Music News

Bette Midler set for special performance at New York Pride. Bette Midler is set to appear at New York's Pride Main Event this Saturday at the Javits Center. In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, she'll perform a song accompanied by composer Marc Shaiman, of "Hairspray" and "Mary Poppins Returns" fame. Her stage time is set for 11 p.m. Also scheduled to perform at the the WorldPride celebration is Cyndi Lauper, Beyonce's choreographer Chris Grant, and a special percussion, dance and visual celebration of the theatrical phenomenon STOMP, which marks its 25th year in New York in 2019. Billed as the biggest Pride charity event in history, the Jacob Javits Center is a 1.8 million square-foot space on the west side of Manhattan between 34th and 40th Streets and 11th and 12th Avenues. WE Pride The Main Event is produced by Jake Resnicow who said, "The 50th anniversary of Stonewall will bring millions of people from all over the world to New York this Pride. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to celebrate our progress while working towards a better future. It will allow everyone to come together on one dance floor, in the city that started it all." All net proceeds will benefit prominent LGBTQ charities, including the Stonewall Inn Gives Back Initiative and LIFEBeat. (PageSix)

'The Cher Show' to End Broadway Run. Despite winning Tony Awards for lead actress Stephanie J. Block and costume designer Bob Mackie, the bio-musical has fallen short of commercial expectations. To quote the closing line of The Cher Show: "You haven't seen the last of me." That may be so, but as far as Broadway is concerned, it's over. The glitzy bio-musical written by Rick Elice and directed by Jason Moore will play its final show Aug. 18 at the Neil Simon Theatre, following a run of 34 previews and 296 regular performances. Produced by Cher, Flody Suarez and Jeffrey Seller, for whom it was the follow-up project to Hamilton, The Cher Show opened Dec. 3 to mixed reviews and has been slipping at the box office after doing $1 million-plus a week in its first three months. Last week the production played to 58 percent of its gross potential, with cumulative box office to date of $32.8 million. While that figure is more than respectable, producers obviously are looking at diminishing advance sales and cutting their losses before the summer tourist season is done. The show stars Stephanie J. Block, Teal Wicks and Broadway newcomer Micaela Diamond as Cher at three points in her life, with Jarrod Spector as Sonny Bono. Block won a 2019 Tony Award for best performance by a lead actress in a musical for her role, while veteran costume designer Bob Mackie -- who figures as a character in the show, played by Michael Berresse -- also took home his first win. Producers have announced that a national tour will kick off in Rochester, N.Y., in October 2020. "Telling Cher's life story on Broadway has been a joy," said Suarez in a statement. "Watching audiences relive her empowering story through six decades worth of iconic songs, movies, costumes and relationships has been incredible. We look forward to taking this inspiring message on the road next year. We are incredibly thankful to this brilliant cast and crew." The Cher Show closing is the latest in a pileup of post-Tonys casualties, swiftly following the announcement that King Kong also will close Aug. 18. Other new musicals from the 2018-19 season calling it quits are The Prom and Be More Chill, both playing their final performance Aug. 11, while three major plays ended their limited engagements a month or more ahead of schedule due to soft business -- the King Lear revival starring Glenda Jackson; Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus, with Nathan Lane; and Hillary and Clinton, starring Laurie Metcalf and John Lithgow as the political power couple. The spate of closings frees up some prime real estate for incoming shows in the 2019-20 season, which got underway May 30 with the opening of Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, starring Audra McDonald and Michael Shannon. Up next is the eagerly anticipated Moulin Rouge! The Musical, which begins previews Friday at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre. (Hollywood Reporter)

South Africa's Ndlovu Youth Choir Unleashes Emotional Performance on 'AGT'. With 11 official national languages and a healthy obsession with sport and music, South Africa's artist community is as diverse and colorful as the Rainbow Nation itself. The country that gave us Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Johnny Clegg, Lucky Dube, Freshly ground and 2019 BET Award winner Sho Madjozi has no shortage of talent just waiting to be unearthed and shared with the rest of the planet. That was made crystal clear during Tuesday night's America's Got Talent, when The Ndlovu Youth Choir hit the stage. Hailing from Limpopo and led by artistic director Ralf Schmitt, the choir provides a creative outlet for young talent from difficult backgrounds. "Whey they join us, many of our kids have the weight of the world on their shoulders, and to them their problems feel insurmountable," Schmitt said in a taped segment. Last year, they enjoyed international attention with a cover of Ed Sheeran's "Shape of You," which has clocked up millions of hits on YouTube. The choir is currently celebrating its 10th anniversary. And they partied on the AGT stage with an original work, "My African Dream." The piece expresses "hopes and dreams," Schmitt explained, "and our dream is to let children around the world know, just because you're born into poverty it doesn't mean you are poverty." It was a dream performance, culminating in a standing ovation and admiration from the four judges who spoke warmly of the joy, magic and beauty of what they just witnessed. "We've always been waiting for a choir like this, something we've never heard before," Simon Cowell remarked. "And your energy was literally bouncing off me right there. It was a great audition and you I'm going to remember." (Billboard)

Sebastian Maniscalco to Host 2019 MTV VMAs. The 2019 MTV VMAs are just two months away, and the network announced on Wednesday (June 26) that Sebastian Maniscalco will be hosting the award show. "We're thrilled to have the incredibly talented Sebastian Maniscalco as this year's VMA host," said Bruce Gillmer, VMAs executive producer and global head of music and talent, Viacom and co-brand head, MTV International. "Sebastian is on FIRE right now and his comedic spin on relatable topics will make this year's show truly unforgettable." Maniscalco was Billboard's 2018 Comedian of the Year and was included on Forbes' World's Highest Paid Comedian's list in 2017 and 2018. Along with his 2019 tour, the actor will also appear this year in the Martin Scorsese film, The Irishman, alongside Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci. The 2019 VMAs will air live from the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, on Monday, August 26 at 9 p.m. EST/PST on MTV. (Billboard)

TJ Martell Foundation Sets 44th New York Honors Gala, Will Honor Michael Kushner, Mike O'Neill and Sarah Trahern. The T.J. Martell Foundation, the national non-profit charity that provides funds for innovative cancer research, will fete Atlantic Records' Michael Kushner, BMI's Mike O'Neill, and Country Music Assn's Sarah Trahern at its 44th Annual New York Honors Gala, due to take place this October in New York City. Kushner, Atlantic Records executive VP, business & legal affairs and general counsel, has been part of the record company's senior executive team since 2001. A board member of the arts organization Bang on a Can who has served for the past two years as chairman of the Entertainment Law Initiative, Kushner oversees all business affairs and legal functions for Atlantic Records. With O'Neill at the helm of BMI as president and CEO, the organization reported its highest-ever revenue and distributions to affiliated songwriters, composers, and publishers. A 24-year BMI veteran, O'Neill also played a critical role in BMI's historic victory over the U.S. Department of Justice to ensure the continued practice of fractional licensing. Also lauded on the night will be Trahern, a music and TV veteran with 27 years' experience who serves as president of the CMA, based in Nashville, Tennessee. Prior to joining the trade body in 2014, Trahern was senior VP and GM of Scripps Networks Interactive Great American Country (GAC). Also, she has owned her own production company, Sterling Television, worked in programming at PBS, and is regularly featured in Billboard's "Power Player" lists. She was inducted into the 2018 Academy for Women of Achievement (AWA). The gala will take place Oct. 15 at Cipriani 42nd Street, with as yet-unannounced celebrities set to perform and present awards. The Honors Gala is the foundation's primary fundraiser of the year, supporting its mission of funding innovative medical research and treatments focused on finding a cure for cancer. The music industry's long-time support of the T.J. Martell Foundation dates to 1975 when music executive Tony Martell established the organization in memory of his son, T.J., who was lost to leukemia at the age of 19. "Since then," explains Joel Katz, chairman of the National Board of Trustees, "more than $280 million has been raised for ground-breaking treatment and support of cancer-related illnesses." For more information visit www.honorsgalanewyork.org. (Billboard)

NMPA Strikes Back at Peloton's Counter-Claim In Workout Video Lawsuit. The trade association for music publishers denies accusations of anti-competitive activity by the exercise-bike manufacturer. Over a dozen music publishers involved in a $150 million copyright infringement lawsuit against exercise-bike manufacturer Peloton are denying that they conspired with the trade organization National Music Publishers Assn (NMPA) to collude against the company, according to documents filed in New York federal court on Monday (June 24). Monday's filing is the latest development in the ongoing legal tussle between the independent publishers and Peloton, which manufactures exercise bikes with built-in touchscreens through which thousands of instructor-led classes -- most of which include curated song playlists -- can be streamed. In their original lawsuit filed back in March, the publishers alleged that Peloton had willfully infringed their copyrights by using over 1,000 copyrighted musical compositions without obtaining the necessary sync licenses. Peloton responded to that lawsuit in April by filing a counter-claim against the publishers, alleging that they had engaged in anti-competitive behavior by teaming up against the company in "a coordinated effort...to fix prices and to engage in a concerted refusal to deal with Peloton." They also accused the NMPA of "tortious interference" that prevented Peloton from making deals with the individual publishers, which include Downtown Music Publishing, Pulse Music Publishing, ole, peer music, Ultra Music, Big Deal Music, Reservoir, Round Hill, TRO Essex Music Group and The Royalty Network. The Monday filing, a motion to dismiss Peloton's counterclaim, accuses Peloton of resorting to the "timeworn tactic of asserting a baseless antitrust counterclaim" against the publishers in response to their original suit. They allege that Peloton's counterclaim fails to establish either collusion on the part of the publishers or interference on the part of the NMPA and should therefore "be dismissed in their entirety with prejudice." A cornerstone of the publishers' argument against Peloton's claims of collusion comes from the Noerr-Pennington doctrine, which immunizes businesses against anti-trust liability when filing good faith lawsuits against competitors. "Under the Noerr-Pennington doctrine, the plaintiffs have the right to join together to prosecute their claims of copyright infringement, even if such conduct could be considered anticompetitive, as long as the litigation is not a 'sham,'" reads the June 24 motion. "Beyond the allegation that the 'Coordinating Publishers' all cut off negotiations at the same time, Peloton has alleged no facts circumstantially raising an inference of collusion," the motion continues. "It focuses on the 'Coordinating Publishers'' participation in the same trade association... but mere participation in trade associations and industry events is not, by itself, evidence of collusion." Peloton's claims of antitrust activity are additionally disputed by the publishers on the grounds that Peloton has failed to establish that its streaming service is dependent upon the musical compositions that are owned either in whole or in part by the publishers. "Peloton makes no allegation showing plausibly why the rights owned by the 'Coordinating Publishers' -- each an independent publisher not affiliated with a major record label -- are not substitutable for rights owned by other publishers, including the major and independent publishers with whom Peloton has licenses," the motion reads. The motion additionally disputes Peloton's "tortious interference" claim by stating that because the NMPA was motivated by the economic interests of its member companies and not solely by the intention of inflicting harm on Peloton, its conduct "cannot constitute intentional infliction of harm" under New York law "unless it is fraudulent or criminal." It additionally claims that Peloton failed to "identify a single license agreement with any of the Publishers that it 'would have entered into' but for NMPA's conduct." The NMPA further points to the agreements Peloton has reached with publishers "who had initially been a part of the group NMPA had purportedly represented" to undercut its argument that the NMPA placed "extreme and unfair economic pressure" on music publishers not to sign individual deals. Music allegedly used without permission by Peloton includes songs by such artists as Rihanna, Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Justin Timberlake, Shawn Mendes, Ed Sheeran, Wiz Khalifa, Thomas Rhett, Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, Florida Georgia Line, Drake, Gwen Stefani and more. Peloton, which offers its subscribers access to a library of over 13,000 workout videos, was recently valued at $4 billion. The company claims that it has entered into license agreements with -- and is paying -- all "major" publishers, several independent publishers and every performing rights organization that represents the songwriters and publishers whose music is featured in the company's videos. Shortly after the original lawsuit was filed, Peloton began videos featuring songs named in the filing "out of an abundance of caution," according to Peloton founder and CEO John Foley. After the counterclaim was filed, NMPA executive vp and general counsel Danielle Aguirre told Billboard, "Peloton's countersuit has no merit and is an attempt to divert attention from the fact that it has been operating without sufficient licenses for years in order to build its multibillion dollar business. The NMPA routinely defends the interests of its members' copyrights in order to protect their value, prevent future infringement and to seek damages to which they are entitled under the law when their property has been stolen. Peloton's countersuit is further evidence that it does not value its relationship with the music industry but is instead hostile to the people without which it could not have built its thriving business. We will continue to fight for the rights of music creators until they are paid what they deserve." Billboard reached out to the NMPA and Peloton for additional comment but had not heard back as of press time. (Billboard)

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