Photo Credit: Hippopx / CC by 1.0

According to court documents, Jay-Z offered $1.5 billion to purchase Bacardi’s half of their D’USSE Cognac brand.

Newly unsealed court documents show that Jay-Z and his SC Liquor company offered $1.5 billion for Bacardi’s ownership share in their cognac brand before he sued the spirits giant. However, Bacardi rejected the offer, despite valuing the company at $460 million — significantly lower than their previously estimated $2.5 billion.

The costly dispute between the legendary rapper and Bacardi began last October when SC Liquor exercised its “put option,” requiring Bacardi to buy out its stake in the cognac brand. Both parties submitted valuations of their respective ownership stakes, with JPMorgan conducting an appraisal of D’USSE. 

At this point, Jay-Z and the spirits company quickly began to butt heads. Bacardi disputed the date to set the valuation and contradicted SC Liquor’s projections that D’USSE would sell more than two million cases and earn $142.8 million annually by 2026. Instead, Bacardi’s documents claim that D’USSE did not have a board-approved financial forecast.

Ultimately, two of the arbitration panel’s members ruled that SC Liquor’s forecast was unresponsive to JPMorgan’s request. Jay-Z and his party argued that the arbitrators “grossly exceeded their authority when resolving a narrow question.”

The two parties continued to disagree throughout the process, leading to Jay-Z filing a lawsuit against Bacardi in October, citing concerns over financial transparency and demanding the company reveal the “location of all warehouses storing D’USSE barrels, bottles, and accessories.”

Additionally, SC Liquor accuses Bacardi’s subsidiary, Empire Investments, of intentionally mismanaging the cognac brand to lower its valuation while trying to “stall and stonewall” efforts to pinpoint an accurate figure. The court has granted SC Liquor an emergency hearing against Empire Investments, scheduled early this month.

Bacardi also accused Jay-Z of backing out of a “handshake deal” to sell his stake to the company last December and that the rapper demanded double the agreed-upon price. 

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Photo Credit: Jora Frantzis, Cardi B’s Instagram

Cardi B faces a potentially serious copyright infringement lawsuit — over a Marge Simpson Halloween costume.

Cardi B’s Halloween costume this year has generated some unexpected controversy. The rapper posted on Instagram a photo of her dressed as Marge Simpson wearing a Thierry Mugler dress — which Italian artist aleXsandro Palombo claims is lifted from a piece of artwork he designed in 2013. Palombo also says that Cardi B and her team shared his artwork on social media without credit. Now Palombo is threatening to take legal action against the rapper for copyright infringement.

According to Palombo, the look Cardi B sported and the image she was inspired by comes from “Marge Simpson Style Icon,” an artwork series he created in 2013. The series shows the Simpsons matriarch wearing several outfits from popular culture in some compromising positions.

On October 31, Cardi B shared an image of herself painted yellow with Marge Simpson’s iconic tower of blue hair, dressed in a Mugler dress from 1995. The second image shows a cartoon version of the same image, which Palombo says is his original design. Photographer Jora Frantzis and artist director Kollin Carter also shared the pictures on their Instagram accounts.

“Cardi B and her collaborators have used my artwork without any authorization, debasing its original meaning and only to amplify their image with a clear commercial purpose that has nothing to do with that path of social awareness that has always characterized my works,” says Palombo in a statement sent to Newsweek.

“Dear Mrs. Cardi B, based on your reasoning, shall everyone illegally download your music?” Palombo further posits.

Palombo’s lawyer, Claudio Volpi of Barberi & Volpi, said he is taking legal action against Cardi B and her “closest collaborators” for the unauthorized use of Palombo’s artwork.

“Cardi B has illegitimately appropriated the work of aleXsandro Palombo for mere business purposes in defiance of the most elementary rules on copyright and Instagram policies, with the consequent serious risks, both of compensation and of discredit for her public image,” said Volpi in an official statement.

Palombo’s artwork of Marge Simpson wearing iconic pop culture clothing first debuted in Vogue in 2013, featuring outfits like Gerri Halliwell’s Union Jack dress, Kate Moss’ Playboy pose, Madonna’s Jean Paul Gaultier bustier, and the 1995 Thierry Mugler dress.

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Photo Credit: Pieter-Jannick Dijkstra / CC by 2.0

Last month, reports revealed that Greenberg Traurig was having a seemingly difficult time dumping Kanye West as a client. Now, the New York City-headquartered law firm has finally cut ties with Ye.

The formal end of the professional relationship between Kanye West (who is once again making headlines for ill-advised comments) and Greenberg Traurig came to light in a recent court order. For reference, the Grammys law firm had been representing the rapper in an infringement lawsuit centering on a sampled track in “Flowers.”

Per Ultra Music Publishing, which levied the complaint in June of 2022, West included 1986’s “Move Your Body” in his own work despite having failed to receive permission to do so. Additionally, Ultra indicated in the original suit that it hadn’t been provided with any compensation for the allegedly unauthorized sample, which is said to have been “repeated” some 22 times in “Flowers.”

On November 2nd, Greenberg Traurig moved to withdraw as West’s counsel, explaining of the decision that it had been “founded by individuals who faced discrimination” and that many of its team members had “lost ancestors because of that kind of hate and prejudice.”

But ceasing representing the Donda 2 creator proved more difficult than initially anticipated, as the court ordered Greenberg Traurig “to demonstrate that Mr. West has been personally served with their application to withdraw.” This proof of service was then submitted on Friday, November 18th.

“GT asserts that withdrawal is necessary in light of Ye’s failure to cooperate in the prosecution of their case,” Judge Analisa Torres wrote when explaining the decision to sign off on the withdrawal motion. “GT has put forward satisfactory reasons for withdrawal.”

Greenberg Traurig now has until Wednesday, December 14th, to serve Ye with the order “by personal service,” with proof of said service required to be submitted by the 21st. West, for his part, must inform the court of his updated representation plans by Wednesday, January 4th, and after that, he’ll have 30 days to “answer or otherwise respond to the complaint” itself.

At the time of this writing, West didn’t appear to have addressed the development on social media. The 45-year-old was previously dropped by a number of other law firms (and companies) and is facing separate lawsuits from his former accountant, an LA-based design and production firm, a high-end fashion rental company, and the pastor whose voice he sampled in “Come to Life,” among others.

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Photo Credit: Alexander Londoño

One year after Astroworld, Houston officials issued new permitting procedures for large-scale events.

The City of Houston is fine-tuning its plans to deal with large-scale events following the Astroworld tragedy last year in which ten people lost their lives. On Wednesday, the city finalized the new ordinance with signatures from Susan Christian, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Special Events, Chief of Police Troy Finner, Chief of Fire Sam Peña, and a vote from the City Council.

The ordinance primarily applies to outdoor music events on private property with more than 500 people in attendance. It follows a Public Safety and Homeland Security committee meeting on October 13.

Each application for an event needs to include an “Event Security Plan and Event Medical Plan,” among other pertinent information before it can take place. Determinations will be made on a case-by-case basis regarding how many exits are needed to ensure safety and if a Unified Command Center will be put in place.

Applications must include the event organizer’s name, street address, mailing address, email, and phone number, the organizer’s associates, and the employees assisting in the event. Additionally, applications must contain the registered agent of the organizer, venue operator, property owner, dates and times of the event, the maximum number of tickets to be sold, and the maximum number of people at the event.

The Mayor’s Office of Special Events will review all applications and retain the right to deny the application if it does not meet the requirements set forth by the city and county. Chiefs or representatives from the Houston Fire Department and Houston Police Department may also reject presented plans. Organizers may file an appeal within ten business days of a denial.

A fee may be associated with an event if the application comes within 30 days of the event. If an event occurs without prior approval, is suspended or revoked, or violates permit provisions, the organizer may face a misdemeanor charge and fine of up to $2,000.

The new procedures come one year after ten people lost their lives and many more were injured during a crowd crush event at the Astroworld Festival in November 2021.

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TikTok CEO Shou Chew is dancing around the growing security concerns about U.S. data ending up in the hands of the Chinese government.

Several U.S. federal entities including the FCC and FBI Director Christopher Wray have expressed concerns about the app. Now TikTok CEO Shou Chew says the company is taking serious steps to keep data secure.

“We have very rigorous data-access protocols,” the CEO told the New York Times’ Dealbook Summit in New York on Wednesday. Chew reiterated that ByteDance chose Oracle as its U.S. partner based on its strong security controls.

“In the future, we’re going to organize by moving the data to the Oracle data cloud infrastructure, and only U.S. residents can access it. This is a solution that no other company is trying to pursue,” he adds. That statement comes after several investigative reports this summer from BuzzFeedNews and Forbes found that ByteDance employees in China did have backdoor access to TikTok data from Americans.

FBI Director Christopher Wray laid out his security concerns about the app to a House Homeland Security Committee hearing. “They include the possibility that the Chinese government could use it to control data collection on millions of users or control the recommendation algorithm, which could be used for influence operations if they so chose, or to control software on millions of devices, which gives it an opportunity to potentially technically compromise personal devices,” Wray continued.

TikTok hit one billion active monthly users in September 2021. It is owned by Chinese company ByteDance and has been the subject of data scrutiny in the United States since the Trump administration.

The problem is that Chinese national security laws require both foreign and domestic companies to share their data with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) government upon request. Wray describes that provision as a law that requires companies to “do whatever the government wants them to in terms of sharing information or serving as a tool of the Chinese government.”

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Photo Credit: Wes Hicks

Collaborative music platform Drooble is shutting down in December. The social media network was created by musicians for musicians to meet and collaborate together.

Drooble was founded in 2013, back when Facebook and Twitter were still experiencing explosive growth. Drooble never reached mainstream success, but it does have a userbase of around one million musicians from all over the world. CEO and Founder Melina Krumova announced the decision in an email to platform members.

“This is one of the most complex decisions I have ever made, but it’s now time to say goodbye to Drooble,” Krumova writes. “I gave all my heart to this endeavor, but now my life has taken a spiritual direction, and I need to shut down the platform.”

“For more than seven years, my team and I have been bootstrapping this project. We spent tremendous amounts of effort and resources to develop it. It was hard work all the time, but it was also fun. Building this platform from zero to one was the best time of my life,” she continues.

So what will happen next? Krumova says if there is no interest from anyone else, she will shut down the platform on December 28.

“I’d be more than happy to leave Drooble’s assets to the most suitable successor who will take the network to the next level. If you believe you are willing to step in and allocate resources, time, and effort, please mail me. I am sure there is enormous potential for growing the community. Should no developments occur till the 28th of December, then from that day on, Drooble will no longer be available.”

It’s unfortunate, but online collaboration tools have evolved heavily since 2013. This seems like a case of not having the resources to compete with other major players in the space, especially since collab tools like Zoom have taken off to facilitate easier virtual meeting spaces.

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Photo Credit: Instafest.app

Now you can create a fake festival lineup from your Spotify plays with Instafest.

If you’ve been on social media over the weekend, you’ve probably seen people posting music festival lineups based on their most-played artists on Spotify. At a glance, you might even think they’re posters for an actual music festival. But you won’t find the festival-making app that everyone is using anywhere on Spotify.

While you might expect such a feature from Spotify, which offers the eagerly anticipated year-end Spotify Wrapped playlists of your most-played songs, the festival lineups come from a free, third-party app called Instafest. With Instafest, anyone with a Spotify account can use it to generate a customized festival lineup. 

Because Instafest uses your Spotify listening data, if you’re not a frequent listener, you may not get a three-day festival like many people are posting since you may have fewer artists from which Instafest can pull. If you don’t already have a Spotify account, you can sign up for free; using the app for a while is recommended to generate enough listening data for Instafest to make a more comprehensive lineup.

Once you’ve signed into Instafest.app with your Spotify account (and reviewed the privacy agreement), you’ll be able to customize your personalized lineup. You can scroll down and select any of the options beneath ‘Customize’ to tailor it to your tastes, including changing the style of the graphic or hiding your Spotify username. You can change the artists based on your listening habits over the past four weeks, six weeks, or all-time most-listened.

When you’re happy with your festival poster, hit ‘Save and Share,’ where you can download the image if you’re using the app on a computer or share the image to social media from your smartphone. You can also save the image from the sharing screen if you’re on your phone. You can then decide how you’d like to share the graphic, whether by sharing it on your preferred social media platform or texting it directly to a friend.

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Two months after Apple announced a price increase for Apple Music–the new monthly rate is rolling out.

Apple announced in October 2022 that it would increase the price of Apple Music, Apple TV+, and the Apple One bundle. Those new prices were effective immediately for new subscribers but rolled out to current subscribers in a rolling wave. You can see the copy of the email Digital Music News received about the price increase above.

The monthly plan for Apple Music now costs $10.99, with proportional cost increases across its individual yearly and family plans. Individuals now pay $109 for their yearly Apple Music subscription. The Apple Music Family Plan now costs $16.99/month–an increase from $14.99 previously. The Apple Music Student plan even went up to $5.99/month over the summer.

Apple says the price increases are due to an increase in licensing costs so that “artists and songwriters will earn more for the streaming of their music.”

The Apple Music price increase comes on the heels of competitors doing the same. Spotify increased the price of its Family Plan in 2021 to $15.99 per month. Spotify is still charging $9.99/month for its individual plan, which is the price the service launched at over ten years ago. However, rumors abound that Spotify will revisit raising costs of its individual plans in 2023.

Spotify is even considering a new higher-priced tier, perhaps called Spotify Platinum. The tier would cost $19.99 a month and would include perks like HiFi, Studio Sound, headphone tuner, audio insights, and limited ads while listening to Spotify podcasts. It would differentiate Spotify from Apple Music in that Apple offers lossless and spatial audio features at no additional cost to its subscribers.

Spotify is hoping to bundle other features like a headphone tuner and reduced ads when listening to podcasts as an additional reason to offer a higher-priced music streaming plan. It’s unclear what the Library Pro and Playlist Pro features would bring to the table, either.

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A new report by IFPI shows that fewer people watched short-form videos (TikTok, Reels, Shorts …) with music in 2022 than last year.
In 2022, we listened to music for an average of 20.1 hours per week. Last year, the figure was 18.4 hours. Countries that clearly surpass that average include India (25.7 hours), China (28.3 hours), Indonesia (27.2 hours) and Nigeria (30.4 hours).

In an average week, we listen most to paid audio streaming services like Spotify Premium or Apple Music. Video streaming platforms like YouTube are in 2nd place, and radio still takes a notable third place globally. Overall, an average respondent listens to music in more than 6 different ways. Unfortunately, 30% of respondents still admit to using illegal sources to listen to or purchase music.

Audio streaming thus remains the most popular way to consume music and is even slightly more popular than last year. If we look at the time people spend on an audio streaming platform, it is even an increase of 10%. As many as 75% of respondents said they had used an audio streaming service (paid or free with ads) in the month before the survey (June-September 2022).

Luistermix op weekbasis - bron: IFPI

Half of those surveyed used a platform for so-called short-form videos in the month before the survey, i.e. short videos like the ones we find mainly on TikTok. Just under two-thirds (63%) of the time on those platforms was spent on music-related videos. That is an incredibly large amount and may therefore indicate that TikTok is playing a huge role in music consumption and discovery (despite mounting criticism of the royalties they pay out). At least, that is the impression we got from all the coverage over the past year. But the figures contradict that somewhat. In 2021, music-related videos still accounted for 68% of user time on TikTok and co. Whereas short-form video still accounted for 11% of the weekly mix in 2021, that dropped to 8% in 2022. Longer (music) videos, e.g. on YouTube, also did slightly less well in 2022 than the year before. So we watched fewer music-related videos on a screen, but enjoyed live concerts more again this year (from 2% in an average week in 2021 to 4% now), listened to the radio slightly more, put on our own music collection slightly more and streamed slightly more.

Finally, gaming appears to be a key driver for listening to music. 44% of gamers visited a virtual concert on a gaming platform (think Fortnite, Roblox etc.) in the 3 months prior to the survey. Gamers’ interest in virtual live music has increased significantly compared to 2021 when 33% of gamers reported having attended a concert on a gaming platform.

The full IFPI report Engaging with Music 2022 can be downloaded here.

Photo Credit: 9to5Google

YouTube Music is making several changes to the app’s appearance, including a new playlist and now playing design.

YouTube rolled out the new playlist view last month, bringing a complete redesign of the feature. For playlists, the album art is now centered with a prominent play button at the top of the list, bringing it much closer in line with Spotify’s playlist view. A three-dot menu to the right of the ‘Play’ button houses other options like building a queue.

Now YouTube has gotten around to changing how the Now Playing screen looks–while removing the dislike button.

9to5Google notes that the redesign now shows users where the song is currently playing from, whether that includes the queue, likes, playlist, radio, or an artist page. The cast button has also moved to a more familiar position at the top-right of the app. But the dislike button which appeared before the song’s title is now missing. 

Lots of people on social media are upset about the change as it begins rolling out. “It’s pathetic how afraid they are of anything that gives people the chance to express their dislike. Pretty soon, people won’t be able to downvote reviews in the Play Store, and reviews will start at three stars and only go up, not down,” one comment reads. 

Not having to initiate two different taps to begin casting music to a Chromecast device is a good change. But YouTube got lots of backlash from people when it removed the dislike button from videos too. The backlash resulted in a YouTube extension for browsers that still displays like dislike count among users of that extension. 

Removing the dislike button is pretty vestigial, anyway. Mozilla researchers found after studying inputs from 22,722 users that YouTube recommendations weren’t that influenced by the dislike button. According to that study, pressing ‘don’t recommend channel’ would only stop 43% of unwanted video recommendations, while pressing dislike only stopped 12% of them.

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