Concert giant Live Nation, apparently believing that a recent Bonnie Raitt and Taj Mahal show in Boston wasn’t selling well enough, discounted tickets to the event without first notifying the artists, according to representatives of the two.
In an angry email letter to influential music columnist Bob Lefsetz, Kathy Kane, Raitt’s manager rips Live Nation for the move because it gave fans the impression that the show was tanking. According to the email, the show ended up being a virtual sellout, and of the nearly 5,000 seats sold for the August 15 show Live Nation only sold a couple of hundred for the discounted price of $10, down from about $25 or more.
Live Nation paid Raitt and Mahal the difference between the face value for the tickets and the discounted price, but the two want a public apology not only to the two of them but also to the fans that paid full price. See the text of the letter below.
So far, that apology has not appeared on the Live Nation Web site, and neither company spokesperson John Vlautin nor Kane returned messages seeking comment.
The public spat is just the latest from a veteran artist angry at how a large conglomerate tasked with handling aspects of their tour is treating them or their fans. Earlier in the year, Bruce Springsteen ripped Ticketmaster Entertainment for the way the company and its subsidiary TicketsNow handled onsales for his band’s tour, a brouhaha that led to multiple lawsuits and investigations by state and local officials.
Many inside and outside of the live entertainment and ticketing industries have criticized Live Nation and Ticketmaster, which are the midst of trying to merge, for such perceived heavy handed tactics.
While Raitt and Mahal, whether together or separately, might not pack the large venues that a Springsteen or Jimmy Buffett might, the two tour on a regular basis and have developed a loyal and steady fan base, so selling out a 5,000-seat venue is not a stretch, even in the current economy.
The text from the email Kathy Kane sent to Bob Lefsetz:
From: Kathy Kane
Subject: From the BonTaj Roulet Tour
On behalf of the BonTaj Roulet Tour, featuring Bonnie Raitt and Taj Mahal, we were as appalled as anyone to learn that tickets to our show at Bank Of America Pavilion (BofA) in Boston were being hawked for 10 bucks apiece at a Pretenders show at the same venue. We thank the Pretenders’ fan for writing in to report this. What some who read your blog may not be aware of, is that any promotional ticket sales of this nature must be run by the artist’s agency and management for approval before being implemented. This standard protocol was not followed in this case. We had no idea that this was taking place until we read about it on your blog. We were shocked to say the least. It is particularly embarrassing for the artists involved, who have tried to remain sensitive to their ticket prices in the face of an upward trend.
The irony is that the BonTaj Roulet show at BofA Pavilion was actually selling fine. By the day of the ‘sandwich board’ incident, we had sold nearly 76% of the available tickets, and by the night of the show (Saturday) 96% of the 4,968 capacity were sold. Of these, only a couple of hundred were sold at the unapproved price (less than 5%), but still giving the erroneous impression that the show wasn’t doing well. They were effectively giving away money for no apparent reason, much of it rightfully belonging to the artists.
The tour’s response to Live Nation expressing our dismay at this was immediate. We have been told that this is a company-wide directive, issued to local offices from the main office, having them employ this tactic for shows that are not selling well. The fact that this particular show was in fact doing fine, somehow slipped through the cracks. The Live Nation representatives at the Boston show offered us a sincere and thorough apology. We’ve asked Live Nation to issue a public apology for this and are hopeful they will fulfill that request. We appreciate that they did pay us the balance of the 215 tickets inappropriately sold but feel that the fans who paid full price deserve an apology.
Boston is a special town for music, and for both Bonnie Raitt and Taj Mahal who have long histories of great performances and well-attended shows there. Both take great pride in their work and do not take for granted that the fans are the ones who put them where they are, and continue to afford them the opportunity to make music for a living. It’s unfortunate that this show, and the two artists whose names appear on the marquee, had to be marred by this situation.
Our partnership with the local promoters is also vital to the success of our shows, and our positive experiences with Live Nation Boston, including those under its former monikers, Clear Channel Boston/SFX Boston/Tea Party Concerts, go back decades. It’s also worth noting that this cannot be exclusive to Boston. If the microscope were focused on other Live Nation markets, similar situations would certainly be discovered.
Lost in all of this, and probably nowhere on the sandwich board, is that the show itself is great, stop by and see it somewhere…
Kathy Kane, Bonnie Raitt’s Manager
Kevin Morris and Valerie Celene, Taj Mahal’s Management
Paul Goldman, Monterey International, Booking Agent