Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Attorney General Lisa Madigan investigating Lollapalooza?

I have heard several friends and music fans discussing and speculating about exactly what is going on regarding Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's reported investigation of Lollapalooza. Several subpoenas have been issued to those organizing and promoting the city's biggest music festival, and the investigation is said to have been spawned by accusation of possible illegality in the radius clauses included in the event's contracts.

A radius clause is not at all uncommon in a contract between a band and a promoter putting on a large live event. However, Lolla's radius clauses are by far the most extreme when compared to other events such as Bonnaroo, Coachella, or our own Pitchfork Music Festival. Lolla contracts can prohibit a band from playing within a 300 mile radius of Chicago for as long as six months before and three months after the annual event. Not only does such a clause prevent small clubs and promoters from placing their favorite (and likely most profitable) cutting edge bands in their venues here in Chicago, but even in other cities (such as Milwaukee) which are within said radius. Lolla's promoters have said they willingly remove the radius clause from a contract at the band's reasonable request, and this is most likely the reason you can see the Black Keys at Metro, the National at House of Blues and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros at Lincoln Hall next month in addition to their appearances at the fest.

If it's possible for bands and the promoters to reconcile their differences over the contracts easily, an obvious question comes up - is an investigation really necessary? A thorough look into the issue from Chicago music writer Jim DeRogatis on his Vocalo.org blog makes the issue a bit clearer.

The city's foremost independent promoter, Jam Productions, is the most likely affected by the radius clause and the extreme power wielded by C3, Lolla's promoters and Jam's out of state competition. With the juggernaut Live Nation dominating independent promoters all over the country (especially following their recent Ticketmaster merger) Jam may be concerned about having to thrive whilst simultaneously fighting off Live Nation and, potentially, having nine months out of the year affected by these radius clauses. Jam, as well as a number of small businesses and club promoters, may be where the pressure for an investigation came from, and how it made its way to Madigan.

We will keep you updated as to how this might affect the Windy City and its largest music festival. In the meantime, hopefully the above at least sheds a little light on the situation.

What do you think? We'd love to hear your thoughts on the issue.

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