Wednesday, November 7, 2007

late to the party?

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: Hoffmann beats Powell in Rockville mayor's race; ICC construction halted.

YOUR NAME HERE: 9:30 Club owner Seth Hurwitz wants to take on national promoter Live Nation for the rights to develop a music club in the old J.C. Penney building in Downtown Silver Spring.

Let's say you're Ike Leggett, and you're trying to get this music hall built in Silver Spring. You've made your demands clear and found a potential suitor; you've held a swanky press conference to announce the wedding; and you've even sparked the ire of a few neighbors who, like any meddlesome relatives, are nitpicky about the new beau.

It appears everything's in place, but someone has to crash the wedding. Enter Seth Hurwitz, owner of It's My Party Productions and operator of the venerable 9:30 Club. A Bethesda resident, he's more than irritated that MoCo would spurn him for Live Nation, an international concert promoter, to run the proposed music hall in Downtown Silver Spring. He even sent Ike Leggett and the County Council a letter (read a recap at the Scene; check out the actual thing at the Singular) asking him to reconsider:
"We believe your reputation as a fair-minded decision maker entrusted with carefully spending taxpayer dollars suggests you would want to be apprised of an industry-leading, locally based company that shares your goals of making that property a luminous destination for music lovers, a magnet for other businesses, and the pride of Montgomery County . . . Simply put, I.M.P. can provide a superior music venue at a dramatically reduced cost to the taxpayer."

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

Not-quite-Christian, not-quite-punk band Anberlin plays at the 9:30 Club, owned by Seth Hurwitz, last spring. (They will be returning tonight with Motion City Soundtrack and Mae, and yours truly is attending.)

Hurwitz' deal (which is more carefully examined at the Scene) gives the County a 1,400-seat venue featuring "national acts specifically selected for the Montgomery County audience" for a subsidy of $6 million, compared to Live Nation's current arrangement of $8 million. In addition, Hurwitz would pay $15,000 a month in rent to the County for the site, twice as much offered by Live Nation.

Local residents frustrated by the idea of taxpayer dollars going to a multi-national corporation would be tickled pink by a local business trying as hard as possible not to screw MoCo over. But, of course, Leggett and the County made their decision, and there's no going back.

Leggett's response was terse, and bold fonts were used liberally:

" . . . Montgomery County has negotiated a Letter of Intent with Live Nation and will not negotiate with other parties. Montgomery County has an obligation under the law to negotiate in good faith and we intend to follow the letter and the spirit of this agreement."

As the traditional wedding rites go, "Speak now or forever hold your peace." Hurwitz' chance to throw his hat into the Silver Spring music hall ring would have been after the Birchmere plans fell through last July. That is if the County had put a Request For Proposals out - and they didn't. It was, after all, only a couple of days before rumors of the Fillmore's entree into the scene surfaced.

Theoretically, a local music scene is composed of, well, local music. And you can't get more local than Seth Hurwitz and I.M.P. Productions. (Of course, there are a slew of promoters and even smaller clubs in the D.C. area, but none that could seemingly throw money around the way Hurwitz can.) Montgomery County's already made the vows; Hurwitz may have proved his ability to put on a good show, but the burden's on him to prove to MoCo that it's worth leaving Live Nation at the altar.

On the other hand, residents are already wary of Live Nation. Perhaps the burden is on Montgomery County to prove to taxpayers that they're not getting shafted.


Anonymous said...

After reading I.M.P.'s letter a couple times over I am actually infuriated that Leggett refuses to entertain their offer.

It's clearly a better deal for the county, it's from a local business (like the Birchmere), and I.M.P. has an excellent track record of success in Maryland and DC.

Live Nation's letter of intent with Montgomery County is NON-BINDING. This means that they are legally free to listen to other offers and it's downright absurd that Leggett won't. What gives?

Anonymous said...

What happens if we decide to eliminate the Live Nation subsidy? I don;t think they would be tallking to Leggett any more. Tell Leggett to stop offering our hard-earned tax dollars to the world's largest company in the industry. The music industry is already rich and corrupt as it is.

Anonymous said...

Our hard-earned tax dollars need to get spent on things that create jobs. This includes sporting arenas/fields/etc and music venues.

Anonymous said...

Ike Leggett, and the County, has no more of a deal with Live Nation than the Birchmere did,(and he said that it was a done deal also). It is true that I.M.P. came in late, but they did make a better offer, and what chance would they have had if they made their offer first. Answer, we would have gotten a better deal from a billion dollar corperation that doesn't need the 8 million that Ike is giving them. This deal needs looking into because something isn't right.

Anonymous said...

Legget's announced deal and the timing of his announcement lead me to believe that he never intended to deal with the Birchmere.

I have also heard this from people close to the deal.

Live Nation was somehow just waiting in the wings..........
I think not.

We do not need more Clear Channel.

Seth and his group are local unlike most of the owners of the "new" downtown who are distant corporate carpetbaggers.

So much for Ike's populist line of bullshit.

We now have a local offer - from long time Montgomery County folks - with a proven track record in club management.

Is this a government of the weasels in suits for the weasels in suits?

And where is the ice rink in all of this nonsense?

Silver Spring needs to be more of a destination. AFI is our only big draw.

Silver Spring probably should be an incorporated city.

County management has not served local interests at all in my 20 plus years as a tax-paying citizen.

More smoke and mirrors. I expect this on a national level.
But on a local level I demand more accountability.

Stop the BS and deliver a local
music club mangement team - Seth is
more than capable.

David said...

I was all I.M.P. until a friend pointed out that a local (virtual) monopoly can be just as bad (or worse) than a national chain. He suggested that I.M.P. might not be exactly the lovely-dovey community-builder that some might think when they hear the phrase "locally-owned."

Now, I've no real knowledge of the history here, but what happened to Cellar Door Productions? What is the market in the area like? How many promoters are there in the area? What kind of business-person is Mr Hurwitz?

Live Nation is a big company, but that's not all bad. First and foremost, it is publically traded (LYV on the NYSE). This means that (1) we can all buy a chunk, (2) that certain information is publically available, and (3) it is responsible to shareholders. None of these things are true of private businesses, even a locally owned ones. Also, according to their 2007 annual SEC filing, Live Nation has only one venue in the area (the Nisson Pavillion). IMP has three (9:30, MPP, and Sonar) and books at GMU and DAR/CH.

So hey, open the process, issue an RFP, or don't, but don't assume that local ownership is synonymous with "right answer."