WME dragged into Live Nation antitrust case

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WME dragged into Live Nation antitrust case

Fri Oct 01, 2010 @ 04:53PM PST

By Eriq Gardner

Wmelogo EXCLUSIVE: Does the William Morris Endeavor talent agency hold the key to proving that Live Nation is guilty of an antitrust conspiracy?

One company thinks so.

My Ampitheater Inc., is asking a California judge to compel WME to turn over documents that it says may prove crucial to showing that Live Nation has been coercing musicians towards playing only certain concert venues.

WME is fighting the request tooth and nail. The talent agency headed by Ari Emanuel, who also sits on Live Nation's board, said it would cost $3 million to comply with the request. For the that reason and others, WME is begging a judge not to order it to comply with a subpoena.

In March 2009, IMA sued Live Nation in Maryland after being told by musicians or their booking agents that they couldn't play the famed Merriweather Post Pavilian venue in Columbia, Md., which IMA controls. Allegedly, bands were instead steered to competing Live Nation-controlled venues in the area.

In one example, IMA says it heard from WME agent Mark Geiger, who was representing Nine Inch Nails. Allegedly, the band couldn't make a performance in its establishment because the band had received "monetary concessions" from Live Nation.

IMA says WME is a potential source for figuring out whether Live Nation was implicitly threatening to harm a national tour in order to get cooperation on venue bookings.

In November, IMA served WME with a subpoena that sought fifteen categories of documents, including the production of docs "relating to the negotiation of any contract, agreement or understanding" for Live Nation to promote, produce or sponsor gigs for WME clients "on a tour, block-booked or multi-appearance basis."

WME has challenged the subpoena as both overly broad and a violation of attorney-client privilege. The agency also says that the disclosure of such sensitive information would harm its business.

The two sides tried to work the issues out, but couldn't come to a resolution. At one point, IMA attempted to limit the scope of its subpoena to just 29 WME artists, including such acts as John Mayer, Eminem, Lil' Wayne, Kanye West and The Killers. (WME says that the offer was rejected in part because IMA reserved the right to enlarge the scope of the subpoena at a later time.)

A California judge is now faced with a tough decision whether to order WME to turn over papers relating to approximately 30,000 appearances it brokered on behalf of musicians. And the clock is ticking. IMA has until Nov. 30 to complete discovery in its ongoing antitrust lawsuit against Live Nation.

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to [email protected]

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