A lot of people have done a lot of whining about Ticketmaster, the monolithic firm that Pearl Jam attacked several years ago. However, most people in the music trade have remained in bed with Ticketmaster anyway; even Pearl Jam is allowing tickets for its upcoming Fiddler's Green appearance to be hawked by the company. Eddie Vedder and his buddies haven't changed their opinions, but they acknowledge that their ethical stand proved costly--and at this stage in their career, they can't afford to be inflexible about it anymore.
Which brings us to nobody in particular presents' Doug Kauffman, who also turns up this week in our article about dying Denver bands (see page 75). In early 1995, Kauffman decided to stop using Ticketmaster for his shows, choosing instead to go with Rocky Mountain Teleseat, a fledgling firm whose goal was to sell tickets at prices that would save money for both promoters and regular folks. He reaped the benefits of this arrangement for a while, but late last year Teleseat filed for bankruptcy. The move cost Kauffman an enormous pile of dough, including his entire take from two sold-out Sarah McLachlan gigs, and while he declines to cite a figure for his losses ("If I did, it would only make me more bitter," he says), he calls the entire situation "a disaster." But Kauffman isn't ready to do a Pearl Jam yet. Rather than returning to the Ticketmaster fold, he's been peddling passes for concerts at the Ogden Theatre, which he owns, and a handful of additional outlets. And now he's taking an even bigger risk: Together with several investors, he has created TICKETCHOICE, a homegrown company that will disseminate tickets for all of Kauffman's events--including two August dates by the Allman Brothers--and compete for the business of other promoters in the area.
Bringing TICKETCHOICE to life was not cheap; Kauffman and his partners had to secure office space (it's on East Colfax, within walking distance of the Lion's Lair), acquire computers and software, and hire a staff of between ten and fifteen people. They also had to assemble a circuit of retail outlets where consumers could buy their tickets. They eventually settled on a slew of music and video retailers, including four in Denver, two apiece in Colorado Springs, Boulder and Arvada, and one each in Evergreen, Castle Rock, Wheat Ridge, Lakewood, Aurora, Greeley, Pueblo, Englewood, Littleton and Fort Collins. Tickets can also be ordered on the Web at www.ticketchoice.com or by calling 1-800-517-SEAT.
On the surface, this approach seems somewhat less convenient than the one used by Rocky Mountain Teleseat, which had desks at most King Soopers stores, but Kauffman believes that the average concert fan will find it quite convenient. "We're selling tickets where people buy music," he says. "And even though the proximity to an outlet might not be quite as good as what we were using before, it's close. And it's actually returning the business to the way it used to be done. In the old days, you'd go to the record store to get tickets, and that's the way we're going to do it again."
Another advantage for customers, Kauffman continues, is lower service charges. He studiously avoids mentioning Ticketmaster by name but says, "The savings are good compared to the norm in the market, for ticket-buyers and for ticket-sellers." The Swallow Hill Music Association and the organizers of the annual LoDo Music Fest have already signed up with TICKETCHOICE, and the new company's president, Noah Brodbeck, will actively be seeking additional clients. But Kauffman says, "We are strictly focusing on Colorado. There's plenty of competition in other places, and we don't want to take it on at this point. We're a small start-up company, and we're able to do this because I'm putting the tickets that I sell behind it. And we think there's enough other business locally to keep us going."
That remains to be seen. Most industry observers are concerned about the health of the concert market in general, and because more area promoters than ever are fighting over a diminished number of shows, the situation in Denver is quite volatile. But while Kauffman admits that there's currently a dearth of surefire arena headliners traveling the highways and byways, he says, "I've never focused on that side of things. Where things are happening is in the small-theater business. And that's where I'm at."
Kauffman knows, of course, that there are no guarantees that TICKETCHOICE will flourish; the Rocky Mountain Teleseat bankruptcy proceeding, which is currently grinding forward in a California courtroom, is proof of that. (He says that he's psychologically written off the money Teleseat owes him, adding, "If I get anything back at all, it'll be a pleasant surprise.") But he prefers being independent to being at the mercy of another company. "The Teleseat thing taught me a very expensive lesson," he says. "From now on, I'm hanging on to everything that I've got."
Last week in this space, you read about CPR, a new punk-rock show on KKYD-AM/1340, a broadcaster that previously specialized in children's music. But that's not the only surprise to be found on the frequency. The station is in a transitional stage, meaning that what you hear one day is unlikely to bear any resemblance to what you'll hear the next.
Here are the facts. KKYD is owned by Children's Broadcasting, a corporation out of Minneapolis that invented Radio Aahs, a format designed for the younger set. However, the concept went bust on January 31. "It was very sad," notes station manager Helene Hughes. "We had lots of kids calling up, crying." An hour of white noise later, KKYD came back with "Beat Radio," a format satellited in from Minnesota that features a variety of dance music. This switch has not been advertised, but Hughes says quite a few college students have discovered it anyhow. ("At least that's who's calling us," she says.) Revenues have not been especially impressive, though, so Hughes was recently given permission to sell two-hour increments of time to anyone who wants a show of their own. Thus far, the number of responses has greatly exceeded Hughes's expectations. "I don't know how people found out about this," she says. "They just started calling out of the blue. And now we're going to have everything from the punk-rock show to a poetry hour. And everyone's going to have so much freedom. All they have to do is get their own sponsors. It's like public-access radio."
Unfortunately, this freewheeling forum is likely to be short-lived. The entire Children's Broadcasting empire, including outlets in Minneapolis, Chicago, Phoenix, Dallas, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Detroit and Kansas City, is on the block, and there has been no shortage of bidders. "Two sales have already fallen through because they keep getting better offers," says Hughes. "It's really in demand." She predicts that a deal will be finalized sometime this summer, and the new owners are all but certain to install their own programming once the Federal Communications Commission blesses the pact. Hence, Hughes says, "this isn't going to last forever. But we're sure having fun with it right now."
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Live and in person. On Thursday, April 30, Dallas-based Eden Automatic--formerly Denver's own Somebody's Sister--visits Brethren Fast at Cricket on the Hill. On Friday, May 1, Slick Superchick hooks up with Adrian Romero and Love Supreme at Soapy Smith's; Superbuick motors to the 15th St. Tavern, with the Snatchers; Wash comes clean at the 8 Oz. Fred gallery, 26 Broadway; and Kathleen Luce and Santa Fe guitarist Robert Sequoia appear at Unity of Boulder (call 442-1411 for details). On Saturday, May 2, Joan Baez headlines a fundraiser for E-Town at CU-Boulder's Mackey Auditorium; Big Bad Voodoo Daddy is big and bad at the university's Glenn Miller Ballroom; Dick Dale hangs ten at the Bluebird Theater; and Martha's Wake gets together with the Beegle-Olson-Quist Trio at the Mercury Cafe. On Sunday, May 3, the Floodplain Gang dries out at Mountain Sun in Boulder, and A Stone's Throw tosses out its new CD, Scream, at the Soiled Dove. And on Wednesday, May 6, Pin Cushion and Derailed are joined at the Lion's Lair by Nate Pace, a Virginia yodeler. That's what I call a match made in heaven.