Monopolooza? Subpoenas issued in Lollapalooza anti-trust investigation

06.25.10 7 years ago

The promoters behind Lollapalooza — Austin-based C3 Presents and their partners — are under investigation by the Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan for anti-trust allegations.

According to Jim DeRogatis, apparently enough Chicago bars, clubs and venues have complained about the radius clauses that C3 includes in Lolla’s artist contracts, which stipulates acts can’t play within a set amount of time and a certain mile radius from the fest.

These clauses are fairly common in festival and tour contracts, though some reports are indicating, for Lolla the clause is as harsh as six months before and three months after, and a span as big as 300 miles out (which reaches as far as Detroit, Indianapolis, Madison, etc.). This is to protect the organizers’ imperative to sell out the festival by keeping its lineup offerings unique.

Central to the complaint is that such extensive stipulations are bad for local businesses, considering it’s applied to headliners down to the baby bands on slate, more than 120 acts. However, C3 has contended in other reports that it waives the clause for artists that ask, or at least pursue some compromise.

Sources from C3 confirmed to Billboard that subpoenas had indeed been issued; mega tour agency William Morris Endeavor Entertainment’s VP Marc Geiger also confirmed he was among those to be subpoenaed.

There are a few other fun facts at work here.

Three managers each told me that, yes, the clauses are included but, yes, C3 has been lenient in its enforcement and in waiving it altogether.

“In my experience, it basically means ‘ask first’,” said one, who manages a pair of acts that have and will perform at the festival. “I don’t hear a ton of complaining from club owners. The street festivals eat at their business a ton more than Lolla does.”

Granted, these were not the managers of Arcade Fire or Soundgarden-sized acts, but even Spoon has apparently gotten a pass, considering they’re playing a block party in the Windy City a mere month before their appearance during the festival, which runs Aug. 6-8.

Also, Jim DeRogotis and the Lollapalooza organizers have had a pretty contentious relationship since the previously roving festival put down its roots in Grant Park. The Chi-based crit has been the source of lineup leaks and severe critiques, and obviously C3 wants lineups to be introduced in their own way.

Meanwhile, as DeRogatis points out, the Attorney General is jumping into essentially a 10-year contract made between C3 and the city’s reigning politicians.

These don’t change the fact that the investigation is under way. There’s just a lot more to the issue than meets the eye.

What do you think? Are C3’s radius clauses unfair to businesses?

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