Friday, November 30, 2007

now that's what i'm talking about . . .

The Post's Steven Pearlstein sums up the entire ongoing Live Nation/I.M.P. flap (see additional stories in "latest news" box) in a column today. I don't think there's a better assessment of the controversy, at least in the mainstream media:

"[Seth Hurwitz, owner of I.M.P.] claims that he's not against competition, just competition that is subsidized, as has been proposed in both the District and Silver Spring. But in the next breath he allows how competition is overrated. In a world where the most popular bands already have undue leverage over club owners in negotiating the financial split from ticket sales, Hurwitz predicts that having more clubs would only drive ticket prices higher and erode profit margins.

You don't have to accept Hurwitz's critique of competition, however, to acknowledge that he's put forward a financial proposal attractive enough that county officials cannot ignore it. I don't buy Leggett's argument that backing out of the Live Nation deal now will forever brand the county as an unreliable business partner. Any business that has negotiated deals with local governments understands the political risks involved.

The better course would be for Leggett to give Hurwitz 120 days to negotiate a land deal with the Lees, line up financing and sign a binding memorandum of understanding to build the facility. If he can pull it off, Leggett will have saved the state and county $8 million, a fraction of which could be used to compensate Live Nation for its time and trouble. And if Hurwitz fails, Leggett can claim to have been right all along while getting credit for fiscal prudence. Politically and economically, either way's a winner."

In an ideal world, something as straightforward as a music club opening up in Silver Spring would be done with private money and outside of the political sphere, as I imagined over the summer. But in 2007 and in Montgomery County, that's jut not possible. Thus the burden remains on The Government to ensure that its clients (Us) are getting a good deal. You may not agree with Hurwitz' "last-minute" entry into the deal. You may think the Rams Head's Bill Muehlhauser is right in saying Hurwitz is stifling his competition. But, in the end, it all comes down to the money. We've seen that the Fillmore and the 9:30 Club are very similar.

And if you were in the grocery store, trying to compare Brand A to Brand B, how would you decide? It's time for a price check.

Thanks to Roger Wilson for the heads-up!

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