Correction to This Article
The headline on a Style section story Wednesday incorrectly identified Seth Hurwitz as the owner of Merriweather Post Pavilion. Hurwitz and two companies he co-owns -- It's My Amphitheatre and It's My Party -- operate Merriweather Post and produce and promote concerts there. The amphitheater is owned by General Growth Properties.

Seth Hurwitz, Owner of 9:30 Club, Continues Legal Battle Against Live Nation

By J. Freedom du Lac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The legal back-and-forth between Bethesda-based concert promoter Seth Hurwitz and Live Nation, the world's largest live-music producer, continues.

In March, Hurwitz and his affiliated companies, It's My Party (I.M.P) and It's My Amphitheatre (I.M.A.), filed a lawsuit against Live Nation, alleging that the company "has deliberately and unlawfully acquired monopoly power" in the national concert market.

The 11-count suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Maryland, also alleged that Live Nation used its influence "to entice and coerce artists to appear only at amphitheatres and other venues it owns, operates or at which it controls the booking," including Nissan Pavilion, the Prince William County venue that competes head-to-head here with Merriweather Post Pavilion, the Columbia shed that I.M.P books and I.M.A. operates.

Live Nation filed a motion in April to dismiss the lawsuit. But last week attorneys for Hurwitz repeated their claims, writing in a court memorandum that the conduct of Live Nation "is clearly actionable under the antitrust laws."

In a statement yesterday, Hurwitz said that Live Nation has a "death grip" on the amphitheater market, and that the company "uses this monopoly power to force artists to play Nissan over Merriweather. That is what our case is about."

I.M.P. promotes concerts at the 9:30 club, which Hurwitz co-owns, as well as Merriweather Post, Constitution Hall and other venues.

Live Nation owns Nissan Pavilion and promotes concerts at Verizon Center, Warner Theatre, Sixth & I Historic Synagogue and other venues. The Beverly Hills-based company -- which owns, operates or exclusively books nearly 140 music venues worldwide -- is building a new Fillmore-branded music hall in Silver Spring, where Hurwitz had hoped to open a new nightclub

Live Nation also produces major national and international tours; its 2009 lineup includes U2, Jimmy Buffett, Madonna, George Strait, Coldplay, Elton John and Billy Joel, Beyoncé and No Doubt.

Hurwitz and his companies are seeking unspecified damages and injunctive relief that would prohibit Live Nation "from continuing its unlawful anticompetitive, predatory and exclusory practices." The lawsuit was reported last week by the trade publications Pollstar and Billboard.

In a telephone interview, Jason Garner, chief executive of global music for Live Nation, disputed Hurwitz's allegations that Live Nation has a monopolistic grip on the concert business.

"We compete heavily with Seth in the D.C. market," Garner said. "And the fact is, he is the dominant promoter in the Washington, D.C., area. We do 5 percent of the shows in the market. . . . If we had the supposed power that Seth alleges, we wouldn't have 5 percent market share."

Garner added that his company produced just a fraction of the top-grossing global tours in 2008, with the Police, Madonna and Rascal Flatts the only Live Nation tours to crack Billboard Boxscore's year-end top 10. "Again, if we had the supposed power, that would be the market I would want to 100 percent dominate," Garner said.

Hurwitz, who testified against Live Nation's proposed merger with Ticketmaster during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in February, said that "if they are claiming only 5 percent of the market they are counting a whole bunch of things that have nothing to do with either of us." The lawsuit is solely about the amphitheater business, Hurwitz said.

"There is a huge difference between enticing artists to play your venues by doing a better job, versus forcing them to play your venues by controlling the market and the acts," he said. "Live Nation has attempted to portray this as evolution into a better business model, but we contend that it is intended to prevent fair, legitimate competition, which is illegal. All I want is the opportunity to compete fairly, and we are asking the court to give us that opportunity."

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