Lollapalooza Organizers Being Investigated by Illinois Attorney General

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Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is reportedly investigating C3 Presents and various Lollapalooza sponsors for possible anti-trust violations. Like other major festivals that take place in the U.S. (Coachella, Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits), Lollapalooza requires its acts to adhere to radius clauses that prohibit them from playing at any venue within 300 miles of the festival’s Grant Park location 180 days before and 90 days after the event.

Although Lollapalooza promoters claim to waive this restriction for any artist who requests to play at a local venue or street festival within the prohibited time frame, many of the local concert promoters and club/bar owners in the Chicago area have expressed contempt for the policy, saying it is harmful to their business throughout the summer and early fall.

“A lot of us (club owners) have been talking about this,” Ray Quinn, owner of Martyrs on Lincoln Avenue told The Chicago Tribune. “It’s encouraging (if there is an investigation). The radius clauses are so huge I can’t believe booking agents go along with them. They really hurt our business in the summer.”

Not all venue owners view the restrictions the same way, however.

Bruce Finkelman, owner of The Empty Bottle, says that though the radius clause limits the amount of talent he can book in the summertime, Madigan’s investigation is unnecessary because bands have the liberty to decide whether or not they want to comply with the constraints of a festival. “If a band wants to play a festival, then, that’s great, they can play a festival,” Finkelman tells Paste. “If they don’t want to have these kind of constraints…they should just say, ‘Look, we’d like to play, but we don’t want to have to deal with these kinds of policies.’ Then the festival can decide either, yay, ‘We’ll do it,’ or nay, they won’t do it.”

Finkelman says it’s common for festival promoters to still allow bands to play the Westen Avenue bar upon request. “They waive it all the time,” he says. “If a band wants to get around it, they’ll get around it.”

MGMT, Spoon, the xx and Drive-By Truckers are all playing shows at various Chicago venues prior to their Lollapalooza sets. “I don’t think we’ve ever said ‘no’ to a band that wanted to play a club date (within the restricted time and radius),” Charles Attal, a C3 Presents executive, tells the Tribune. “It’s mainly to prevent a worst-case scenario where you wouldn’t want a headliner to play a United Center show the next week.”

Although Madigan has yet to confirm details of the investigation, Marc Geiger, whose William Morris Endeavor agency co-owns Lollapalooza, says he received a subpoena last week. If Madigan believes Lollapalooza promoters are “unreasonably restraining trade,” the investigation could lead to a substantial lawsuit, Chicago anti-trust lawyer James Mrowicki tells the Tribune.