With fat assets in the billions, enemies everywhere, and a Dept. of Justice investigation, Clear Channel owns/has equity in countless concert venues and some 1,400 radio & television stations worldwide. By some reports they control sixty percent of major radio markets in America, effecting what gets played or simply ignored across the land. Fear among many performers is that Clear Channel cannot possibly represent diversity, especially local diversity, and therefore threatens it. Nationwide other fears are that CC has become a monopoly that threatens independent concert production, ticket prices and the actual success of budding performers on tour. They came to our attention back around 2001 when local promoter Nobody In Particular Presents (aka NIPP) began publicizing complaints about "unfair" CC practices. This conflict was published in many local newspaper articles. It has been a Pollstar topic and was mentioned in national magazines including Business Week.
NIPP, who had purchased much radio advertising on CC-owned KTCL radio, accused CC of off-scheduling the ads to its own advantage or outright taking the money and trashing them. According to Fortune magazine, NIPP partner Jesse Morreale, never one to avoid a war, stated that "Clear Channel stations intentionally exclude NIPP's events from on-air concert calendars, and, as with the Warped Tour, play its ads at the wrong time or not at all. In other situations, (he says), Clear Channel simply refuses to sell advertising to competitors." (our view: Don't give Viagra (i.e. patronage) to Satan and then complain about getting screwed by the devil.) I seem to recall reports that the conflict also has involved varied NIPP allegations of CC monopoly over numerous large local venues. Although Colorado Arts Net did not follow the lawsuit we know that NIPP has been represented by Denver's preeminent esquire of social causes Walter Gerash. That suit was filed back on August 06, 2001 in federal court.
The three man NIPP partnership founded by Doug Kauffman owns venues in Denver and Colorado Springs and they operate Royal Oak Music Theater as leased venue in Doug's hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Their flagship venue has been the Ogden Theater in Denver since 1993. Just a block away is "The Fillmore" better known as Mammoth Gardens to the rest of us. NIPP, at one time conducted many concerts at Mammoth but was locked out when CC took control. Veteran big shot promoter Chuck Morris, Tulagi MC and door man in Boulder from the early 1970s, took control of Mammoth a few years back and soon after became a henchman for CC. In 1971 I personally recall Chuck's brutal gong show at Tulagi where at age 19, I was rudely thrown off stage by Chuck before he let me play my first note of harmonica (even though I drew crowds on the street and jammed with Dylan once in Nederland). In 1974 I worked for one of Boulder's most prolific and best known independent music and lifestyle publishers. This publisher and well known journalist-author privately referred to Morris as "Chuck the schmuck." So there you have it, the big ones always rise to the top. But never mind any idea that I am not objective.
Clear Channel should be a hated symbol of everything that genuine "alternative" indie music often pretends to be against, i.e. Madison Avenue pulling art around by the nose ring rather than performing artists and ticket buyers having a level playing field with more diverse concert productions appearing in large venues. Ticket prices are sky high. Clear Channel appears to own half the billboards in the land. The Feds are letting them gobble up the limited spectrum of radio frequencies, a national treasure of free speech and a resource that should have remained regulated. But are they evil? You bet they are!
Clear Channel is swiftly becoming another virtual monopoly, a fat ass musclebound pig on steroids with no moral qualms about using its unfair unregulated advantage and financial power to bulldog competition in radio and concert promotion. Clear Channel is one more clue that popular music and the touring band's hope for fame have fallen prey to mindless consumerism huckstered by boss hog media omnipotence with ads and billboards everywhere. If you want real diversity of ownership in concert promotion and radio airwaves, you have the opportunity to boycott every station, every concert venue, every concert and every superstar that Clear Channel owns - Have fun keeping up on the growing list! - but you're still up against a mindless mall rat American consumer that loves supermarkets and hates mom and pop shops. And when your'e spinning your dial just remember, those freqs are gone forever. Rip it!
- Vincent Vin, publisher Colorado Arts Net
consulted: Harpers Magazine (Dec, 2003 issue), Fortune, Business Week, local newspapers and numerous web sites including those linked on this page.
footnote: The NIPP v. Clear Channel federal lawsuit was settled in Spring, 2004.
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