Sturgis In The Courtroom

Rozone Productions, which produced several shows at the Glencoe Amphitheatre in Sturgis, S.D., during 2008’s massive annual motorcycle rally, is suing Star Tickets Plus and Talent Buyer Network, claiming it got hustled out of a profitable year.

Glencoe owner Gary Lippold awarded Austin, Texas-based Rozone a five-year exclusive contract in August 2008 – the time of the rally – to promote shows at the amphitheatre, according to the Rapid City Journal. Rozone had apparently already started promoting at the 100,000-capacity area because it contracted with Star Tickets in May for the rally concerts.

The company also hired Brian Knaff of Talent Buyers Network to bring in KISS, Kenny Chesney and John Fogerty August 4-6, with Larry The Cable Guy playing the same day as Fogerty. Knaff was the one suggested using Star Tickets as a vendor, according to the suit.

Although KISS and Chesney played full shows, the Fogerty concert was canceled because of a summer storm. Fogerty soundchecked before the storm hit; Larry The Cable Guy, unable to get paid in full, backed out of the concert.

Rozone sued Star Tickets and TBN in U.S. District Court in Rapid City, S.D., Feb. 11. The suit claims attendance at the Rock’n The Rally concert series was “enormous” and representatives of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally said the crowd for Chesney alone was the largest concert crowd ever at the 68-year-old event. An expert from the School of Engineering at North Carolina State University viewed aerial photos of the event and estimated the crowd was more than 42,000.

Yet, according to the lawsuit, Star Tickets reported sales to all three concerts combined at roughly 25,000. Likewise, ticket stubs returned to Rozone didn’t match the ticket count, and the promoter was immediately prevented from accessing the ticket boxes, the suit claims.

The lawsuit claims breach of contract, fraud, theft and other causes of action. Rozone and fellow plaintiffs RTR Illuminated Investors and Robert Rosen claim a minimum loss of $4.3 million and had to borrow $841,447 to keep the event afloat.

Star Tickets CEO Andrew Rocky Raczkowski, who could not be reached for further comment, told the Journal the lawsuit was frivolous with “fabricated facts.” Rozone didn’t promote the show properly and is looking for a scapegoat, he added.

“We did nothing wrong and everything according to contract,” Raczkowski told the paper, vowing to fight the lawsuit vigorously.

The lawsuit claims Knaff persuaded Larry the Cable Guy to cancel. Knaff characterized his inclusion in the lawsuit as a shotgun effect. It’s the first time he’s been named in a lawsuit in 30 years.

“First of all, the lawsuit is against Star Tickets. And they named me and a guy named Robert Struyk, but we really didn’t have anything to do with ticketing,” Knaff told Pollstar. “They just sued everybody.

“What happened was, they didn’t pay KISS in full on the first night. That put everybody in kind of a distressed mood. They were depending upon ticket sales I guess. They had paid John Fogerty in full but they gave Larry The Cable Guy a 50 percent deposit, and CAA represents both acts so obviously [Larry] was alerted to the fact that KISS wasn’t paid in full the night before.”

According to Knaff, CAA gave Rozone the chance to pay Larry at the airport but the money wasn’t received (at the time, the comedian’s people told Pollstar they were offered but refused a check). Chesney wasn’t paid in full until right before show time, Knaff said.

“They were asking me to throw in money and they were asking the ticketing company to throw in money. I just couldn’t do that so they got mad at me.”

As for the estimated 42,000 attending Chesney alone: “I looked at the crowd and, you know, I didn’t think there was anything close to 30,000 and I do this all the time. So whoever this professor was … I think he caused Rozone a lot of consternation.”

Knaff said Rozone did a great job of promoting the shows, but they started too late and, along with the storm and the first signs of the recession, the rally also contended with the 75th anniversary of Harley Davidson, which threw a celebration three weeks later in Milwaukee. Together, it was a slow year.

As for the accusation that Star Tickets didn’t keep an accurate ticket count, Knaff said “mistakes were made” but reiterated the ticket company’s credibility.