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Just how far can festival promoters go to restrict musical artists?

Musical festivals across the United States are a timeless and popular feature of spring and summer each year. They draw many millions of people to varied outdoor venues to hear multiple artists and kick back in leisured fashion for what is often a weekend or more. As a recent article on this phenomenon notes, attendees revel in the “festival experience.”

They certainly do so at the Southern California desert venue denoted the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, which annually makes scads of money for its promoters. The event runs over two consecutive weekends and has been largely operative (with a hiccup or two) for nearly two decades. This year’s festival just recently concluded. Beyonce was a headliner.

There is no question that the promoters of CVMAF are a powerful bunch. That is clearly evidenced by the contracts they sign with performers. Those agreements are widely known across the industry, with competitors chafing over their details.

What especially draws the ire of business rivals is the so-called “preclusion” or “radius” rider that CVMAF forces musical acts to sign. It bars them from performing at other festivals within five months of their Coachella performance and at any venue within 1,300 miles.

That is patently unfair, they contend. In fact, other promoters assert that such a contractual provision is flatly illegal under American antitrust laws and works as an unlawful restraint of trade.

Unsurprisingly, CVMAF principals deem their insisted-on riders as being reasonable provisions that are not legally objectionable on any basis.

One Oregon-linked production company is testing that argument via a lawsuit it recently filed against CVMAF in a California federal court.

We will take a look at that litigation in our next blog post.

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