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.
"The problem was related to the fact that amphitheaters like Fiddler's realize additional sources of income from the shows promoted there, such as food/beverage, T-shirt/merchandise percentages, etc., which can serve to offset house expenses.
"Additionally, if you purchased a Cranberries ticket at the base price of $27.50 over the phone, you would have had to pay an additional $11.10, comprised of a $5 service charge, $1.60 handling fee and a facility fee of $4.50, which includes 50 cents for the Safe Summer program. (If you walked up to an outlet to purchase a ticket, the $5 service charge would have only been $3.75 plus the $4.50 facility fee). That's a lot of extra money tacked onto the ticket, and God only knows how it gets divided up.
"After negotiating back and forth, the final offer to me came down to this: I would not share in any ancillary revenues and $88,000 would be added to the band's guaranteed fee to cover house costs such as rent, stage-hands, advertising, security, police--all of the expenses pertaining to that date--before the show was deemed to break even, assuming ticket sales would even cover that amount. If not, of course, the 'loss' incurred would be split equally. While I acknowledge that producing a show like this is not cheap, $88,000 plus the band's guaranteed fee BEFORE we as co-promoters break even and I got paid one dime? That's $88,000 to Fey/MCA, in addition to 100% of the merchandise and concession percentages, with yours truly forking over half of any deficit.
"This was unacceptable to me and I informed Fey/MCA in writing fully six days before we knew the date was to be canceled that I wanted no part of the event. Only an idiot would want to be part of it. There is no upside. I'm a concert promoter, remember? I have considerable insight into how these deals go down and what real expenses are likely to be. It suggests arrogance on their part to think that I would blindly accept such a one-sided deal. If they can produce the signed contract whereby I agreed to such a plan, then I must be doing business in my goddamned sleep."
Upon hearing this manifesto, Moore calls Kauffman "a weasel" and Fey hits the ceiling. "He's playing cutie pie," Fey fumes before disputing virtually all of Kauffman's points. He laughs off the claim that Kauffman was trying to "negotiate," emphasizing that no conversations about the agreement were conducted before the time when nobody in particular presents was asked to put up half the deposit for the show. (He compares this period of silence to "Nixon's eighteen-minute gap.") Likewise, he scoffs at the implication that Kauffman doesn't know where service-charge money is going, disputes the $88,000 figure as inflated (he puts the actual total at $71,420) and claims that this money merely "covers expenses" rather than constituting "a profit center." He also suggests that Kauffman's statement about contracts is a red herring. "We haven't done contracts on the last four or five things we've done with him," Fey says. "We've settled in good faith--which is the last time anybody's going to do that with him. He's claiming not to have been a partner in the show, but he was in all the ads, in newspapers and on radio, and he sure didn't complain about that."
Kauffman contends that he and representatives from Fey Concerts both signed a contract in relation to a recent Smashing Pumpkins appearance the two firms co-promoted, and he insists that nobody in particular presents didn't appear in Cranberries advertising until well after he began bartering with Moore. Otherwise, he says he is satisfied to let his written statement speak for him.
Fey is not nearly so cautious. "This is such a ridiculous waste of time for everybody involved," he asserts. "There's no reason for it. He should be dancing up and down to only have to pay $9,000. If the show had happened, I'll bet his loss would have been in the twenties. He's being really foolish. It's only a few thousand dollars--but if we don't get it, we're taking him to court."
While Kauffman hasn't yet paid Fey, the City of Denver was ordered to do so earlier this month by the Colorado Court of Appeals. Fey claimed that the city had no right to collect an admissions tax on tickets sold for concerts he staged at the Denver Zoo in 1993, and a judge agreed. As a result, the city owes Fey Concerts over $43,000. Who needs the Cranberries with a windfall like that?
An exclamation point was placed at the end of the second-annual Westword Music Awards Showcase on September 29, when nominated bands gathered at the Ogden Theatre to find out who readers had chosen as their favorites in various categories. (For a complete list of winners, see page 90.) All concerned were exceedingly gracious--really!--and those who stuck around until evening's end witnessed a jam session featuring Hazel Miller, Lord of Word, Sympathy F's Elizabeth Rose and other notables. May next year's bash go just as well.
The University of Colorado at Denver is hosting a conference linked to the International Association for the Study of Popular Music. Participating are Robert Walser, a UCLA professor who wrote Running With the Devil, a book about heavy metal, and Reebee Garofalo, a University of Massachusetts faculty member whose works include Rock and Roll Is Here to Stay and Rockin' the Boat. Call 556-3468 for additional details.
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Okay, many of you don't like Ticketmaster--and it's doubtful that your opinions were changed by the dollar amounts mentioned in this column's first item. But the company could turn out to be a favorite of the six Colorado acts chosen to appear in the fourth annual Ticketmaster Music Showcase Tour, Friday, October 4, at the Mercury Cafe. The nominees this time around are Yellow Number 5, Turnsol, Vanessa Lowe, Katoorah Jayne, Whitney Rehr and Five52Fern, all of which will be performing at the event.
The following bands won't be. On Friday, October 4, Grandma Jukes shakes a tailfeather at the Cricket on the Hill, with Bustopher Jones; Three Blue Teardrops fall on the Hillbilly Hellcats at the Bluebird Theater; Gil Scott-Heron appears at CU-Boulder's Glenn Miller Ballroom; Tuscadero is in the pink at the Fox Theatre, with Nada Surf; and Kai Kln, from San Francisco, ventures to the 6th Avenue Rock Cafe in Aurora. On Saturday, October 5, the Psychodelic Zombiez celebrate the release of their new CD, S.A.C., at the Bluebird; Westword contributor John Jesitus finds Common Grounds; and the Modern Chamber Players appear at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art as part of the institution's challenging Perforum Series. On Sunday, October 6, the Boulder Friends of Jazz sponsor a Dixieland jam session at Trios, 1155 Canyon, in Boulder, and the Pietasters sample the fare at the Mercury, with Ruder Than You and Five Iron Frenzy. And on Wednesday, October 9, Trio Fungus will be among us at Seven South. There's a cure for that, you know.
Backbeat's e-mail address is: Michael_Roberts@ westword.comMichael_Roberts@