Independent promoter Outback Concerts filed a breach of contract suit in Davidson County Circuit Court on May 21 alleging the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts in Detroit did not pay Outback money owed for promoting an April 11 Etta James concert at the venue.

Outback seeks $58,908.46, plus interest and court costs. The papers were filed in Nashville, because that's where Outback is based.

Outback alleges that the company entered into an oral agreement to rent the hall for the James concert last December, with discussions taking place between Outback's Darin Lashinsky and Music Hall program director Karen McBride.

General terms were for Outback to rent the hall and pay expenses, with the hall paying over the receipts after the show. Ticketmaster is the ticketing company for the venue.

According to the suit, 98% of the tickets were sold, with $58,908.46 due to Outback after expenses. "The plaintiff has made numerous demands . . . for payment of the amount owed," the suit alleges, but "to date the defendant has failed and refused" to pay.

Further, the suit alleges that "based on conversations with representatives of the defendant ... the defendant has converted the net ticket receipts to its own use and has paid said amounts to third party creditors for the defendants' own benefit."

Outback president Mike Smardak tells Billboard.biz that James was paid for the show by Outback, and that the situation with the venue is highly unusual.

"A music hall has a fiduciary obligation to hold my Ticketmaster funds and pay me at completion of the engagement, not spend my money on their own needs," Smardak says. "It's a breach of trust that we rent a building, do a great show, and they do not have our money for us. Unbelievable."

When contacted by Billboard.biz, McBride referred comments to Vince Paul, president and artistic director for the Music Hall, who did not immediately respond.

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