Berlin Startup Idagio Is Spotify for Classical Music Buffs – Bloomberg | Anthony S Casey Singapore

Idagio aims to do for Gluck and Grieg what other platforms have done for Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande.

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Photo illustration: 731 for Bloomberg Businessweek

The offices of Idagio GmbH have all the requisite tropes of a Berlin startup: A dog frolics in the airy industrial loft, tattooed employees park their bicycles along brick walls, and the kitchen is packed with snacks such as raw fennel and ginger. But the Steinway grand piano near the door betrays the mission of a company that moves to a soundtrack that’s more Yo-Yo Ma than Yo La Tengo: digital access to an art form that’s long remained proudly analog.

Idagio streams classical music, from Gregorian chants to the minimalist movements of Philip Glass. While the genre accounts for just 5 percent of the recorded music market, listeners tend to be affluent and loyal. But it requires an organizing structure unlike that of popular music, which is easily sorted by song, album, and artist. The classical catalog resembles a long list of cover tunes, with multiple orchestras performing the same pieces—something akin to countless, nearly identical recordings of every Beatles or Elvis song.

With so many versions of most compositions, consumers will search for Tchaikovsky using different metrics than they would for Taylor Swift: a specific orchestra or conductor, a long-forgotten recording, a favorite soloist. And the fan base might easily distinguish adagio from andante but is often clueless when it comes to apps and smartphones. “Our typical user will be somebody who asked his grandchildren to move his CD collection onto a hard drive,” says Till Janczukowicz, who co-founded Idagio in 2015 after two decades managing classical musicians.

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Janczukowicz. Photographer: Thorsten Jochim

In the casual environment of Berlin’s startup scene, Janczukowicz stands out with his slicked-back salt-and-pepper hair (vaguely reminiscent of Beethoven’s), polished Oxford brogues, gold wristwatch, and pocket square billowing from his blue blazer. Because of his decades working alongside musicians and orchestras, he says he wants to give artists a substantial share of the spoils—something many pop performers say streaming platforms don’t provide. So in contrast to the likes of Spotify, which registers a song as streamed only after 45 seconds, Idagio pays for every second a piece of music is transmitted.

Janczukowicz says his aha! moment came a few years ago in Salzburg, Austria, when he saw a man awkwardly pasting up posters for a classical concert—evidence that the industry had become outdated in reaching its target audience. In 2014 he sold his flat to fund his idea, then brought on Christoph Lange, a Berlin entrepreneur and digital savant who’d created a German streaming company that went bust. The pair spent a year looking for backers before persuading Australia’s Macquarie Group to put up some cash. After a second funding round that netted $25 million, the founders hold just over 10% of the shares. “Classical is a part of the market that big players struggle to adequately address,” says Jochen Gutbrod, a partner at Berlin venture capital firm Btov Partners AG, an early investor. “If you can own this niche, it has great potential because the genre resonates globally.”

Today Idagio has about 90 employees at its headquarters along a Berlin canal and a small outpost in Bratislava, Slovakia. The team has gathered tracks from 1,000 labels, manually writing in data such as composer, soloist, instruments, conductor, and studio or live. It now has more than 1.2 million recordings from 2,500 orchestras, 6,500 conductors, and 60,000 solo artists—all delivered in CD quality, the most complete collection of classical music offered for streaming. The service became available in the U.S. last year, and it’s increasingly popular in Japan, South Korea, Latin America, and other places where appreciating classical music is considered a hallmark of distinction by a growing middle class grasping for emblems of high culture.

The Idagio dashboard includes what the company calls a mood wheel that lets users pick modes ranging from optimistic (Brahms’s Symphony No. 1) to tragic (Mahler’s Seventh) to passionate (Schumann’s Violin Sonata No. 2). The next challenge is creating a more immersive experience, with playlists curated by artists and critics, and video clips of musicians sharing stories of memorable recordings. “Classical musicians today need to be communicators if they want to remain relevant,” Janczukowicz says.

The app is still losing money, and the company is tiny when compared with the industry’s leaders. Janczukowicz says Idagio has been downloaded more than 1 million times, though he declines to say how many people pay the $9.99 monthly fee for full access. Spotify, by contrast, just hit 100 million paid subscribers. He’s not the only player in the field: A U.S.-Dutch rival called Primephonic was founded in 2017. And while symphony orchestras are mushrooming in China, many are wilting in places such as the U.S. and Germany. “The market needs a good classical music app, because neither Spotify nor Apple can credibly claim to serve that audience,” says Alice Enders, research director at media consultant Enders Analysis Ltd. “The challenge for Idagio is to convert the CD people, who are often very attached to their libraries.”

Janczukowicz says he doesn’t have an exit strategy and that the focus for the next few years is to enrich the platform: more podcasts, live sessions at Idagio’s Berlin loft, and working with promoters to quickly release recordings of concerts. Still, he admits it won’t be easy as a niche player with limited resources. “There’s a lot we want to achieve, but you can’t do it all overnight,” he says. “We have 25 engineers for the entire service. Spotify has 200 just for iOS. That gives you a sense of what we’re up against.”

Manchester City Should Spend What It Wants on Players – Bloomberg | Anthony S Casey Singapore

If Manchester City breached UEFA’s financial fair play rules, it deserves to be punished. But those rules should probably be scrapped anyway.

Wealthy new owners should be free to throw their money around if they want to.
Wealthy new owners should be free to throw their money around if they want to. Photographer: BEN STANSALL/AFP

It’s hard to beat the unscripted theater of the Champions League, which pits Europe’s best soccer clubs and players against each other in a battle for sporting immortality and unimaginable riches. And, in fairness to the superstars, it’s been a particularly stirring tournament this year, with Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur both coming back from the dead against Barcelona and Ajax to claim their places in the final.

Right now, though, there’s some equally arresting drama happening off the field. Manchester City, one of the world’s richest clubs and the recently crowned English champions, faces a potential ban from the elite European competition. Owned by Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour, the talent-packed team could be barred for one season if the adjudicatory chamber of governing body UEFA decides it breached financial rules designed to curtail excessive spending on players.

Last year, Der Spiegel published emails revealing allegedly inflated sponsorship deals that concealed where some of the club’s money was really coming from. UEFA investigators’ decision to refer the Manchester City probe for judgment suggests there is a compelling case to answer.

Should the adjudicators find against the club, rival teams and fans will be enraged by anything less than a ban. After all, why bother complying with these so-called Financial Fair Play rules (known to everyone in the game as FFP) if there’s no ultimate sanction? The Italian club Roma, for example, claims it sold top player Mohamed Salah to Liverpool because it wouldn’t have been compliant otherwise.

UEFA’s credibility would be shattered if it just gave Manchester City another financial slap on the wrist, as has happened in the past. Der Spiegel’s reporting showed how supine the governing body was when questions about Manchester City’s and Qatari-owned Paris Saint-German’s compliance arose previously.

Manchester City says the accusations of financial irregularities are “entirely false” and its accounts “are full and complete and a matter of legal and regulatory record.” It is unlikely to back down without a protracted fight.

While it won’t find much sympathy if it loses that battle (it seems a reasonable principle that competing teams should all follow the same rule book), there is another question here: Does FFP even work for the greater good of the game? I’d argue not. It has tended to enshrine the power of already dominant teams by hobbling the capacity of up-and-comers to spend their way to the top table. In future, it might be “fairer” to weaken or scrap the break-even requirement – which allows clubs to spend only what they make in revenue – and let club owners invest how they please.

FFP was dreamt up after arriviste billionaire owners like Chelsea’s Roman Abramovich and Sheikh Mansour sparked an arms race for players. As salaries and transfer fees ballooned, a swathe of clubs made losses in the effort to keep up. Eight years since the system’s introduction, UEFA claims it has been a success and – superficially at least – the data seem to back that up. In the 2017 financial year, the 700 top division clubs in Europe made an aggregate profit for the first time and their balance sheets are in much better shape.

Sustainable Soccer

Losses and leverage have fallen since Financial Fair Play began

Source: UEFA

Shows aggregate results for the 700 top division clubs

Financial rewards haven’t been shared around, though. The top dozen clubs have added 1.6 billion euros ($1.8 billion) of sponsorship and commercial revenue over the past decade, while the next 700 have added less than 1 billion euros between them, UEFA data show. Europe’s 30 leading clubs had combined revenues of almost 10 billion euros in fiscal 2017, half of all the sales generated by the continent’s top division teams.

Because of FFP, the clubs that bring in most revenue can spend most on players and wages, meaning they’ve a much better chance of qualifying again and again for the Champions League, whose 32 participants shared 2 billion euros of proceeds between them last season. In contrast, the fair play rules have made it harder for the large cohort below to catch up because a new owner can’t just inject a wad of cash – as Abramovich and Sheikh Mansour did back in the day. In effect, the big guns used FFP to pull the ladder up.

The English Premier League is still reasonably competitive (although Manchester City appears to be challenging that notion after winning it twice in a row), thanks in part to a collectively negotiated TV deal. But elsewhere national football has become horribly predictable, as this list of recent winners shows.

Too Predictable

The Premier League remains the most competitive of the national soccer leagues

In short, instead of making football more equitable, FFP has helped make it more polarized and reinforced the power of already wealthy clubs. The system “kills competition and that’s bad for the game,” says Stefan Szymanski, a sports finance expert at the University of Michigan. As American sports fans – with their player drafts, wage caps and rich-team surcharges – understand, a lack of true rivalry is a very dull thing.

UEFA is thinking about reforming FPP and there’s no shortage of things it could do. Budget limits or U.S.-style salary caps sound appealing, but these types of intervention would invite a breakaway by the elite clubs. They are already angling to change the format of the Champions League to ensure most of them qualify automatically, thus limiting the number of qualification places to just a handful.

Another approach might be to give clubs that finish lower down a domestic league a greater share of the prize money or television receipts than the winners. However, in the U.S. similar rewards for failure have encouraged teams to deliberately lose games, in their cases to get better draft picks.

In truth, the ultra-capitalist approach of European soccer owners doesn’t really marry well with the surprisingly socialist tools used by the Americans to maintain an even playing field. So maybe it’s just better to let it rip. Softening or even getting rid of FFP altogether might be the easiest way to make things more competitive.

Would some clubs get into financial difficulties again? Almost certainly. It’s largely unheard of, though, for a leading club to go bankrupt and disappear altogether. There’s always somebody else willing to put in more cash, says Szymanski. For example, Italian club Parma went bankrupt in 2015, got relegated to the fourth division, then quickly fought its way back to the top again.

There’s no question that money already has too much influence over soccer, explaining the soulless atmosphere at many English top division games as clubs raise ticket prices and chase merchandise-loving global fans. But you can’t wind back the clock, and die-hard supporters can at least take comfort in the travails of maybe the world’s best-known soccer “super-brand:” Manchester United.

While that famous club is one of of the three biggest revenue generators in soccer, according to Deloitte, it finished a distant sixth in the England’s top division this season and failed to get past the quarter-finals of the European Champions League. PSG, Manchester City and Juventus, also failed to reach the competition’s semi-final, the latter despite signing mega-star Cristiano Ronaldo for 100 million euros. This year’s finalists, Tottenham and Liverpool, are paragons of modesty by comparison (although you’d hardly describe them as poor).

Throwing money at a soccer club still won’t buy you guaranteed success. Billionaires should be free to try though.

TikTok Is the New Music Kingmaker, and Labels Want to Get Paid – Bloomberg | Anthony S Casey Singapore

They’re seeking a better deal after they missed the rise of the social video platform and sold music rights for a flat fee.

May 10, 2019, 4:00 PM GMT+8
Lil Nas X performs onstage during the 2019 Stagecoach Festival at Empire Polo Field in Indio, Calif., on April 28, 2019. 
Lil Nas X performs onstage during the 2019 Stagecoach Festival at Empire Polo Field in Indio, Calif., on April 28, 2019. PHOTOGRAPHER: MATT WINKELMEYER/GETTY IMAGES

Fitz and the Tantrums were wrapping up the tour for their third album last year when their label, Atlantic Records, told them that their song HandClapwas climbing the charts in South Korea. “We were shocked,” says Lisa Nupoff, one of the group’s managers. The Los Angeles-based pop band had never been there, or anywhere in Asia for that matter. But by April of 2018, HandClap had topped the international charts in the world’s sixth-largest music market, outperforming Camilla Cabello’s Havana, the most popular song in the world last year. A couple months later, the song surpassed 1 billion streams in China—even more than it had received in the U.S.

Nupoff credits much of the song’s success in Asia to TikTok, a social video app that allows users to record and share short clips of pranks, dance routines, and skits set to music. The song took off in South Korea after the 1Million Dance Studio troupe recorded a video set to the song, which other users replicated in their own videos. It went viral in China after a player of the video game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegroundsuploaded a film combining gunshots of a weapon from the game with HandClap to Douyin, TikTok’s China-only equivalent. “It was just fans listening to the song, posting videos, and doing dances in their homes,” Nupoff says.

TikTok and Douyin, both owned by the Chinese startup Bytedance Ltd., are propelling songs from obscurity to ubiquity overnight, rewriting the path to stardom for some acts. While Fitz and the Tantrums had already experienced success at home, the burst of fame on TikTok persuaded the band to focus on Asia as it rolls out its new album.

The list of acts that owe sudden success to TikTok grows by the day. Lil Nas X just scored a No. 1 song on the Billboard charts—and a record deal—after his song Old Town Road went viral on TikTok. And Supa Dupa Humble, a producer from Brooklyn, doubled his daily streams. “If you can get a song on Douyin, you suddenly get a viral impact,” says Simon Robson, the head of Warner Music’s Asian operations.

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Videos of web users dancing to HandClap became a phenomenon across much of Asia.

Musicians first met TikTok as musical.ly, a lip-syncing app founded in California and Shanghai in 2014 that had amassed more than 10 million daily users—mostly teens—by the middle of 2016. Music writers labeled it the new Vine, the now defunct short-form video app owned by Twitter Inc. Bytedance, which also operates one of China’s most popular news apps, saw enough potential in short music-enhanced video that it created its own service, Douyin, later that year. Douyin attracted 100 million users in less than 12 months; a separate app, TikTok, was created for outside the mainland.

Bytedance swooped in to acquire Musical.ly in November 2017 and folded it into TikTok, centralizing the pranks—and the music licensing—under one company. The app’s popularity has since surged. TikTok has been downloaded more than 1 billion times worldwide, and is available in more than 150 markets. It was the most downloaded free app in the world for a time last year.

The app’s sudden rise caught record labels off-guard and revived an old debate in the music industry: Is this new internet service giving artists free promotion, or simply getting rich off their work? Record labels have resisted hundreds of companies, including MTV and YouTube, that wanted to offer music for free and pay little in return. As paid streaming services Spotify and Apple Music have revived record sales in recent years, labels have tried to squelch any app that offers music for free.

TikTok, however, presented a new way to promote songs. Unlike YouTube, which features full songs, TikTok lets its users include only snippets of music in their 15-second clips. So record labels licensed TikTok the rights to music for a flat fee of only tens of millions of dollars, comparable to what record labels get from Spotify each week, to test what would happen. The growth of TikTok and the news app Toutiao has boosted the valuation of Bytedance to about $75 billion, making it one of the world’s most-valuable startups. That rankles the music labels, which are still being paid under the original low-priced deal. “When I left [last year], the industry said these deals are not going to work anymore,” says John Bolton, a music executive who helped Bytedance strike its previous deals with music companies. “It sounds like that still has not been figured out.”

Labels are now asking Bytedance for hundreds of millions of dollars in guaranteed licensing payments, and they’ve threatened to pull their music from the app’s library if they aren’t rewarded.

TikTok would be rather boring without music, says Yang Lu, the general manger of music for Bytedance, which is now planning its own paid music service. But he’s quick to add that the app has been beneficial to the music industry, by creating programs to support independent artists in China, Japan, and South Korea, and has teamed up with labels around the world to help promote releases. And there’s little question that Bytedance’s apps motivate music lovers: On any given day, as many as half the songs in the top 10 on Chinese music services have been made popular by TikTok or Douyin. “We are not a music promotion app,” Lu says. “But we did happen to have a huge impact on music promotion. We are a very positive force.”

Many artists agree. Supa Dupa Humble promoted his song Steppin on Instagram when he first released it in 2017. The track garnered more than 3 million streams, enough to earn Supa, whose real name is Tarique St. Juste, a deal with Roc Nation, an entertainment company founded by hip-hop mogul Jay-Z. Supa had never heard of TikTok when he first learned his song was going viral, but daily streams of Steppin on music services more than doubled as soon as people started including it on videos on the app. The song has since been streamed more than 19 million times. “It’s a meme world,” he says. “TikTok exposed us to a whole new set of fans.”

The challenge for artists like Supa is figuring out how to capitalize on that growth. HandClap was a hit before it got to China, reaching the top five on the alternative and rock charts in the U.S. in July 2016; it’s Fitz and the Tantrums’ first song to go double platinum. But it didn’t start to gather fans in South Korea until almost two years after its U.S. release. Listeners in South Korea and China know HandClapfrom watching app clips, but many have never heard of Fitz and the Tantrums.

The band will now travel to Asia in conjunction with the release of its fourth album. Nupoff has been working closely with Warner’s labels in South Korea and China to build relationships with streaming services in the region. “2018 was the year China and Korea exploded,” she says, “and 2019 is when we hope to harness it.”

Guns N’ Roses Sues Colorado Brewery Over Guns N’ Rosé Beer – Bloomberg | Anthony S Casey Singapore

Guns N' Roses performs with singer Myles Kennedy after their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland in 2012. 
Guns N’ Roses performs with singer Myles Kennedy after their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland in 2012. Photographer: Tony Dejak/AP

Los Angeles (AP) — The rock band Guns N’ Roses is accusing a Colorado brewery of piggybacking off their fame to sell beer and merchandise.

The band filed a trademark infringement lawsuit Thursday against Colorado-based Oskar Blues Brewery, which sells Guns ‘N’ Rosé beer and merchandise and bandannas the group says are associated with singer Axl Rose.

The complaint says Oskar Blues applied to trademark Guns ‘N’ Rosé last year and abandoned the effort after the band objected.

The lawsuit says the brewery is still selling the beer and the merchandise.

The band wants a court order blocking the brewery from misappropriating its name, destroying the products and turning over profits from Guns ‘N’ Rosé and other monetary awards.

Oskar Blues marketing director Kyle Ingram did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment.

Ajax Shares Fall 21% as Spurs Snatch Final Spot With Late Winner – Bloomberg | Anthony S Casey Singapore

Shares of AFC Ajax NV tumbled after the Dutch soccer team missed out on its first Champions League final since 1996 following an agonizing last-gasp defeat to England’s Tottenham Hotspur.

Brazilian Lucas Moura completed a sensational hat-trick in the ninety-sixth minute of play in Amsterdam to wipe out two first half Ajax goals and send the English Premier League side to the final by virtue of scoring more away goals, with the teams tied 3-3 across two games.

Ajax’s stock fell as much as 21% in early Amsterdam trading, erasing a rally of about the same amount that followed the team’s 1-0 win in London last week. Defeat cost the club at least an extra 15 million euros ($16.8 million) in prize money, equal to about 16% of its 2018 adjusted revenue.

But despite crashing out of the competition in the cruelest manner, Ajax shares remain up about 52% over the past year. In addition to an increased share of tournament revenue awarded by European governing body UEFA, the unexpected run to the semi-finals has put the side back among European soccer’s elite, which will likely give it added leverage when negotiating commercial deals with sponsors.

Stock pares recent gain as team misses out on Champions League final
It’s also fueled speculation of big transfer payments as other teams come scouting for Ajax’s young stars. FC Barcelona have already snapped up 21-year-old midfielder Frenkie de Jong for 75 million euros.

Music Finance Note Is Born! We are featured on Bloomberg!

Rich Asians Turn to Music After Betting on Soccer Craze

Asia’s legions of wealthy investors are getting a chance to profit from the boom in music streaming as Spotify and its peers gain popularity.

Swiss-Asia Holding Pte, which previously marketed soccer-linked notes to clients, aims to raise $100 million for securities linked to royalties generated from song rights, according to Anthony S. Casey, investment manager for the Singapore-based company. Investors in the soccer product — notes backed by soccer clubs’ TV rights — are expected to switch to the new security now that the old ones have matured, he said.
The Music notes have already been bought by DBS Private Bank, Julius Baer Group Ltd. and Bank of Singapore for Asian clients. Even as rising interest rates present wealthy people with more options for investment, there’s still demand to diversify into alternative assets that aren’t correlated to broader market volatility.Read full article here:
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-10-03/asia-millionaires-groove-to-disco-after-betting-on-soccer-craze

Friends of University of Warwick Singapore Fundraising Auction!

Glad to be involved in this project to fund these kids to school. Proud to be part of the future of the next generation!

  • Anthony S Casey Singapore
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Updates From the Warwick Scholarships Beneficiaries!

2018 has been a great year so far for my scholarship beneficiaries.  Seeing students like Jess and Edward doing well is genuinely heartening and makes the reason to support such causes worth well.

To more future sponsorships ahead!

– Anthony S Casey, Singapore

IMG_2404 IMG_2405 IMG_4903 IMG_2297IMG_2298Letter from Warwick (Jess)Letter from Warwick (Edward)

Pioneering A New Investment

Anthony S Casey Singapore

Anthony S. Casey of Swiss Asia explains the firm’s offering of the Football Finance Note, and how it provides Asia’s wealthy with the opportunity to buy into English and European soccer. The next step is a similar product for other sports such as cricket, tennis, golf and more.