Concert giant Live Nation facing new scrutiny | WBEZ
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Jim DeRogatis

Concert giant Live Nation facing new scrutiny

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While Live Nation/Ticketmaster continues to get pretty much anything it wants in Chicago, the giant concert promoter that many have called a monopoly is coming under increased scrutiny elsewhere in the U.S.

Last week, Washington Post reporter Lydia DePillis wrote a piece criticizing the company for using independent contractors in a dozen major markets, including Nashville, Memphis, and Atlanta. The contractors are paid as little as $10 an hour to do “tricky, dangerous jobs” involving staging that might be better overseen by union professionals, albeit at a greater cost. (On Saturday, the story was reprinted in The Chicago Tribune, which does very little original reporting on the company’s local operations.)

“At an event run by the biggest concert promoter in the industry—Live Nation, with its hefty fees on tickets for concertgoers—the contrast is jarring” and possibly dangerous, DePillis wrote. She went on:

“In the entertainment industry, the main union representing backstage labor—the 122,000-strong International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE)— worries the model might expand further, driving down salaries and cutting the number of hours available for their members…

“This week, the union is going to start making some noise on the issue with the ultimate customer—concertgoers.”

 Live Nation/Ticketmaster’s labor relations have not drawn criticism in Chicago to date, though many of its other business practices have, from heavy-handed treatment of competitors, to poor customer service and egregious ticket fees.

The company, which counts Mayor Emanuel’s brother Ari among the members of its board of directors, has a long-term contract here for the 30,000-capacity Northerly Island concert venue, and it now owns a controlling interest in Lollapalooza. As this blog recently reported, the mayor has accepted campaign donations from top Live Nation and Lollapalooza executives, despite his pledge not to take money from city contractors, and he broke a promise to ask for an independent negotiator to deal with those companies during his first term.

The Greek Theatre in L.A. (www.greektheatrela.com)

Meanwhile, Live Nation/Ticketmaster also is under fire in Los Angeles, where the City Council voted to oppose its bid to run the historic Greek Theatre.

According to The Los Angeles Times, Live Nation is the choice of the mayor and the parks commission to run the theater currently operated by competing bidders the Nederlander Organization (which once ran Poplar Creek here). “But when city lawmakers were asked to weigh in, most disagreed with the decision to choose Live Nation.”

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