‘Cancer’ Slur Leads To Italian Suit

Live Nation promoter Roberto de Luca is suing Mimmo D’Alessandro over an article published in the Italian daily La República.

In a case that’s already booking its place in Italian live music business folklore, de Luca is seeking damages over comments attributed to D’Alessandro in a piece published June 2nd under the headline: “Biglietti Alle Stelle” – or “Ticket Prices In The Stars.”

De Luca instructed his lawyers after reading remarks attributed to D’Alessandro when – speaking about rising ticket prices – he was alleged to have described Clear Channel as being the cancer of the Italian live music business.

The issue has already caused uproar at Assomusica (the Italian promoters’ association) with de Luca, D’Alessandro, a partner in the Brescia-based D’Alessandro Galli, Fernando Salzano from Live Nation’s Friends & Partners, Claudio Trotta of Barley Arts – who were all quoted in the original La República piece – and about two dozen other Italian promoters arguing over which course of action to take.

“I think it’s horrible and I don’t think that he should be doing it. A cancer is an illness – it’s not a fault,” Trotta replied when asked what he thought of de Luca suing.

Trotta and other association members persuaded the organization’s governing body to lift a month-long suspension it had put on D’Alessandro on the grounds that they felt it “a simple rule of freedom” to be able to express an opinion.

It seems some of those who reached the original decision to suspend D’Alessandro weren’t aware that de Luca was already taking his own legal course.

Roberto Meglioli, an Assomusica board member, said the association wouldn’t be taking further action because it now considers the case a private legal matter and therefore beyond its remit.

In light of that position, he said he felt it wouldn’t be appropriate for Assomusica to make any comment.

De Luca said he feels justified in pressing ahead with the writ because he feels he has to respond to the remarks that were printed about his company.

“[D’Alessandro] said this company is the cancer of the music industry in Italy and so I sued him. It’s as simple as that,” he told Pollstar.

“I’ve worked in this industry for 26 years and people know me well. I have never insulted anyone personally and certainly not in the newspapers,” he explained. “I can’t be in receipt of terrible comments like this and just sit here and do nothing. Cancer is a bad word to have used and he wasn’t talking about a star constellation in the sky.”

De Luca said he hasn’t taken action against La República, which is owned by the huge Expresso media group, and the paper has since been quick to offer him space to respond with more of his own comments on Italian ticket prices.

However, that second La República interview with de Luca, which was published June 13th, has caused its own ripple of controversy.

When citing high ticket prices, D’Alessandro referred to such Live Nation shows as Robbie Williams, The Rolling Stones, and Madonna.

However, in his response, de Luca said part of the reason for the ticket prices was the cost of the acts, which caused concern among some promoters who felt it was wrong to quote fees to a major Italian daily newspaper – although the piece didn’t make it clear if they were per-show fees. It listed Bob Dylan (euro 150,000), Red Hot Chili Peppers (euro 300,000) and Depeche Mode (euro 450,000).

D’Alessandro intends to defend the case, which is expected to hit the Italian High Court in Rome early in the new year. He claims he was misquoted and that words were taken out of context.

“It was 10 lines of print taken from an interview that lasted 45 minutes. I have nothing against Live Nation and I was only making a comment about the Italian live music market in general being sick,” he explained.

“I’m astonished that a colleague can take any of his competitors to court because he’s expressing his freedom of speech and point of view.”

De Luca’s lawyers will be asking the Rome court for financial damages, which would go to AIRC (the Italian association for cancer research), and public apologies in La República, Il Corriere della Sera and La Stampa, plus the costs of the action.

— John Gammon