. With a lineup starring Dixie Chicks, Little Big Town, Kip Moore and local artists Lee Kernaghan and Morgan Evans, organizers are expecting 15,000 fans will attend the three-day hoedown, starting March 24.

With the business in good shape, America’s Country Music Association (CMA) will send a delegation to Australia this month with a goal to strengthen ties and facilitate opportunities in country music between the two countries. The delegation will attend CMC Rocks and will include CMA CEO Sarah Trahern, Chief Marketing Officer Damon Whiteside, Director, International Media Relations Bobbi Boyce and CMA Board Member John Marks, Head of Global Country Music at Spotify.

Final Word

Pharrell Williams has another good reason to be “happy.” The singer and producer was awarded the insignia of Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters by France’s culture minister Audrey Azoula, a honor previously bestowed to the likes of Elton John, Van Morrison and Peter Garrett. Pharrell collected the honor at a ceremony in Paris as a testament to his contribution to the arts. The only bummer was his wife and kids weren’t there to catch it.