Live events sector
COMPETITION: The promoters of an Oregon music festival have filed an anti-trust lawsuit against Coachella Music Festival and its organizers, alleging that Coachella’s parent company uses its market clout to unfairly restricts artists from performing at other festivals. The suit, filed in Portland’s United State District Court on Monday, was brought by Soul’d Out Productions, LLC, and names Anschutz Entertainment Group, The Anschutz Corporation, Goldenvoice, AEG Presents and the Coachella as defendants.
At the heart of this are the so called “radius clauses” which are included in contracts for artistes booked to appear at Coachella. These prevents acts performing at Coachella that year from playing venues in California, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington from December 15, 2017 until May 7, 2018. “Such a clause has a substantial chilling effect on the market for music venues within the territory covered by the radius clause,” the complaint says and prevents acts booked at Coachella from performing at “any other festival or themed event within a distance that extends over 1,300 miles” and that this amounts to anti-competitive behaviour on the part of organisers.
Billboard reports that Soul’d Out, a niche soul and R&B festival, attempted to sign acts including SZA and Daniel Caesar, only to find the radius clause applied to them, even though they are over 1,000 miles away, and there was a refusal to grant an exception.
The lawsuit seeks a judgement that declares the radius clause to be void and unenforceable as well as treble damages for the antitrust violations it alleges: such radius clauses, say Soul’d Out’s lawyers at Portland-based Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt, “are expressly forbidden by California” and intended to use “Coachella’s market power in the music festival market to suppress competition by other festivals”.
“We seek no less than to operate in a fair and open environment,” says Soul’d Out Productions’ co-owner and co-founder, Nicholas Harris, in a statement adding “But as our industry has become more consolidated, it is subjected to more and more corporate tactics that penalise the public. Music, and the culture that births it, is not a commodity to be exploited. It is meant to inspire and enrich our lives.”
Soul’d Out seeks to bar Coachella and AEG from “enforcing any performance contracts that contain such a radius clause”, as well as damages and attorneys’ fees. IQ reports that a spokesperson for AEG says the company will “vigorously defend” itself against claims of abuse of radius clauses, which they describe as “an industry standard used by festival, concert and tour promoters designed to protect the integrity and exclusivity of their events.