Apple Moving to Spaceship-Like Headquarters in April

Apple’s new world headquarters, a 2.8 million-square-foot glass spaceship in the middle of California’s Santa Clara Valley, will be ready for the tech giant’s employees in April, it was announced on Wednesday. Known as Apple Park, the 175-acre campus will eventually be the workplace of more than 12,000 employees.

The facility is powered by 100 percent renewable energy, with enough rooftop solar to “run one of the largest on-site solar energy installations in the world,” the company said. It also features a ventilation system that is projected to help the building require no air conditioning or heating for nine months of the year.

The open-air center of the facility contains parklands with an orchard, meadow and pond, plus two miles of walking/running paths for Apple employees. The HQ’s 1,000-seat auditorium will be named the Steve Jobs Theater when it opens later this year. There’s also a visitors center with an Apple Store and cafe.

“Steve’s vision for Apple stretched far beyond his time with us. He intended Apple Park to be the home of innovation for generations to come,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “The workspaces and parklands are designed to inspire our team as well as benefit the environment. We’ve achieved one of the most energy-efficient buildings in the world and the campus will run entirely on renewable energy.”

Apple Park is about a 5 minute drive — or a 30 minute walk — from the company’s current headquarters in Cupertino (zoom out in the below map — the current HQ is on the left).

23 New or Renovated Venues Looking to Lure This Year’s Top-Selling Tours

From Brooklyn to San Francisco, these halls are vying for top acts like Billy Joel, Luke Bryan and Metallica.

The concert business in North America generated more than $3.5 billion in gross ticket sales in 2016, according to Billboard Boxscore. Those dollars have the greatest economic impact in cities that boast the most successful music facilities, so investment in the development or refurbishment of facilities pays off.

Here are 23 of the most notable new and renovated concert venues vying for the year’s top-selling tours.

Washington, D.C.
Concert capacity: 6,000

The most welcome news in 2017 from the nation’s capital comes from I.M.P. Productions, which owns the city’s famed 9:30 Club and operates D.C.’s Lincoln Theater and Maryland’s Merriweather Post Pavilion. I.M.P. in October will open The Anthem, a venue with a flexible capacity of 2,500 to 6,000. It will be part of The Wharf, a $2 billion mixed-use development rising on the banks of the Potomac River, south of the National Mall.

San Antonio
Concert capacity: 17,000

Home to the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs, the AT&T Center has received more than $110 million in renovations, including new infrastructure, amenities, bars, restaurants and the upgrading of all seats in the hall. Theater-style boxes, with a private dining area and bar, overlook the arena bowl on the terrace level. The center started 2017 with the first show of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ The Getaway Tour.

Concert capacity: 19,000

Barclays Center welcomed visitors this past year to its renovated Billboard-branded lounge and hosted the final U.S. show of Bruce Springsteen’s River Tour on April 25, 2016, for a crowd exceeding 18,000, a new record for the building. Two months before the concert, the arena emailed fans to gather stories about their favorite “Bruce Moment” to collect as a book for the singer. When Springsteen was late to his sound check, he was found in his dressing room reading the tales.

San Francisco
Concert capacity: 18,000

A Jan. 17 groundbreaking signaled the start of construction on the Chase Center in San Francisco’s Mission Bay neighborhood. The center is due to open in time for the 2019-2020 NBA season as the new home of the Golden State Warriors. For a city with a rich history of live music, it also will be the first concert venue larger than 10,000 seats within San Francisco proper.

Jacksonville, Fla.
Concert capacity: 5,500

Daily’s Place amphitheater is adjacent to EverBank Field, home of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars and part of the city’s entertainment district. The venue’s design fills the need for a midsize music facility in the north Florida market. Jacksonville’s own Tedeschi Trucks Band will play the first show there on May 27.

Concert capacity: 4,800

Built as an expansion of the beachside, landmarked 1923 Childs Restaurant, the Ford Amphitheater opened in the summer of 2016 with 46 events in its first season. The Beach Boys played a Fourth of July show amid the sound of the nearby waves.

Los Angeles
Concert capacity: 5,900

Under new management by venue firm SMG, the historic 1926 amphitheater in Griffith Park has received such improvements as a new plaza bar, upgraded suites, Wi-Fi and LED video screens, and menu options with California cuisine.

Sacramento, Calif.
Concert capacity: 15,000

The Golden 1 Center, which is completely solar-powered, is the nation’s first indoor arena to earn LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for its state-of-the-art environmental design. Sustainability also marks the building’s “farm to court” concessions: 90 percent of food served is sourced within 150 miles of the center.

​Bristow, Va.
Concert capacity: 22,600

Jiffy Lube Live, an outdoor amphitheater located 40 miles west of Washington, D.C., has added a new VIP space, The Dominion, with premier seating and dining options, on the upper level of its grandstand.  In September 2016, the venue became the first to host Willie Nelson’s annual Farm Aid benefit for a third time.

Columbia, Md.
Concert capacity: 18,000

Located between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, the Merriweather Post Pavilion has a new 82-foot proscenium stage opening and $21 million in backstage renovations, including a swimming pool for artists, a private outdoor lounge with a stone fireplace and a band VIP suite with a balcony overlooking the performances.

Concert capacity: 20,000

Michigan’s own Kid Rock not only agreed to play the first concerts at Detroit’s Little Caesars Arena when the venue opens in September — the rap-rocker joined hard-hatted construction crews and arena developer Christopher Ilitch for a preview of the hall in January. “It means a lot to me to be the first act,” said Rock, “bigger than me just playing a show.”

Uniondale, N.Y.
Concert capacity: 14,500

Reopening with an April 5 show by local hero Billy Joel, the venue has been redeveloped by Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, which runs Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. The arena will offer artists luxury backstage quarters customized with one of four regional-flavored themes: Manhattan Modern, Gatsby’s Gold Coast, The Polo Club and Hampton Chic.

​Wantaugh, N.Y.
Concert capacity: 14,000

In a unique oceanview location, within a New York State park, close to miles of beaches, the Jones Beach Theater has hosted summer performances since the early 1950s.  This season brings a new title sponsor, Northwell Health, to the historic amphitheater.

Edmonton, Alberta
Concert capacity: 20,700

Keith Urban, who played the -opening-night show at Rogers Place on Sept. 16, called the new venue “one of the best-sounding arenas I have played in.” Designed for concerts as well as the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers, Rogers Place incorporates advanced acoustic treatments in its interior.

Sugar Land, Texas
Concert capacity: 6,400

Moveable walls and curtain systems allow the Smart Financial Centre, which is 20 miles from Houston, to customize its capacity from 1,950 to 6,400 seats. “What a life you’re living here in Sugar Land,” declared comedian Jerry Seinfeld at the venue’s grand opening on Jan. 14.

Gainesville, Fla.
Concert capacity: 10,000

With a new naming sponsorship
from medical equipment firm Exactech for its arena, the O’Connell Center on the University of Florida campus serves a market with 50,000 students. The venue has undergone a $64.5 million renovation that includes a new entryway, expanded concessions, VIP seating with access to private dining areas and high-end video screens.

Tacoma, Wash.
Concert capacity: 23,000

In November 2016, city officials OK’d a $21.3 million renovation of the Tacoma Dome that will bring new seating, redone restrooms, backstage and loading dock upgrades, and even a new exterior paint job for the 23-year-old arena. Work will proceed around upcoming 2017 bookings, including a Feb. 25 show by Blake Shelton.

Concert capacity: 19,250

The downtown Target Center began its $138 million renovation in spring 2016, amid continued bookings by acts including The Who, Paul McCartney and Garth Brooks. But the arena will temporarily shut its doors this summer to reconstruct its lobby, improve concourse areas and add luxury club spaces. The Target Center expects to complete renovations by the fall.

Albany, N.Y.
Concert capacity: 17,500 (center stage)

A three-story entryway waterfall is one highlight of the renovation of the Times Union Center, set for completion in September. The adjacent Albany Capital Center is an 80,000-square-foot convention facility that can stage general-admission shows for up to 3,500 fans.

Tucson, Ariz.
Concert capacity: 8,400

A seven-day-a-week work schedule allowed a $3.7 million upgrade of the Tuscon Arena to reach completion by Oct. 1, 2016 without bumping any scheduled events.  The arena, part of the Tuscon Convention Center Complex, is the largest venue in its market, drawing fans from throughout southern Arizona and northern Mexico.

Concert capacity: 52,000

The newest field in the NFL, located in downtown Minneapolis, U.S. Bank Stadium has already proven its mettle as a concert venue, hosting Luke Bryan’s Kill The Lights Tour, with Little Big Town and Dustin Lynch, on Aug. 19, 2016, followed by Metallica, with Avenged Sevenfold and Volbeat the following night.  The two tours shared the same stage structure for the back-to-back sold-out shows.

Salt Lake City, Utah
Concert capacity: 20,000

The 25-year-old home of the NBA’s Utah Jazz is undergoing a $125 million renovation that includes redesigned concourses, more VIP areas and a new 12,000-square-foot lobby.  The arena, the largest in a five-state area, will present Billy Joel Nov. 29 in his first Salt Lake City show in a decade.

Concert capacity: 21,000

One lasting impact of the Democratic National Convention held in 2016 at Wells Fargo Center is the creation of improved premium-seating areas. Luxury suites revamped for TV news crews during the convention were rebuilt afterward with better sight lines and decor. The work was part of an $18 million overall renovation of the 20-year-old arena, which so far in 2017 has hosted performances by Eric Church and Kings of Leon.

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 25 issue of Billboard.

SoundCloud Loses Pair of Execs, Slams Claim It Is ‘Begging’ for Funds

SoundCloud has lost two high level executives in what could be a collar-pulling year for the Berlin-based streaming platform. On Monday, the company confirmed with the Financial Times that chief operating officer Marc Strigel and finance director Markus Harder have departed. “After five or so years, they felt it was time to move on to new adventures,” a spokesperson said.

But the FT added some vinegar to what could’ve been a ho-hum staffing report by quoting an anonymous “German financier” as saying the company is out there “begging for money” from investors. The source added, “but I wouldn’t give them any right now… they need to rethink their valuation and settle for a [lower valued] round.”

SoundCloud is indeed seeking funds — startups do that — and in a financial filing in January, co-founder Alexander Ljung did warn that, while they believe they’ve got enough in the bank to meet obligations through year’s end, certain “risks and uncertainties may cause the company to run out of cash earlier than that date, and would require the Group to raise additional funds which are not currently planned.”

A SoundCloud spokesperson responded to the “begging” accusation in a new statement, saying the company is currently fundraising like “most startups of our size and in our phase of growth.” The rep added, “That the Financial Times would compromise its journalistic standards to include an anonymous quote characterizing this normal course fundraising as ‘desperation’ is disappointing and surprising for a newspaper of record.”

SoundCloud said Strigel and Harder’s departures are “unrelated to our normal course of fundraising efforts, which are being led by our recently appointed Chief Financial Officer, Holly Lim. SoundCloud remains in a position of strength and is confident in its long-term prospects as it continues to be the go to platform for the creative community.”

Founded in 2007 by Ljung and Eric Wahlforss, SoundCloud has raised over $193 million in six funding rounds, the latest led by Twitter, according to CrunchBase. The company launched its on-demand streaming service Go in March of last year, and a few months later was rumored to be seeking prospective buyers.

Twitter Fourth-Quarter Earnings Beat Estimates, Revenue Falls Short

Twitter on Thursday beat analysts’ expectations for earnings per share in its fourth quarter before the opening bell, but missed revenue estimates, prompting a steep fall in its stock price in pre-market trading.

The San Francisco-based company, led by CEO Jack Dorsey, reported adjusted earnings of 16 cents per share on revenue of $717 million, up from a year-earlier $710.5 million.

Analysts had forecast per-share earnings of 12 cents on revenue of $737 million from the 140-character messaging service often used by U.S. President Donald Trump to get round traditional media filter to reach his over 24 million Twitter followers.

“The President’s use of Twitter has broadened the awareness of how the platform can be used, and it shows the power of Twitter. When he (Trump) tweets, it sparks conversation and discussion,” Dorsey told analysts during a morning call.

At the same time, Dorsey said Trump’s personal use of Twitter was not driving growth in active engagement. “We don’t see a benefit to the top of the funnel from all of the activity during the election period,” he said, recalling the latest financial quarter when Twitter partnered with Bloomberg, BuzzFeed News and PBS Newshour to offer live coverage of the 2016 election debates, election night and the inauguration.

BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield on an investment note issued on Wednesday said Trump’s 24/7 use of Twitter could be boosting business for the social messaging app.

“The incessant news flow from the Trump administration playing out on Twitter and the ensuing global reaction pushes Twitter users to be increasingly engaged with the platform,” Greenfield wrote in a note to his clients. “The Twitter President gives Twitter a second chance,” he added.

And user growth, and accompanying advertising revenue, was on the minds of investors on Thursday. The social media platform’s monthly active users grew slightly to 319 million, up from 317 million from last quarter.

The challenge is active user growth not being monetized just yet. Twitter posted a net loss of $167 million, against a year-earlier loss of $90 million. Stripping out one-time expenses, the company said it would have earned $119 million, or 16 cents a share.

Dorsey in an earlier statement offered guidance certain to disappoint investors. “While revenue growth continues to lag audience growth, we are applying the same focused approach that drove audience growth to our revenue product portfolio, focusing on our strengths and the real-time nature of our service. This will take time, but we’re moving fast to show results,” he said.

During the morning analyst call, Dorsey pointed to a “reset” for Twitter in 2016 that would pay dividends in 2017 with increased user engagement. “Transformations are difficult, and this one was especially difficult,” he told investors.  

Slumping advertising revenue, the main driver of company sales, came to $638 million, down year-over-year, with mobile advertising accounting for 89 percent of that total. U.S. revenue was $440 million, down 5 percent from a year-ago.

Twitter execs on the call focused on the live streaming experience for users, which during the latest quarter included programming for the National Football League over 10 weeks.

Shares in Twitter slid by at one point 10 percent to $16.81 before the market open.

This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.

Ritchie Yorke, Music Author and Journalist, Dead at 73

Music journalist and author Ritchie Yorke, who served as Billboard’s Canadian editor for a decade in the 70s and went on to pen books on Led Zeppelin, Van Morrison, and most recently John and Yoko, died in his native Australia, from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease on Feb. 6. He was 73.

Yorke, who was the senior music writer for Brisbane’s Sunday Mail for 20 years until 2007, was in Toronto in 2015 to promote his self-published book, Christ You Know It Ain’t Easy: John & Yoko’s Battle for World Peace. Yoko wrote the foreword. The cover features the author’s name and the words “friend, historian, music journalist.” Indeed, he was friend to many, including musician Ronnie Hawkins, who resides in Ontario and came to the book launch to see his old pal.

Yorke made Canada his home for almost 20 years, beginning in the late 60s. He began his journalism career in sports but soon switched to music and entertainment in 1962 and landed a weekly column in TV Week, which led to a network of global contacts in the music business. When the Beach Boys landed in Australia for their first tour in 1963, “Yorke was there to greet them and show them the local sights,” his bio reads.

He worked in radio for a spell, before his defiant decision to play “Fingertips Pt. 2” by a 12-year-old blind boy named Little Stevie Wonder led to his firing. He relocated to the U.K. in 1966 where he was appointed the international operations director for Sunshine Records. He then moved to Island Records, where he was promotion manager for the Spencer Davis Group. Davis wrote the foreword to his first book, Lowdown on the English Pop Scene.

A year later, Yorke relocated to Toronto, Canada. He wrote for the Conservative newspaper the Toronto Telegram, before becoming the first full-time rock writer for The Globe and Mail.  He also did double duty as the Canadian editor for Billboard (1970 to 1980), Rolling Stone for a year (1979 to 1980, which included interviews with Keith Richards; and John & Yoko in Canada) and contributed to UK-based music mag NME.

Yorke was instrumental in Lennon’s International Peace Envoy in 1969.  He aided the staging of John and Yoko’s famed Montreal bed-in and their appearance at the famed Toronto Rock and Roll Revival concert. Yorke and Hawkins carried the peace posters on a 52,000 mile world tour.

He left his mark in Canada, including helping to legislate the Canadian Content regulations in 1971, the same year he published his book Axes, Chops & Hot Licks on the Canadian music scene. He was also named Canadian Journalist of the Year at the Juno Awards, given by the Canadian Radio Television Commission.
That decade, he put out Into The Music: The Van Morrison Biography, The Led Zeppelin Biography, and The History Of Rock ‘n’ Roll. In the 80s, he returned to Brisbane. He worked as an announcer and producer for ABC Radio for two years until 1989, and wrote for Brisbane’s Sunday Mail until 2007. In 1991, re-issued his Led Zeppelin book under the title Led Zeppelin: The Definitive Biography.

In 2010, he wrote his first piece for Rolling Stone in 40 years,  a review of Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience.  

In October of 2015, Yorke and wife Minnie were in Toronto for the book launch, which included a reading and screening of a trailer for a documentary that is in development.

“I was intimately involved with Lennon in the amazing launch of the campaign, convinced as we were about the power of music to change the world. Lennon’s powerful appeal for peace with the current bombing, fighting and killing in the Middle East is as needed today as it was during the Vietnam war,” Yorke said in the press release.

Yorke died at Brisbane’s Prince Charles Hospital.

Kidz Bop Partners With Universal to Move Into U.K. Market

Multi-million selling children’s music brand Kidz Bop is taking its primary-colored singalong pop across the Atlantic and launching in the U.K.

Universal Music On Demand (UMOD), formerly known as Universal Music TV, has signed on as label partner with the first Kidz Bop album due to be released in April, followed by a second release in the fourth quarter. Like their U.S. counterparts, the British version of Kidz Bop will be made up of child singers performing cover versions of current chart hits.  

London-based Crown Talent and Media Group led a nine month nationwide talent search to find the four members of the new Kidz Bop cast, who are all either 11 or 12 years old. Other launch partners include national TV network ITV, acting as media partner for the U.K. bow, and Creative Artists Agency (CAA), who will serve as strategic advisors as well as tour and live booking agents. Album releases will be supported by a U.K. Kidz Bop YouTube channel, produced in the same style the U.S. edition.

Since debuting in 2001, Kidz Bop’s “child friendly” covers albums have sold 17.1 million albums in the U.S., according to Nielsen Music, while Kidz Bop albums sold a combined 818,000 copies in 2016, more than acts like Justin Bieber (642,000), Rihanna (745,000) and The Weeknd (757,000).

The series has had 49 entries on the Billboard 200 chart, including 24 albums that reached the top 10, with their main series and additional genre-specific and holiday-related releases. The series’ latest album, Kidz Bop 34, featuring covers of Bruno Mars‘ “24K Magic” and DJ Snake and Justin Bieber’s “Let Me Love You,” debuted at No. 17 on the Billboard 200 earlier this year with 17,000 equivalent album units, almost all of which — 16,000 units — were pure sales.

“We’re excited to bring Kidz Bop to kids and families around the world, and Britain’s preeminent place in pop music makes the U.K. the obvious first territory for international expansion,” said Victor Zaraya, Kidz Bop president, in a statement.

Zaraya cited the brand’s strategic partners as being “instrumental in helping us navigate the U.K. market and develop a distinct voice for the brand that will appeal to young British fans.”

“We’re certain British kids and parents will enjoy Kidz Bop as much as they do in the U.S., where the brand has become such a huge phenomenon,” added Simon Barnabas, managing director at Universal Music On Demand, calling the addition of the four “super-talented” U.K. performers that make up the British franchise “the icing on the cake.”

Apple, Google, Facebook Join Fight Against Trump Travel and Refugee Ban

Dozens of tech companies, including behemoths like Apple, Google, and Facebook, are siding with Washington state and Minnesota as they fight President Donald Trump’s ban on refugees and travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States.

The companies filed briefs late Sunday with a federal appellate court saying the Trump executive order hurts their businesses.

In their court filing with the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a total of 97 companies said Trump’s travel ban “hinders the ability of American companies to attract great talent; increases costs imposed on business; makes it more difficult for American firms to compete in the international marketplace.”

The travel ban would prompt businesses to build operations outside the United States, said the companies. The long list of enterprises looking to join the fight against Trump are among the country’s biggest, most high-profile businesses like Uber, eBay and Netflix.

The businesses are looking to help Washington and Minnesota as they sue Trump. The states have said the ban harmed residents and effectively mandated discrimination. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this weekend denied the administration’s request to immediately set aside a Seattle judge’s ruling that put a hold on the ban nationwide.

Trump’s order applied to Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen — countries the administration said raise terrorism concerns. The order sparked nationwide airport protests and caused confusion for many foreigners trying to reach the United States.

Trump has said he’s trying to protect Americans. The government says the president has the authority to decide who can enter the country.

However the companies, in their court filing, said Trump’s executive order would destroy the entrepreneurial spirit that fuels American businesses.

Immigrants make many of the nation’s greatest discoveries, and create some of the country’s most innovative and iconic companies,” the court filing said. “The experience and energy of people who come to our country to seek a better life for themselves and their children_to pursue the ‘American Dream’_are woven throughout the social, political, and economic fabric of the nation.”

Brace for Impact: What the CBS-Entercom Merger Means for Each Radio Format

With 244 stations the new combined entity promises to influence the market.

Does today’s CBS-Entercom merger position the resulting radio supergroup as a stronger force for the music business? 

It all depends on how you look at it.

With 244 stations between the two radio companies, the combined group still has a way to go to reach iHeartRadio’s 850 — or Cumulus Media’s 460 — station profile. Break it down by new music formats, however, and CBS-Entercom does approach or surpass Cumulus in some cases. 

While it’s easy to focus on Entercom’s strength in non-music formats such as News, Sports and Talk (which make up nearly 30% of the new company’s stations, at least for now) or on the mostly smaller-market stations it brings to the table, the unified company should also offer added value on the music side. 

Here’s how that breaks down by formats crucial to labels promoting new music. Keep in mind this information reflects the combined stations in their current formats, and that in some markets, format overlap or the required divestiture of 15 stations — where CBS and Entercom own more than allowed by FCC rules—could change our analysis.

Mainstream Top 40 
To CBS’ 13 stations, many of which run second to iHeart powerhouses in major markets such as New York and Los Angeles, Entercom adds eight, including Indianapolis’ top-five rated WZPL and Sacramento’s top-ten KNND (The End). The resulting 21 stations bring the group closer to Cumulus’ 33.

Adult Top 40
Entercom matches CBS’ 13 stations in the format with top-ten ranked outlets in Atlanta (WSTR, Star 94.1) and Denver (KALC, Alice 105.9), and Milwaukee’s top-five WMYX (99.1 The Mix). While both have a horse in the race in the aforementioned Sacramento, for the moment the new group’s 26 Adult Top 40s more than double Cumulus’ 11.

Five from each side, including Entercom stations in San Francisco and Denver, put the merged group one behind Cumulus.

While not a strong point for either company, Entercom’s five Urban ACs, including one in Boston and one in San Francisco, significantly improve CBS’ profile, which consisted of just Atlanta’s consistently No. 1- or No. 2-ranked WVEE (V-103).

Entercom’s eight stations, include top-five KSON in San Diego, join CBS’ even dozen. As of now, both groups have Country stations in Seattle.

Mainstream Rock, Alternative or Triple-A
A strength for Entercom, bringing 12 stations in these formats to CBS’s four. That includes Mainstream Rockers in Sacramento (KRXQ, 98 Rock) and Seattle (KISW), top-five and top-ten rated, respectively. Together, these 16 get the group closer to Cumulus’ 24.

From a geographic standpoint, CBS and Entercom each already has a presence in eight markets – the largest of those Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston – while Entercom adds key markets such as Denver, Portland and Kansas City. The resulting lineup of current-based music stations across a wider stretch of the U.S., along with each company’s proven expertise in music programming, suggests a win-win for the combined radio group and record labels.

Facebook’s Oculus Hit With $500 Million Jury Verdict

Facebook has to write a $500 million check to cover damages from its VR subsidiary Oculus, according to a Dallas federal jury.

ZeniMax Media sued Oculus in 2014, claiming its co-founder Palmer Luckey violated a non-disclosure agreement with the company and stole intellectual property including copyrighted computer code, trade secrets and “technical know-how.” Luckey then used that information, ZeniMax claims, to create Oculus Rift and secure a $2 billion acquisition by Facebook.

The trial began Jan. 9 and ended with closing arguments last Thursday, during which ZeniMax attorney Anthony Sammi reportedly asked the jury to award $4 billion in compensation and damages. 

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took the stand on Jan. 17, making a rare public appearance in a suit and tie instead of his trademark jeans. According to The New York Times, Zuckerberg told the jury “the idea that Oculus products are based on someone else’s technology is just wrong.”

After two full days of deliberation, the jury came back recommending just a fraction of that — though still a nine-figure award. It found neither Oculus nor any of the individual defendants misappropriated trade secrets and that the company did not engage in unfair competition.

Oculus alone was found to have directly infringed on ZeniMax’s copyrights. While the jury found Luckey and former Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe vicariously infringed on the copyrights, it also found the damages claims against them were barred by affirmative defenses. It found Oculus and both men liable for false designation.

The jury found ZeniMax suffered $50 million in actual damages because of Oculus’ infringement, $200 million from Oculus’ violation of the NDA, $50 million each from Oculus and Luckey’s false designation and $150 million from Iribe’s false designation. The jury awarded no exemplary damages, finding the harm done to ZeniMax was not the result of malice, fraud or gross negligence.

Facebook acquired Oculus in 2014, and Zuckerberg has since made the company’s virtual reality headsets and platform a cornerstone of his long-term vision for Facebook. He has often said that he sees virtual reality as the next communications platform. 

In December, Iribe stepped down from his post as Oculus CEO to oversee a newly created PC VR division. He was replaced by tech veteran Hugo Barra, who will lead the Oculus team as Facebook’s vp virtual reality. 

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg on Wednesday told CNBC, “The verdict is non-material to our business.”

An Oculus spokeswoman also issued a statement Wednesday afternoon: “The heart of this case was about whether Oculus stole ZeniMax’s trade secrets, and the jury found decisively in our favor. We’re obviously disappointed by a few other aspects of today’s verdict, but we are undeterred. Oculus products are built with Oculus technology. Our commitment to the long-term success of VR remains the same, and the entire team will continue the work they’ve done since day one — developing VR technology that will transform the way people interact and communicate. We look forward to filing our appeal and eventually putting this litigation behind us.”

Meanwhile, ZeniMax indicated in a press release that it will consider seeking an injunction to restrain Oculus and Facebook from using the computer code that the jury found infringed its copyrights. In the same statement, ZeniMax CEO Robert Altman said, “Technology is the foundation of our business and we consider the theft of our intellectual property to be a serious matter. We appreciate the jury’s finding against the defendants, and the award of half a billion dollars in damages for those serious violations.”

See the full verdict form on

Ben Vaughn Rises to President of Warner/Chappell Nashville

Ben Vaughn has been promoted to president of Warner/Chappell’s Nashville operation.

In his newly expanded role, Vaughn has duties for all creative and commercial activities across A&R, administration, business development, finance, and human resources and will continue to be involved in signing and developing the music publishing giant’s roster of songwriters. 

“There are few places where the art of songwriting is more revered than Nashville,” comments Jon Platt, chairman and CEO of Warner/Chappell Music, “and Ben’s promotion to the level of president is a reflection of how important this amazing music city is in the life of Warner/Chappell.”

Vaughn joined Warner/Chappell in 2012 as executive vp and his impact was immediately felt. Warner/Chappell Nashville under Vaughn was named ASCAP’s top country publisher of 2013, its first such honor in 17 years.

Since then, he has “taken our songwriters and our team to unprecedented heights, and he is the ideal leader to help us nurture the next generation of superstars and boldly take our Nashville company into the future,” adds Platt, to whom he reports. 

Vaughn, who was named to Billboard’s “40 Under 40: Music’s Top Young Power Players” list, has claimed the rare distinction of having overseen two major Nashville publishers (he became the youngest executive to head a major publisher in Nashville as evp & GM for EMI). 

Vaughn began his executive career at 20 years old, serving as the general manager of Nashville’s Big Tractor Music before moving to EMI. The exec is president of the ACM Board, is on the board of CMA and Music Comms, serves on Belmont University’s Music Industry Advisory Board, and is a member of NMPA. He is also the recipient of Belmont University and ASCAP’s Music City Milestone Award.  

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