Posts tagged "Irving Azoff"

Guns N’ Roses’ Stance On That Copyright-Infringement Lawsuit: It’s Our Music, But If It Isn’t, Blame The Recording Engineer

Guns N’ Roses are going to “vigorously contest” claims that they ripped off German electro-composer Ulrich Schnauss for the ambient intro to their song “Riad N’ The Bedouins,” a dispute that’s currently the source of a million-dollar lawsuit filed last week. (A million dollars may seem like a lot of cash for an album that had such a soft landing on the retail scene, but then again, the album’s production costs were probably way higher than that.) GNR manager Irving Azoff released a denial that’s both vehement and somewhat masterful:

“The band believed when the record came out and still believes that there are no unauthorized samples on the track. The snippets of ‘ambient noise’ in question were provided by a member of the album’s production team who has assured us that these few seconds of sound were obtained legitimately. Artists these days can’t read the minds of those they collaborate with and therefore are unfortunately vulnerable to claims like this one. While the band resents the implication that they would ever use another artist’s work improperly and are assessing possible counterclaims, they are confident this situation will be satisfactorily resolved.”

You have to admit that the sleight-of-hand in that statement is astonishing. “It’s really Guns N’ Roses’ music on the track—but if it isn’t, we blame one of the many people who had their hand in the making of the album! And there were a lot of them, don’t you know.” Well played, Mr. Azoff. The reasons for your death grip on the music business just became a lot clearer!

Guns N’ Roses ‘Vigorously Contests’ Lawsuit [Billboard]
Earlier: Every Joke You Can Wring From This “Guns N’ Roses Ripping Off Ulrich Schnauss” Story Is Way Too Easy

Just What The World Needed: An All-Eagles Radio Station

Supermanager Irving Azoff and radio megaglomerate Clear Channel have teamed up to launch “a.p.e. radio,” an all-lowercase effort that will allow people who just can’t seem to find a space on the dial that’s playing “Hotel California” or that Weezer song about Beverly Hills ad nauseam to tune in to artist-specific channels (similar to the ones on Sirius/XM) on CC’s iheartradio network. (Lowercase all theirs, not mine.) The first clients of Azoff’s Front Line Management to get the personalized radio stations: The Eagles, Christina Aguilera, and Weezer. Unfortunately, there’s no word yet on whether Guns N’ Roses will also get this treatment, possibly because Front Line isn’t sure whether or not Axl Rose has fired the company for the fifth time this month. [FMQB via Hipsters United]

Ticketmaster CEO: Concert Tickets Held Back From The Public Are “The Vast Majority Of The Best Seats In The House”

Bill Wyman’s in-depth coverage of the Congressional hearings on the Live Nation/Ticketmaster merger continued today, as he live-blogged the House hearings on the merger. Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino said that he doesn’t hear complaints about high ticket prices (man, those upper-management bubbles must be pretty thick!), that $50 isn’t a high price for a concert ticket (not that he’s had to pay for any in a while), and that Ticketmaster’s service fees also get kicked back to venues and artists, causing Rep. Brad Sherman to respond, “They are forcing [Ticketmaster CEO Irving] Azoff to pretend like he’s charging a lot when it’s really coming back to you”; Azoff also said early in the hearing that “if our customers don’t like [our service] they will go somewhere else.” Like what, the movies?

There was also this very informative exchange:

Sherman is asking by far the best questions. Now he’s pinning Azoff down on where tickets to a concert go. “Inventory control is not a perfect science,” Azoff says.

That’s an extraordinary euphemism, give Azoff’s replies immediately following:

Sherman: If there’s ten thousand seats in the area, are you selling 10,000 tickets?

Azoff: Never. On average we might see 80 or 85 percent of the seats.

Sherman: Are those the good ones or the bad ones you’re not getting?

Azoff: The vast majority of the best seats in the house.

Now, this probably won’t surprise any Idolator reader who’s been on a list at a big arena show (whether through winning a contest or being there on assignment or what), but Wyman’s assertion that this is the “headline of the day” is correct; there is still a myth that one can get the “best seats” through hard work, or even buying through one of those increasingly irritating fan club presale setups. But it’s not true, not most of the time. And with the prices that are being charged for shows lately—even though Rapino doesn’t think they’re all that high—it should at least be mentioned somewhere up-front.

Anyway, Wyman’s coverage of this merger has been pretty uniformly excellent, especially since he knows the business well enough to get past the bluster from all sides. Vital reading, especially if this merger somehow moves forward.

Live-blogging the House hearings on the Ticketmaster/Live Nation Merger [Hitsville]

“WSJ” Tries To Make Irving Azoff Look Like LBJ

There are a lot of famous anecdotes about our 36th president, and a strange number of them involve the bathroom. In one, a female reporter is trying to get Johnson to answer some questions, and Johnson agrees on the condition that she hold his pecker while he pee; in another, he goes to relieve himself in the middle of a meeting and has the other person follow him, continuing to talk whilst emptying his bowels. So when Wall Street Journal scribe Ethan Smith starts off a profile of artist manager and Ticketmaster CEO Irving Azoff with a scene of him and a subordinate working in “his spacious Beverly Hills bathroom,” you can guess what he’s trying to do.

Which is not to say that he shouldn’t be doing it. Certainly America’s fascination with pop music beyond its simple products had to do with its vague aura of danger and its status as a quasi-legal business: its mob ties, its use of drugs and prostitutes as promotional items, its fortunes lost and won, its ruthless negotiations. We enjoyed hearing about it for the same reason we enjoyed watching Dallas, a show that had not a little to do with the architect of the Great Society programs. But now, the fortunes are mostly being lost, drugs are unhealthy, and everything’s gone all corporate. The thrill is gone, as it were. So certainly one can sympathize with Smith’s clear desire to develop Azoff as a heel, a kind of evil overlord who bends the biz to his whim.

But while Azoff’s earlier exploits may deserve their place in the rock ‘n’ roll anecdote hall of fame, it’s hard to see negotiating a deal between the Eagles and Wal-Mart as chutzpah. And it’s increasingly hard to see the proposed merger between Ticketmaster and Live Nation as anything but an act of desperation, an assessment with which, as the article notes, investors seem to agree. Maybe expecting the WSJ to take a critical stance toward its subjects is an exercise in futility, but it might be nice to assign a music-biz story once in a while to a writer who doesn’t let the subject opine in the bathroom.

Can He Save Rock ‘n’ Roll? [WSJ]

Bruce Springsteen Makes Ticketmaster CEO Grovel, Apologize, And Generally Feel Like Crap

So after a New Jersey Congressman fired off a missive to the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division regarding Ticketmaster’s policy of dumping users to its sister reselling site, TicketsNow, once tickets to Bruce Springsteen‘s shows in the Northeast sold out, Springsteen and his manager got in on the open-letter act, too, going so far as to use the verbs “abuse” and “condemn” in regard to the sorta-scammy practice while also getting salty about the ticketing behemoth’s proposed merger with concert-promotion heavyweight Live Nation. Oh snap!

Springsteen’s letter to fans, as posted on his official site:

We know there was much confusion regarding Ticketmaster and TicketsNow during last Monday’s on-sale dates. We were as confused as you were, as we were given no advance notice of the major changes in the Ticketmaster-TicketsNow world. (Bear in mind that we are not clients of any ticketing company, and that all those arrangements are between venues and ticketing companies.)

Last Monday, we were informed that Ticketmaster was redirecting your log-in requests for tickets at face value, to their secondary site TicketsNow, which specializes in up-selling tickets at above face value. They did this even when other seats remained available at face value. We condemn this practice.

We perceive this as a pure conflict of interest. Ticketmaster is there to ensure that we have a good, fair sale of our tickets at their face value plus normal ticketing charges. TicketsNow is supposed to be a secondary site where people who already have tickets may exchange, trade, and, unfortunately, speculate with them. We have asked this redirection from Ticketmaster to TicketsNow cease and desist immediately and Ticketmaster has agreed to do so in the future and has removed its unwanted material from their and our site.

We know the many cynical arguments some make in favor of the Ticketmaster system: There are rumors that some artists or managers participate in Ticketmaster charges—we do not. There are rumors that some artists or managers are receiving a percentage of the amount above face value at secondary outlets like TicketsNow—we do not. Some artists or managers may not perceive there to be a conflict between having the distributor of their tickets in effect “scalping” those same tickets through a secondary company like TicketsNow—we do.

While many of you have sent notes to us and your local promoters, you may also send accurate informational letters to Albert Lopez of Ticketmaster and he will try to address your questions.

A final point for now: the one thing that would make the current ticket situation even worse for the fan than it is now would be Ticketmaster and Live Nation coming up with a single system, thereby returning us to a near monopoly situation in music ticketing. Several newspapers are reporting on this story right now. If you, like us, oppose that idea, you should make it known to your representatives.

The abuse of our fans and our trust by Ticketmaster has made us as furious as it has made many of you. We will continue to do our utmost now and in the future to make sure that these practices are permanently curtailed on our tours.

Ticketmaster CEO Irving Azoff, seeing the possibility of one of his biggest moneymakers flying away, penned his own letter, one “of Apology,” saying that in the future artists would be able to have a say in whether or not tickets to their shows would be made immediately available on secondary sites. (Yes, even artists not as big and influential as Bruce Springsteen! Uh, wait, do artists who aren’t Springsteen even sell out arenas these days?) Azoff’s full missive, which was sent through crabby music-biz observer Bob Lefsetz‘s e-mail newsletter:

An Open Letter of Apology to Bruce Springsteen, Jon Landau and the entire Springsteen Tour Team:

While we were genuinely trying to do the right thing for fans in providing more choices when the tickets they requested from the primary on-sale were not available, we clearly missed the mark. Fans are confused and angry, which is the opposite of what we hoped to accomplish. We sincerely apologize to Bruce, his organization and, above all, his fans.

We recognize that we need to change our course. We have committed to Bruce and state publicly here that we have taken down all links for Bruce’s shows directing fans from Ticketmaster to TicketsNow. This redirection only occurred as a choice when we could not satisfy fans’ specific search request for primary ticket inventory, but to make sure there is no misunderstanding in the future, we also publicly state that we will never again link to TicketsNow in a manner that can possibly create any confusion during a high-demand on-sale. Specifically, we will not present an option to go to TicketsNow from Ticketmaster without the consent of the artist and the venue, both of whom work together to bring the joy of live entertainment to millions of fans.

If any fans inadvertently purchased tickets in the resale marketplace believing in error they were purchasing from the initial on-sale, we will refund the difference between the actual purchase price and the face price of the ticket. (Please don’t abuse this good faith gesture – we did not give brokers any preferential access to tickets.)

We are committed to helping deliver the most transparent and best live entertainment experience to fans. We will do better going forward.


Irving Azoff, CEO, Ticketmaster Entertainment

Translation: “Please don’t say the word ‘antitrust’ too loudly, Bruce. Please? The public opinion about our merger is bad enough, but we really need this to happen, otherwise we’re screwed.”

Bruce Springsteen [Official site]
Lefsetz Letter []
Analysis: Potential Live Nation/Ticketmaster Merger [Billboard]
Earlier: Ticketmaster Dares To Get Between A New Jersey Congressman And His Springsteen Tickets

What Really Led To “Chinese Democracy”‘s Impending Release?

One of the strangest narratives surrounding Sunday’s release of Chinese Democracy is that the music itself is something of a non-event, thanks to the circulation of live nu-GNR bootlegs and leaks of in-progress tracks. In fact, enough questions have been answered about how Chinese Democracy sounds that a bigger question looms: Why now? Why, out of all the dates on the calendar, would Axl Rose decide that November 2008 felt like a good time to drop an album?

Only Axl knows for sure. But part of the answer may lie in the idea that Chinese Democracy had, thanks to its many delays, transformed from an album-slash-punchline into a vehicle for Axl to resolve festering disputes and debts tied to his six-year stint as a client of the Sanctuary Group. Sanctuary, an ambitious British artist management firm, spent years-–and a small fortune–trying to branch into various segments of the music business. As financial disaster loomed last year, Sanctuary sold itself to Universal Music Group–which, you may remember, is the same company that puts out Guns N’ Roses’ music.

Axl effectively fired Sanctuary as his management firm in December 2006, after months of speculation and public comments from the company’s top manager, Merck Mercuriadis, trumpeting the imminent release of Chinese Democracy. Rose, in an open letter posted on the band’s Web site, cited “an overall sense of a lack of respect by management for the band and crew and each individual’s particular expertise” as part of the reasons behind Mercuriadis’ firing. (He also claimed that the album would come out March 6, 2007. The best intentions…)

But Axl couldn’t completely kick Sanctuary to the curb–during his time as a client, he struck deals with Sanctuary subsidiaries and affiliates that resulted in them overseeing his music-publishing rights and the production of Guns N’ Roses merchandise. And since at least early 2004 (when Universal’s Geffen Records made clear it wouldn’t underwrite additional production costs for Chinese Democracy) Sanctuary had functioned as Rose’s bank as well, deferring or delaying some commissions for managing him and offering other financial support. According to sources familiar with the situation, Axl’s tab reached well into the seven-figure mark.

By the time Axl announced his firing of Mercuriadis, not only had he piled up a debt to the management company, he had been dragged into a series of disputes–public and private–tied to the publishing and merch deals. In 2005, ex-bandmates Slash and Duff filed a lawsuit alleging that he had switched publishers without their approval and pocketed the royalties, and there was a separate feud brewing where they raised similar charges about his dealings with Sanctuary’s merchandise unit, Bravado.

But two crucial events changed the course of Rose’s career: Sanctuary’s buyout; and Rose finding his way to the management fold of music heavyweight Irving Azoff and longtime hard-rock mastermind Andy Gould. Universal was in a position to sweep away all of Rose’s disputes at once, and Azoff was keen to deal—as it turned out, the number to remember in the Chinese Democracy saga isn’t 17, but 360.

Word is it was Azoff who initiated the push to resolve all the issues at once, in a negotiation led on the Universal side by the corporation’s president, Zach Horowitz–though who was leveraging who depends on who you ask. After months of back and forth, a deal was worked out to resolve all of Axl’s disputes, with Chinese Democracy–and a nice “thanks for the retail exclusive” check from Best Buy–underwriting the peace agreements. Slash and Duff are receiving a little payback for their troubles from Axl’s Sanctuary deals, and Axl himself received a new advance, though the currently undisclosed figure is said to be somewhat less than it would have been if he didn’t have to give something up to settle the outstanding debts.

It’s possible that the satisfaction of clearing both his books and his legal docket all by simply stepping away from the mixing board and saying “OK, I’m done” had no bearing on Axl’s decision to finally put out Chinese Democracy. But is it likely?

(And, of course, whether Chinese Democracy finally being off Axl’s back will result in Guns N’ Roses’ next album coming out before the end of this decade is a question that should at least wait until Sunday’s one-day SoundScan estimates are out.)

Idolator’s Guns N’ Roses coverage [Idolator]

Ticketmaster May Be Taking It Easy On Its Extra Fees (No, Really)

The good news: Ticketmaster is experimenting with dropping the “convenience fees” that can potentially mark up the tickets it sells as much as 75%. The bad news: This experiment, right now, is restricted to fans of the freaking Eagles, thanks in part to the deal two weeks ago that brought the ticketing behemoth together with Irving Azoff’s Frontline Management. Which just happens to manage Don Henley & Co.

Tickets to the country-rock band’s Jan. 17 concert at North Carolina’s Greensboro Coliseum went on sale Nov. 7 under a banner that announced: “This is a no-fee event! The price you see is the price you pay.” The tickets for the concert cost $60 to $190, about the same face value as tickets to other Eagles concerts on the tour, which runs through January. Such fees would add $18 to a $185 ticket at the tour’s Hershey, Pa., stop.

Convenience charges are typically split between Ticketmaster and venue owners, with pieces sometimes going to artists and promoters. The justification for them is that buying tickets from Ticketmaster is more convenient than going to a venue box office.

In the conference call announcing quarterly earnings, Ticketmaster President Sean Moriarty said the Jan. 17 concert represented the company’s “first foray” into so-called all-in ticketing. It isn’t clear whether in the future such no-fee tickets will simply build the old convenience charges into the price of the ticket. Mr. Azoff didn’t speak during the call and wasn’t available immediately afterward to discuss the development.

What’s most amazing about this? Ticketmaster isn’t even charging people for the “privilege” of printing their tickets at home on this stop. (Which makes you wonder: Did that money go to the artists and promoters too, or was there just some complicated kickback scheme that hooked Ticketmaster up with manufacturers of printer ink?) I suspect that right now, the cozy corporate structure Ticketmaster and Frontline have built for themselves will mean this experiment will be restricted for now to Azoff’s clients–Guns N’ Roses, you’re next–but if a company that, for so long, has seemingly gone to great pains to make its consumers really really mad at it can now cast itself in a “we understand the economy sucks, so we’re going to drop our fees for you” light, we may see one of the greatest corporate makeovers ever. Shoot, it could even be the hook for a great remake of Mr. Mom!

Ticketmaster Drops Fee In Experiment [WSJ]

Ticketmaster Figures Out How To Use The Phrase “Synergize Backwards Overflow” In A Sentence

In a move that’s part and parcel with the continued “verticalization” of the music industry, the Ticketmaster is buying a controlling interest in Irving Azoff’s Frontline Management, which counts Christina Aguilera, The Eagles, Neil Diamond, and, oh yeah, Guns N’ Roses, among its clients. Azoff will continue on as manager of these acts. The move is a push-back against the growing management/promoter/ticket vendor chimera that is Live Nation–if Live Nation can get into the ticket-selling game and the ill-advised 360-deal game, the logic seems to say, well then so can Ticketmaster get into the management game. Seeing as how today has been “all GNR all the time” around here, I have a theory as to the timing of this move.

Right as speculation about Axl & Co.’s touring kicks into high gear, Ticketmaster buys into Azoff’s managing biz, scooping up the band as part of the deal. The still-theoretical-but-you-know-it’s-happening Chinese Democracy tour was probably the cherry on top, the thing that pushed the deal through. It’s a smart move on Ticketmaster’s part because they have the relationships, dough, and infrastructure to make this kind of relationship work, and now they potentially have their first marquee tour, right out of the gate. Plus they get the managerial experience and wealth of talent that Azoff brings with him. Well-played, Ticketmaster.

Man, I love the smell of synergy in the afternoon.

“Ticketmaster to Acquire Star Power in Azoff Deal” [WSJ]

‘Billboard’ Group Editorial Director Moves to Front Line Management

maiden-billboard-cover.jpgBillboard group editorial director Tamara Conniff is leaving the magazine to take a position with Front Line Management, which is run by music industry heavyweight Irving Azoff and which counts the Eagles and New Kids On The Block on its roster. Bill Werde will take over Conniff’s duties in the interim, according to the mag, which I think means that there’s actually a music-related editorial job available right now! Holy bajoly! [Silicon Alley Insider]

maiden-billboard-cover.jpgBillboard group editorial director Tamara Conniff is leaving the magazine to take a position with Front Line Management, which is run by music industry heavyweight Irving Azoff and which counts the Eagles and New Kids On The Block on its roster. Bill Werde will take over Conniff’s duties in the interim, according to the mag, which I think means that there’s actually a music-related editorial job available right now! Holy bajoly! [Silicon Alley Insider]