By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
By Gina Tron
By Jon Solomon
By Drew Ailes
By Courtney Harrell
By Kyra Scrimgeour
On the surface, it seemed to be a fairly benign, straightforward press release. Dated September 17 and sent from the offices of Fey Concerts, the announcement (headlined "The Cranberries Forced to Cancel Remaining Dates of Their 1996 U.S. Tour") stated that shows in St. Louis, Kansas City, Nashville, Park City (Utah), four California cities and Fiddler's Green in Denver would not be taking place because Cranberries lead singer Dolores O'Riordan was suffering from "flu and exhaustion." But this document told only a small portion of the story behind the act's scheduled Denver visit.
In the days and weeks before the 17th, Fey Concerts' Barry Fey and nobody in particular presents' Doug Kauffman--the co-promoters of the Cranberries date--were embroiled in a tense, sometimes unpleasant negotiation over the terms of their working relationship. And once the concert fell through, things got much, much uglier. The parties are now tossing back and forth angry accusations and threats of lawsuits, in the process unveiling intricacies of the concert business that seldom reach the public.
Despite their rivalry, Fey and Kauffman have worked together before; for example, they co-promoted a sold-out Cranberries date at Red Rocks in 1995. The reason for this teaming has everything to do with a key element in the concert business: past history. Fey wanted to promote the Cranberries appearance himself, but because Kauffman had booked the band in its earlier years, he had a connection with the group that its management chose to honor. Hence, Fey and Kauffman split the promoter's portion of the gate receipts. "We didn't want to work with [Kauffman] on this," Fey concedes. "He was forced down our throats."
Cut to the summer of 1996, when Kauffman learned that the Cranberries were planning to tour again. He contacted Carole Kinzel of Beverly Hills-based Creative Artists Agency and told her that he would like to be involved again. A letter from Kinzel to Fey Concerts dated July 17 officially informed Pam Moore, Fey's head buyer, that Kauffman would be a fifty-fifty partner for the Cranberries' appearance, which was set to take place at Fiddler's Green on September 23.
Tickets for the gig went on sale August 2, and they didn't move quickly. Whereas the previous year's Red Rocks show sold out in a matter of days, the Fiddler's date was limping along; fewer than 3,000 tickets were purchased within the first 24 hours, and subsequent days saw sales in the hundreds--and sometimes less. (In this regard, the event was typical of the slow summer concert season in general; see "The Shed Spread," page 67, for more details.) With this poor response as a backdrop, Moore phoned Kauffman (who had never co-promoted a show at Fiddler's before) and asked for half of the deposit that served as a guarantee for the date. Kauffman balked, claiming that the "house nut"--the amount of receipts that would be going to rent at Fiddler's Green (a venue owned by MCA, which merged with Fey Concerts several years ago)--was too high. He sent a letter to Moore on August 26 in which he proposed what he called "an equitable structure for our partnership" intended to "level the field." After this exchange, Kauffman, Moore and Fey spoke on several occasions, with Fey Concerts offering to cut $20,000 from its designated "break-even point" to compensate Kauffman for the fact that he was receiving no revenues from food and drink. To Kauffman, the revised offer was still inequitable. As a result, he sent a letter to Kinzel on September 13 (four days before the cancellation) stating, "I wish not to be involved in this date. It's an impossible situation for me."
To say the least, the decision incensed Fey. After revealing that only 5,528 Cranberries tickets had been sold at the time of the cancellation, he notes, "You don't just say, 'I'm out of it' because it's losing," he says. "You've got to be a big boy. I asked him, 'If we'd sold 15,000 tickets, would we even be having this conversation?'" Answering his own question, he continues, "Of course we wouldn't have. He's just whining because it was a loss. If he didn't like the deal, he should have negotiated with us before he went to the agency and management for the date--or at least before it went on sale. But we didn't hear a peep out of him until Pam asked him for the money. He's just complaining because it wasn't selling and he was going to have to take a loss." Fey adds that Fey Concerts spent $18,513.25 on advertising for the Cranberries date. "He's told us he's not going to pay his share," says Fey. "But we sent him a letter asking him for the money that he owes us. If he doesn't pay us half of that total, we're going to sue him. And he'll lose. Believe me--he'll lose."
Rather than replying to these accusations point by point, Kauffman sent Westword a "statement" that he asked to be printed in its entirety. The information he imparts in the midst of his defense is fascinating. He writes:
"The issue here has nothing to do with cancellation costs because I was never a partner in the date, due to the fact that we were never able to agree on how to partner an event between myself, an outside promoter, and Fey/MCA, who operate Fiddler's Green. When I was informed by the agent for the Cranberries that I could participate in the date, I was told to negotiate a reasonable arrangement with my co-promoter, which is precisely what I attempted to do.