Let’s start with Corgan, who was one busy musician yesterday, first appearing before the House Committee on the Judiciary for a hearing on the Performance Rights Act and then dropping off that letter, which he was reluctant to share with the Sun-Times for some reason.

And a spokesman for Sen. Herb Kohl, chairman of the Committee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, told DeRogatis his office hadn’t seen it yet.

Fortunately for DeRogatis, someone else wasn’t shy about sharing; We’ll talk about who that was in a minute. Here’s the letter:

Dear Chairmen Kohl & Leahy and Ranking Members Hatch & Specter:

The merger as proposed before you on the surface may seem to be too much power in the hands of the few, and I can understand the need for Congress to review this matter. Here I would hope that my 20 years in the recording and touring business will allow me some candid authority on these issues, and would help shed some light for you on some of the nuances that perhaps could easily get missed.

The ‘system’ that was once the modern record business, essentially ushered in with the meteoric rise of the Beatles, is now helplessly broken. And by almost every account available cannot be repaired. Personally I would add to that a healthy ‘good riddance,’ as the old system far too often took advantage of the artists as pawns while the power brokers colluded behind the scenes to control the existing markets. This control often saw the sacrificing of great careers to maintain that control. Look no further than the major record labels’ intense fight to slow down the progress of Internet technologies that more readily brought music and video to the consumer because they couldn’t completely control it. This disastrous decision on their part has destroyed the economic base of the recording industry. It is now a shadow of its former self.

Artists now find a heavy shift of emphasis to the live performance side, and this is where this merger finds its merit. The combination of these companies creates powerful tools for an independent artist to reach their fans in new and unprecedented ways, all the while restoring the power where it belongs. In today’s ever changing world, the ability for artists to connect to their fans and stay connected is critical for the health of our industry. Without sustainable, consistent economic models upon which to make key decisions, it is both the music and the fans that suffer.

In short, we have a broken system. This is a new model that puts power into the hands of the artist, creating a dynamic synergy that will inspire great works and attract healthy competition. The proposed merger you have before you helps create those opportunities by boldly addressing the complexity of the existing musical and economic landscapes.

Billy Corgan

The Smashing Pumpkins


Feb. 20? Looks like Billy does his homework ahead of time. So who was it that provided DeRogatis with a copy of Corgan’s letter? Would you believe Ticketmaster?

You might be asking yourself what possible interest Billy Corgan has in Ticketmaster and vice versa. Okay, let’s connect the dots.

Billy Corgan is in Smashing Pumpkins. Smashing Pumpkins are managed by Jared Paul, of AGP Management. Who’s the CEO of AGP Management? Irving Azoff, who also just happens to be CEO of Ticketmaster Entertainment.

See, it all begins to make sense. Now you see why Billy might be inclined to write things about the proposed merger like “…the old system far too often took advantage of the artists as pawns while the power brokers colluded behind the scenes to control the existing markets.”

Guess BC prefers all of his power in one broker.

As for what might inspire Corgan to take the time to appear before the House on behalf of the Performance Rights Act (besides the obvious reason, that is), in February, Azoff said this during a hearing before the Senate and House judiciary antitrust subcommittees on the TM/LN merger:

“While I’m honored to be here, if I wasn’t doing this right now, I’d be in the Rayburn Building with the musicFIRST coalition and all the artists who are seeking congressional support for the performance rights bill.”

See? More dots. Fun isn’t it?

But let’s move on to Bono, who DeRogatis got the chance to talk with briefly following a promotional event for U2’s new album at Chicago’s Metro Tuesday night. Why would DeRogatis be interested in Bono’s opinion on the TM/LN merger? Hmmm.

From the Sun-Times:

Last year, U2 hopped into bed with Live Nation in a big way, signing a 12-year global contract allowing the American promoter to handle all merchandising, digital and branding rights as well as touring for the Irish band. And on its last tour, U2 faced significant criticism from fans – including one who questioned the band during the promo event – who were angry about Ticketmaster’s handling of the specially-priced fan club tickets, an inordinate number of which seemed to wind up in the hands of scalpers.

So, Bono has a financial stake in one company and has been involved in controversy with the other one in the past. Seems like he’d take at least a passing interest in the proposed merger, right? The man who has an opinion on about just about everything else told DeRogatis he hadn’t even thought about it.

Surprisingly, given the facts that the band is gearing up to work with these two companies for what is expected to be one of the top-grossing tours of 2009; that U2 made $25 million from selling its stock in Live Nation in December, and that the merger was the subject of two recent hearings on Capitol Hill as well as an ongoing investigation by the Justice Department, Bono said he had no opinion on the mega-merger.

“I’m not… I haven’t really spent any time thinking about it. I’m just thinking about this [promoting No Line on the Horizon],” the singer said.

I noted that he had just responded to a fan who was angry about ticket sales on the last tour.

“I genuinely don’t… I haven’t had a minute to consider [the merger]. Is it definitely going to happen?” Bono asked.

I responded that it is now in the hands of the Justice Department.

“The thing that I have spent any time thinking about is this marginalization of musicians in music,” Bono countered, changing the subject. “And that disturbs me. And it doesn’t really affect me, but I’ve seen it particularly affect songwriters. It’s very difficult for songwriters to get paid. If you’re a band, you can develop a relationship with your audience through online, through playing live shows. But where’s the next Cole Porter going to come from?”

Nice stonewalling Mr. Hewson. Ever consider running for office in Illinois?

But DeRogatis wasn’t giving up without a fight, even getting Bono to promise to bone up on the issue.

As Bono began to edge away, I told him that the Ticketmaster/Live Nation story was the biggest I’ve ever covered as a music journalist. That gave him pause.

“What’s your biggest worry about it? Just let me know,” Bono said.

I told him the merger could create one giant corporation that will dominate live music in America to such an extent that there will be few options left for artists who want to work with any indie promoter, since the company will control so many venues, and they will have no option to sell tickets through any system other than Ticketmaster’s. “Pearl Jam went up against Ticketmaster in the early ‘90s and learned that the hard way,” I said.

“I remember,” Bono replied.

“You really should read up on this,” I said.

“I will,” Bono promised. “There are only so many hours in the day. But we’re going to be in that [touring/concert] system soon, so it better work.”

Way to go Jim. Why didn’t I think of that? Let’s get Bono to fix this mess!

Read DeRogatis’ Sun-Times post on Billy Corgan here and his post on Bono here.