Takeover: Corruption, commerce, and the Bay Area Music scene.
By Piero Amadeo Infante
The Christian right has for over 50 years attacked music, free speech, hippies, counter-culture, black music, Latinos, people of color, interracial relationships, and gay marriage. They have made life a living hell for all freedom-loving people in general, and for liberals in particular. They have robbed the poor, using taxpayer money to make themselves and their friends in the military industrial complex very wealthy. They have passed laws to criminalize activity while at the same time profiting from the arrests through their privatized prisons. The conservative elite in this country are the enemy of free artistic expression at all costs. And our little Northern California leftist protest culture has irked them for decades.
And they have made some notable moves on our Bay Area music scene and culture. Moves most of you probably haven’t heard about, because most of our so-called “Alternative press” like SF Weekly, Bay Guardian, and the East Bay Express, is sponsored by them and these papers won’t touch this subject, even while they pose themselves as “the people’s” news publications.
Shameful. And sad.
In the Bay Area these radical right wing evangelicals are operating freely in the entertainment industry with the support of hundreds of local musicians and workers, and taking money directly from our communities to use against us. Prop 8, the Criminalization of Marijuana, and the building of several private prisons are achieved, using the money that we spend with these secretive and clever organizations that have been here for years.
The Bay is just a small part of a sprawling network that now controls the American popular music market. The people running it have plans for those of us who make a living from—and express ourselves politically and socially through music and the arts.
Those plans include ending the local music economy forever, and eliminating political, and social dissent in music, in live venues, in radio, and on the Internet.
As a musician and writer, I’ve been proud to come from here. The SF Bay Area. Oakland. Street music. Resistance music. Tower of Power, Santana, the psychedelic movement, Country Joe, Taj Mahal, Janis, places like the Avalon, Winterland, the Keystone, and the Fillmore.
One afternoon in 2008, I dropped by the venue one afternoon and noticed several displays advertising everything from Body wash, to Vodka.
Knowing the history of the place, and the non-corporate attitudes of some of its founders, I thought that strange, and called a friend who had worked there, and asked them why the displays were there.
A spacious and long hall, with an upper balcony on one side, somewhat ritzy with a great set of chandeliers, and hardwood floor, the Fillmore would come to be the desired place to play for my generation of musicians. It always seemed to sound great, and the food wasn’t bad either.
In 1965, impresario Bill Graham met with an artist named Paul Olsen. Their initial meetings were called “The Artist’s Liberation Front” Olsen had a poster company called Funky Features that would go on to make some of the most memorable and iconic art associated with SF’s new musical scene in the ’60s and early ’70s. The Fillmore became the epicenter of counter culture, and the new left, as well as the aspirations of an entire generation of hippies, revolutionaries, free thinkers, and artists all over the world.
I was surprised to discover that the Fillmore now belonged to a company called Live Nation, and that they didn’t really book any local acts anymore and that they were headed by a corporate division out of Beverly Hills and run by a man named Michael Rapino.
Live Nation is a live event promotion company, formed in 2005, as a spin-off of a much larger company. In 2005, Live Nation promoted or produced over 28,500 events, including music concerts, theatrical shows, specialized motor sports and other events, with total attendance exceeding 61 million people. Live Nation owned or operated 117 venues, consisting of 75 US and 42 international venues. These venues include 39 amphitheaters, 58 theaters, 14 clubs, four arenas and two festival sites. In addition, through equity, booking or similar arrangements, Live Nation has the right to book events at 33 additional venues.
Live Nation was created as a separate entity, by this larger company, to offset some of the legal and anti-monopoly cases clear channel began to field, after FCC chairman Michael Powell, son of General Colin Powell, deregulated anti-monopoly laws in 2003, allowing for conglomerate companies to own as many companies as they could buy.
This trend began when Bill Clinton first signed into effect the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The deregulation in 2003 put nearly complete control of mainstream radio in the United States, into the hands of one company, headed by three families.
The name of that company is Clear Channel Communications. And the family in the driver’s seat is the Mays family, headed by Lowry Mays, a far-right Christian fundamentalist out of Texas.
A massive donor to right-wing republican conservative causes, Lowry Mays attended the A&M College of Texas and later earned an MBA from Harvard, and is a former Air Force Officer, from Harris County Texas. His Founded Clear Channel in 1972, buying a single radio station in Texas for $175k. He purchased it with his partner Red McCombs, another wealthy supporter of right wing Christian causes.
Along with Clear Channel’s “consolidation” came a lot of controversy. The Dixie Chicks were practically banned from all Clear Channel stations after their lead singer, Natalie Maines, said publicly that she was ashamed that George W. Bush was from her home state of Texas. Bad girl. Suddenly country’s number one act was pulled from country radio, despite the fact that they were then riding on the crest of a multi-million selling CD, and were the forward charge of the “new country” musical movement.
After September 11, a program director at the chain suggested that other songs, including Paul Simon’s “Bridge over Troubled Water” and the John Lennon anthem “Imagine,” not be played. And they practically vanished from the airwaves. Radio shock jock Howard Stern had several memorable clashes with Michael Powell in the press, and once on air, insinuated that his father had gotten him the job. Michael Powell had no broadcast experience whatsoever before Bush appointed him head of the FCC. The FCC’s response was to fine him like crazy for each and any infraction of “decency” and language, and to make the operations of his radio show on broadcast radio nearly impossible. Stern eventually partnered with Sirius satellite radio, acquiring two stations as a result of these clashes, and remains to this day the most visible and vocal critic of Clear Channel and right wing media control.
These were in essence, both unprecedented examples of politically motivated full-scale American media power plays, by a group of far-right-wing Christian fundamentalists, with deep roots in Texas oil, the Skull and Bones, and the Council for National Policy, a secretive and powerful right-wing think tank and activist group with roots in the extremist Christian reconstructionist movement, started by Rousas John Rushdoony. While Clear Channel was sold to Bain Capital, the Mays family still sits on the board, with Lowry Mays and his sons running the day to day operations.
It gets even deeper here, as the CEO of Bain capital is none other than former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney. Romney, a Mormon, was also a candidate for the Republican nomination in the 2008 and 2012 United States presidential elections, and who spoke at a gathering held by the Council for National Policy at their private function held in Salt Lake City. As of February 2007, the organization was planning involvement in the 2008 and 2012 presidential election campaigns.
This was not an isolated incident. More than one group of far-right, liberal-hating apocalyptos, were working freely here in the Bay Area with the help of people I have known and respected for years.
The offices of Goldenvoice lie somewhere near the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco. Their actual addresses, like many things about their company, are something of a secret.
Goldenvoice was founded in the ’80s by Gary Tovar, who signed over control of Goldenvoice to partners, Paul Tollett and Rick Van Santen, in 1991, after Tovar was arrested on drug distribution charges. Originally conceived as a way for punk music to find bigger audiences, in the ’80s, when punk was regarded as a violent subculture by the mainstream media.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nirvana, Social Distortion, and Jane’s Addiction, as well as hundreds of popular alternative, hardcore and punk bands, all owe their beginning popularity in California to the upstart company whose co-founder Rick Van Santen died in 2004.
Goldenvoice was regarded as the jewel of indie promotion companies in California. Large-scale, non-corporate, edgy pop music and hard rock acts finally had venues to play at all up and down the California coast, and locals in most of their cities couldn’t have been happier. They quickly developed a reputation as a hands-on, personal company, with fair business practices, and Van Santen to this day, is thought of as a saint among California promoters.
Goldenvoice had a serious struggle on their hands, competing against much larger nationally known concert promotion companies, and large scale concert tours and sponsors. Their biggest victory was starting the now-annual Coachella Festival in 1999. Coachella has since become one of the biggest annual concerts in the United States, featuring Radiohead, Madonna, and other globally popular, platinum-selling artists, as well as hundreds of up and comers.
And out came the wolves. In this case it was the radical, far-right, Christian theocratic billionaire Philip Frederick Anschutz. With an estimated current net worth of $7.8 billion, he is ranked by Forbes as the 31st richest person in the USA.
Inexplicably, Tollett and Van Santen sold Goldenvoice to the Anschutz Entertainment Group in 2001 for a measly $7 million and continued to run the firm from within the corporation.
Anschutz’s personal friends and social circle reads like a Who’s Who of radical Christian theocracy. While being on the board American Petroleum Institute Board of Directors, he is also a donor, sponsor, board member, and investor for Americans for Truth in Politics, the America’s Foundation, the Discovery Institute, and many other conservative policy organizations. He has been a major donor in every important republican campaign in the United States in the last 20 years. Goldenvoice also recently had themselves removed from Wikipedia, and try to distance themselves publicly from their parent company, Anschutz’s holding company, AEG (Anschutz Entertainment Group).
The fact that a man like this would come to own the Coachella musical festival, and that no one would be the wiser, or even care enough to so much as utter a word about it, is one of the worst signs for the future of music the industry has seen, since the initial rounds of deregulation in the ’90s
They had pulled it off. The conservative right had just taken over all the major live concert venues. They had taken nearly complete control of the airwaves, nearly all the billboards, and were essentially now holding the future of American pop music culture in their crafty hands, and an entire generation of musicians never saw it coming.
I marveled at what it meant for me and future generations of artists, fans, industry people, and activists. Millions of us have already, for years now decried the stupid, pop-slush, teen beat, boy-band, lip synching, garbage being constantly promoted to us on radio and TV. Corporate “consolidation” has assisted the right in totally closing down activist-aware hip hop in favor of commercial “bling” rap, and replaced political resistance rock with American Idol. This corporate consolidation has reduced Latin music to stereotypes, and there is simply no authentic representation of Asians, or Pacific Islander whatsoever, and the same can be said for Gays, Lesbians, Transgendered people and Bisexuals.
Now concerts are beginning to suck too, and anyone having a strong political bent towards the left will soon find themselves not on the lineup. Men running television and movies like Sumner Redstone, and Rupert Murdoch, while both being in their ’80s crave the shares of the youth market and always hide in the shadows, and promote the faces of glowing youth in all their commercials, and ads. At the same time they destroy any chance for that youth to have an actual chance to express itself artistically and the whole “youth” movement in music? Fake. The men in control love younger and more naive artists for one reason: they are easier to control, have less political awareness, and will do anything, no matter how degrading, for a taste of the fame that these men manufacture.
Young people in this country used to be politically far more aware and far more active, but where there was once an Angela Davis , or even Gandhi poster on the walls of many college aged teens, there is now a Paris Hilton or Lady gaga poster instead. Political opinion is a dangerous thing to have with these people owning the store, so shut up, and play.
I was most amazed by the fact that the Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender community in San Francisco somehow was in the dark about this, or worse, didn’t see its importance. How is it that these venues are allowed to operate without a massive, city-wide boycott? I have also been dismayed at a normally reactive, responsive community of people of color, Latino, Black, and Asian and indigenous peoples, in Oakland in particular, and the bay area in general, for the total lack of a unified response to this local media takeover, by people from Texas, Kansas, and Christian enclaves in the southern states, who have traditionally hated all people of color.
All the money made by Clear Channel and Goldenvoice, in terms of profits for their owners, goes directly into the war chests of the far right, and their massive, big-budget think tanks, and “policy councils” that attack American civil liberties in the media, federal courts, and from boardrooms of major corporations on a constant basis. The thought of doing a benefit against Prop 8—or for any socially progressive cause for that matter—at the Warfield, Fillmore, or the Shoreline Amphitheater is positively mind-boggling, since the people who own those venues are the people who wrote and sponsored Prop 8 in the first place. How will the LGBT community respond? Stay tuned. What are Clear Channel and Goldenvoice up to? More of the same. How will it affect us all here, if we don’t make ourselves aware of how we spend our time and money and with whom?
Vote with your wallets, and with your time, people. The enemy is here. They own San Francisco mainstream media, and they’re just getting started.
The following is a list of venues and businesses owned by both Clear Channel and Goldenvoice. If you support them, you support Prop 8. You support the end of free market competition, the demise of free speech, and the destruction of real musical and artistic culture in California, which means, the world. Don’t take my word for it. Do the research. And stay aware.
MUSIC IS FOR THE PEOPLE
MUSIC IS BY THE PEOPLE, AND FOR THE PEOPLE.
Clear Channel and GOLDENVOICE venues and radio stations in the Bay Area include:
( NOTE this list has not been updated from 2009, and both these corporations have acquired many more properties since then)
Shoreline Amphitheatre at Mountain View
Punch Line Comedy Club – San Francisco
Sleep Train Pavilion
Punch Line Comedy Club – Sacramento
Sleep Train Amphitheatre
Cobb’s Comedy Club
Nob Hill Masonic Center
San Francisco Opera House
San Francisco Jazz Festival
The Concourse at San Francisco Design Center
Bill Graham Civic Auditorium
Golden Gate Theatre
Nob Hill Masonic Center
War Memorial Performing Arts Center
War Memorial Opera House
Grand Regency Center
San Jose State Event Center Arena
Wild 94.9 (urban contemporary)
KSJO 92.3 (spanish)
Star 101.3. (pop and rock)
KISS FM 98.1 (classic soul & R&B
KKSF 103.7 (smmoth jazz)
KMEL 106.1 (Urban and Hip hop/Rap)
When you get there click on ” L. Lowry Mays”
AND THE HOLY GHOST
1: THE FILLMORE – CLEAR CHANNEL – LIVE NATION MONEY TRAIL
Clear Channel – Live Nation 1
Clear channel live nation 2
Clear Channel Live Nation overview
2: THE WARFIELD – GOLDENVOICE – COACHELLA AND AEG MONEY TRAIL
Warfield-goldenvoice AEG 1
Warfield- Goldenvoice AEG 2
Warfield- Goldenvoice AEG 3
Warfield- Goldenvoice AEG 4