Following the settlement in the closely watched case between Denver's Nobody In Particular Presents (NIPP) and Clear Channel Communications (CCC), some industry observers are expressing disappointment

NASHVILLE -- Following the settlement in the closely watched case between Denver's Nobody In Particular Presents (NIPP) and Clear Channel Communications (CCC), some industry observers are expressing disappointment that there will be no trial.

"I would have preferred to see this issue resolved and decided once and for all (as to whether CCC is) doing anything illegal or not," says Seth Hurwitz, president of Washington, D.C.-based promoter IMP.

As previously reported (ELW, June 7), NIPP settled its monopoly claims against CCC; terms of the Denver agreement are confidential. A trial had been set for Aug. 8.

NIPP had alleged that Clear Channel's radio and promoter businesses in Denver constituted a "monopolistic, multimedia empire" that was "severely harming NIPP's ability to compete."

"My guess is (CCC) paid a great deal of money to make sure the facts of this case did not go public," says Gregg Perloff, who worked at CCC in San Francisco before exiting to form indie Another Planet. CCC in August 2003 filed a civil suit against Perloff in California Superior Court, alleging, among other causes of action, misappropriation of trade secrets, unfair competition and "interference with prospective economic advantage." Perloff has countersued; both suits are pending.

"While there has been a great deal of discussion about ticket prices being too high in our industry, I think it's time for the industry as a whole to get more sophisticated about the issues surrounding radio, radio airplay, radio concerts, and how they affect concert industry sales as a whole," Perloff says.

Hurwitz adds, "There's no way (the settlement) could be interpreted as anything but bad news for an industry wishing to bring these issues to light."

It is clear that many independent promoters still feel they are at a competitive disadvantage to CCE. "Some people want to compete and compete fairly," says Jerry Mickelson, co-president of Chicago indie promotion company Jam Productions, "and others want to eliminate the competition."

John Scher, president of Metropolitan Talent in New York, believes "no one can really compete with Clear Channel. The assets they have amassed -- including the amphitheaters and the exclusive venues, along with their radio clout, however it's used, and their sheer bulk -- doesn't allow anyone to compete with them."

That said, he adds, "I still believe there are considerable opportunities for independent promoters, record companies and certainly managers in the current climate."

Scher is involved in two complex, parallel cases with CCC, one in New York Federal Bankruptcy Court, and one in federal court in Newark, N.J. The latter is an antitrust case relating to Scher's non-compete, which was inherited by CCE.

"Our claims are challenging the non-compete, and we've alleged some antitrust claims," Scher says. "Many of the claims we have asserted in our federal antitrust case are similar, if not exactly the same as, those asserted by Nobody In Particular Presents."

Some wonder whether the U.S. Department of Justice will take a closer look at the CCC situation.

"It's just a matter of whether the government wants to pursue it," says Hurwitz, adding that he believes the current political environment doesn't seem favorable to that. "I think any questions about cronyism between President Bush and the guys in San Antonio (CCC principals the Mays family) are true, or the government would have pursued this already."

Scher still hopes for a change in corporate philosophy at CCC. "I hope senior executives (at CCC) will find the wisdom to stop what seems to be a self-destructive course they've taken in bullying people that often leads to very expensive litigation for both sides."

CCC officials declined to comment for this story, but have steadfastly maintained that they compete aggressively but fairly and legally.