HITS Daily Double


Much head-scratching has followed a story by Dave Brooks on his Amplify site, which makes the highly dubious case for Dana Tomarken’s pending suit regarding MusiCares and the Recording Academy as a battle in the vaunted “Venue Wars.”

Brooks—a reporter at Billboard as well as the head of Amplify—has become an embarrassment to Bible boss John Amato. Wonderers wonder: Has the continual industry outrage at his incorrect reporting cost him the sale of Amplify to Billboard? Is Amato looking for his replacement?

Irving Azoff, who co-owns Oak View Group (OVG) with Tim Leiweke, has underscored that the assertions in Tomarken’s much-publicized letter and legal campaign are internal matters for the Academy, but as they’ve been dragged into the story they want to address certain key points.

Brooks has made considerable hay in the past over the OVG vs. AEG narrative, but this time he may have written himself into a corner—and could even find himself deposed as an expert witness in Tomarken’s litigation. After all, Brooks claims to substantiate Barclays Center’s alleged offer for the MusiCares Person of the Year dinner, which Tomarken claims would’ve saved the charity a lot of money; apart from her letter, it appears his only basis for this is an after-the-fact claim from the Brooklyn venue that they could’ve beaten the price for Radio City Music Hall.

“What else would they say,” Azoff responds, “that they couldn’t compete?”

One major mischaracterization appears in this breathless passage:

“You lost your privileges,” was the response Amplify received from one of the players close to the scandal that follows former MusiCares VP Dana Tomarken’s scathing letter when asked some basic accounting questions about MusiCare’s annual Person of the Year event, whose move from Barclays Center to Radio City Music Hall allegedly cost the foundation millions of dollars.

There was no “move from Barclays to Radio City.” Barclays was never the host of the dinner, which last year was held at the L.A. Convention Center. And while it may be true that Barclays could’ve held the event at a lower price, that was a non-starter for other reasons: the point of moving the Grammys to NYC was to do a Manhattan event. Madison Square Garden and Radio City are both iconic venues of the Big Apple. Further, to ask MusiCares attendees to schlep to Brooklyn on a Friday night would likely have put a major damper on the evening.

“When the Academy booked MSG for the Grammys, OVG recommended Radio City for MusiCares,” Azoff points out, adding that Portnow deemed this an excellent idea. When originally slated honorees The Rolling Stones became unavailable, Azoff and OVG helped secure Fleetwood Mac for the dinner.

At some point in the process, apparently, Tomarken told Portnow about a “silly offer” from Barclays. Azoff says he has no recollection of her having shared her preference for Brooklyn with them, and they say they haven’t been privy to any of the financials from the event to substantiate the claimed losses.

For context, it’s important to note that NYC mayor Bill DeBlasio had offered certain assurances to help cover the additional costs of bringing the Grammys east, but failed to come through on what he’d promised. More fundamentally, sales of VIP packages for the dinner by the New York music and business communities were considerably softer than anticipated. The fact is that neither the city nor the community in New York supported the Grammys the way L.A. has.

Brooks also claims that “Pollstar, which is owned by Leiweke and is part of Oak View Group, avoided covering the story, frustrating career journalists who would have picked up the story prior to the company being purchased last year by OVG.” Since the story Brooks has been pushing is (a) vapor and (b) necessitates commenting on pending litigation, it’s no surprise Pollstar declined. “What Pollstar covers is Pollstar’s decision,” is Leiweke’s only comment.

In short, Brooks may wish to gin up a “venue wars” angle for the MusiCares contretemps, but it seems he’s firing blanks.