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Music Business News, February 27, 2018

Liberty Media offered to acquire 40-percent of a financially-strapped iHeart Media. Also, Amazon ended its live ticketing initiative in the UK. And music festivals worldwide pledged for more gender-equal line-ups by 2022.


SiriusXM Parent Company Proposing Big Stake in iHeart Radio


SiriusXM’s parent company, Liberty Media presented a proposal to grab a 40-percent stake in iHeartMedia.


InsideRadio reported that this cash infusion would give Liberty four seats on the company’s board of directors. The proposal also suggested that Liberty invest $1.159 billion in cash in iHeart, and the stake would be split equally between Liberty and SiriusXM Radio.


iHeart is at the end of a grace period from a skipped loan payment. The grace period will expire later this week. An iHeart spokesperson did not comment on the bid, but insiders noted that this bid is likely one of several that investors will make as iHeart considers a potential chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization with lenders.


The offer was revealed as part of a press release issued by a handful of iHeart’s lenders and noteholders on February 26. They said they got a proposed term sheet from Liberty on February 24 that includes a few “to be determined” terms.


Experts noted that this public sharing of the deal prior to specifics may be an attempt by lenders to push iHeart into seriously considering it. If iHeart decides to accept Liberty’s offer, it will have to “use reasonable efforts” to get the bankruptcy courts to approve the acquisition. Liberty also said its offer is dependent upon an approved chapter 11 bankruptcy plan.


The term sheet features several claims that will need to be negotiated in order for liberty to acquire a stake in iHeart. iHeart would also have to get collateral cash or get financing that is acceptable to its existing creditors and Liberty. Liberty stated that its offer “is intended to work in concert with the Company’s existing Restructuring Support Agreement discussions and in effect be added to that Plan.”


Liberty’s proposal stipulates that iHeart’s Clear Channel Outdoor business would be part of the deal. The investment would also give iHeart a nine-member board of directors, with Liberty and iHeart each appointing four. The offer also includes a “no shop” promise by iHeart.


Liberty’s proposal does not discuss whether or not federal regulators would approve the company acquiring a 40-percent stake in the largest group owner in the radio industry while also holding a majority interest in Sirius XM, the country’s only satellite radio provider. Liberty owns 69-percent of SiriusXM and 34-percent of Live Nation.


Amazon Ending UK Ticketing Business … for Now


Amazon said it will discontinue its UK ticketing business. However, Billboard noted that the online retail giant might be readying a relaunch in 2019, tied to technology including Amazon Echo and Firestick.


Amazon has been working with London ticketing software firm Ingresso to sell tickets online in the UK. However, in December 2017, officials started meeting with show producers at its headquarters in Seattle, indicating they wanted to phase out the existing ticketing programs and launch a new one that ties into its own devices: the voice-activated Echo speaker; the Firestick TV streaming device; the personal assistant Software Alexa, which may make looking for tickets easier for users.


Insiders indicated that Amazon is proposing starting the new ticketing service in Q1 of 2019, though this has not been officially confirmed.


An Amazon spokesperson did not confirm the speculations about the new ticketing platform, but issued the following statement: “We are closing Amazon Tickets; however, all tickets purchased by customers at any time remain valid.”


Amazon Tickets’ category director for music, James Moore also sent an email to its show partners explaining, “Amazon has taken the decision to close Amazon Tickets and today (Feb. 21) will commence the process of marking back to you any tickets currently on our website and of ceasing the sale of new tickets.”


Amazon has had a few false starts in the ticketing space. It stopped efforts to launch a ticket service in the U.S. in 2017 when it was unable to strike up a deal with Live Nation/Ticketmaster for tickets to major tours and events.


Because there are no exclusive venue contracts in the UK, Amazon made deals with a few major British promoters and then offered itself up as a third-party distributor of tickets. The company was somewhat successful at selling tickets and also started a Prime Events division with events by artists such as Blondie and others. However, Amazon’s attempts to launch in the U.S. fell short when it could not find common ground with Ticketmaster.


Amazon also disagreed with Live Nation on data sharing. Amazon did not want to share purchasing data and contact information for 85 million Prime subscribers with Live Nation, so talks ended. Amazon U.K.’s GM of tickets, Geraldine Wilson and its Amazon Prime live events director, Jason Carter left the company in November 2017.


Music Festivals Pledging for More Gender-Equal Lineups


A sizable group of music festivals and conferences worldwide pledged to pursue or keep gender-equal lineups by 2022, according to NME.


The news comes as the PRS Foundation launched the International Keychange initiative. The goal of the initiative is to improve gender equality at festivals, conferences and residencies during the next four years. So far, 45 festivals and conferences have signed the pledge.


Those participating include Brighton’s The Great Escape, Iceland Airwaves, Way Out West and Tallinn Music Week. Festivals in the UK who are taking the pledge are Blissfields, Kendal Calling, Liverpool Sound City, Sŵn Festival, Roundhouse Rising, BBC Music Introducing and the BBC Proms.


A series of international festivals have also jumped on board, including By:Larm (Norway), Canadian Music Week, North by North East (Canada), Winter Jazzfest and A2IM Indie Week in the U.S. and more.


Vanessa Reed, PRS Foundation CEO said, “We support diverse talent across every program we run at PRS Foundation. 40-percent of our grantees in 2017 were from a BAME background and 53-percent featured female artists. Our focus on gender equality in 2018 aligns with the centenary for some women being given the vote in the UK. 100 years on, the push for gender parity across society continues and with increased public awareness of inequalities across the creative industries we have an opportunity to respond and commit to tangible change in music.”


She continued, “The Keychange network of female artists and industry professionals and the festival partners’ idea of establishing a collective pledge will significantly accelerate change. I hope that this will be the start of a more balanced industry which will result in benefits for everyone.”


Several well-known artists are Ambassadors of Keychange, including Shirley Manson, Hinds, Tony Visconti (David Bowie) as well as the organizer of the Glastonbury, Emily Eavis.

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