Singer Sues Live Nation Over All-Female Country Music Festival Concept, But Star Performers Deny Involvement

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Rae Solomon performs on the Next From Nashville stage during the Watershed Music Festival at Gorge Amphitheatre on July 30, 2016.

Rae Solomon claims the touring giant stole her idea, but reps for Miranda Lambert, Maren Morris and Lindsay Ell deny any knowledge of the since-scrapped Zenitheve Music Festival.

Nashville-based country singer Rae Solomon is suing Live Nation for $25 million alleging the touring giant stole her idea of an all-female music festival, but several artists that were said to be headlining her inaugural Zenitheve Music Festival say they never agreed to perform at the Chicago event.

In a lawsuit filed in Davidson County, Tennessee, circuit court, Solomon claims the world’s largest concert promoter stole the concept for her all-female lineup, which included Miranda Lambert, Maren Morris, Lauren Alaina and Lindsay Ell. Those artists are opening the first day of Live Nation’s 2019 Country LakeShake Festival in Chicago June 21-23.    

Management teams from Lambert, Morris and Ell each confirmed to Billboard they had no knowledge of Zenitheve Music Festival and had not been booked to perform. “There was no offer for Miranda, and I am not familiar with the Zenitheve festival," said Lambert’s management.

If none of these women were scheduled to play Zenitheve, like Solomon initially claimed, did Live Nation really steal the idea of an all-female festival lineup? The five artists addressed in her initial suit remain festival mainstays and represent a select few female artists getting played on country radio. It’s not a coincidence they would appear on the LakeShake lineup as each are featured on several festivals this year: Alaina played 2019 Stagecoach in April with Danielle Bradbery, Lambert is scheduled to headline the Watershed Festival, Morris will play the upcoming Bonnaroo Festival and Ell will appear at CMA Fest.

Solomon's lawsuit alleges that while in discussions with Live Nation’s Women Nation Fund she was asked to provide a list of acts she was pursuing for her own festival. Three of the five names she provided denied involvement, thus weakening her argument.

In November when Live Nation announced its fifth-annual LakeShake festival, which includes an all-female lineup for its first day, Solomon was quick to argue theft. Her suit alleges, “the opening day of the Country LakeShake is, essentially, a mirror image of Zenitheve.”

Following Live Nation’s festival announcement, Solomon claims investors in Zenitheve then backed out, “citing the direct competition from Live Nation.” Without the ability to secure new investors, Solomon says in the suit that she could not move forward with Zenitheve. She then issued a lawsuit to the concert promoter on May 7, 2019, for “Live Nation’s fraudulent misrepresentations about the nature of their supporting Zenitheve.”

Solomon’s lawyer, Douglas S. Johnston of Barrett Johnston Martin & Garrison, LLC is asking for a jury to take the case, for "compensatory damages of $25 million, as well as punitive damages and litigation costs."

In 2017, Solomon began the early stages of planning what she would later deem Zenitheve Music Festival. During interviews with several publications the following year, she told reporters she was tired of hearing people say that women don’t sell and decided to prove this myth as false with the launch of an all-female music festival. She mirrored the idea after the all-female pop festival Lilith Fair years prior, which became 1997's top-grossing touring festival.

Solomon aimed to launch Zenitheve Music Festival in Chicago in May 2019, planning to tour through five other cities with the all-female lineup. Midway through the process, she applied for Live Nation’s Women Nation Fund in hopes of a partnership and festival sponsors. The Women Nation Fund, which has no ties to LakeShake, was launched in 2018 by Live Nation Entertainment CEO and president Michael Rapino as a way to focus on assisting in the growth of female entrepreneurs in the live concert space. Carrie Davis, chief communications officer at Live Nation Entertainment, and Michael Wichser, senior vp, mergers and acquisitions, help with the initiative and are also named in the lawsuit. They first came in contact with Solomon after she applied for the Women Nation Fund and they discussed her idea for Zenitheve. Later, Solomon was rejected from the program.

Even still, Solomon continued to secure a venue, contract and budget proposal for the inaugural festival in Chicago. Solomon then put a hold on local Chicago venue Jay Prizker Pavilion for a May 18, 2019, festival launch date and continued to reach out to sponsors for Zenitheve before ultimately halting those plans.

Days after the festival was supposed to launch, industry insiders are left scratching their heads at the allegations. The lack of females at country radio is nothing new and an all-female tour or festival lineup isn’t a foreign concept to the country genre either. Both Lambert and Morris, as well as Carrie Underwood, have embraced all-female tours this year. LakeShake’s all-female lineup is the result of an ongoing conversation the country community has been having the past several years and an answer to many female artists' frustrations when looking at predominantly male festival rosters. While Live Nation's attempt at inclusivity may have resulted in a lawsuit, it's now up to a judge to decide the outcome. 

Live Nation declined to comment for this story.