Ordinarily Bob Riley and I have little in common, save the love of a good used car sale, but I was delighted to discover last week our shared disdain for Ticketmaster.
Some well-meaning, well-weary individuals decided to put on a big show down on the beach in Gulf Shores to inveigle vacationers into ignoring the tarballs and just having a ball there instead. Perhaps, during a planning session in the vicinity of a bottle of Cuervo, someone remembered one of the old locals and said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we could get Jimmy Buffett?” They could and they did, and once the CEO of Fun was aboard, a lot of other name-brand musicians, including Zac Brown and Kenny Chesney, wanted in as well, and before long, Margaritaville was becoming a suburb of Mobile.
Besides Country Music Television and HUKA Entertainment, the State of Alabama got involved in the show business as well. Despite that, the event started coming together rather smoothly. Mullet Aid was always envisioned as a free show, but Buffett’s people and CMT’s people determined that it would be logistically difficult to mount and televise a “quality” show for 200,000 beachcombers, so they slashed the audience size to 35,000.
Then they blew out their flip-flops and enlisted Ticketmaster.
In less than 35 years, what is now the world’s largest ticket distribution company has gone from being generally loathed to being universally despised. Ticketmaster has done nothing to burnish its image by merging with LiveNation, America’s largest concert promoters, to create an entertainment monopoly that would have made J.P. Morgan proud.
Maybe Ticketmaster got the call to handle ticket distribution for the Gulf Shores show because of its reputation for ruthless efficiency, but I suspect it had something to do with Buffett’s old manager, Irving Azoff, now being the head of Ticketmaster. Good-buddy connections seemingly played into the final ticket drop too, because it turns out not all of the 35,000 seats were offered to
the public June 23. Indeed, one-third of the free passes were set aside for real estate developers and condo managers, who likely are using them to draw customers to the coast for the occasion. City employees and tourism bureau types reportedly were given tickets off the top before the big day, so there’s probably no telling how few tickets hundreds of thousands of fans were scuffling for online at 10 a.m.
It seems, though, that somebody forgot to take care of Bob Riley. In a classic instance of gubernatorial harrumph, Big Bob’s spokesman, Todd Stacy, conveyed dismay about the allotted tickets vanishing in about five minutes: “Our office is asking questions about what happened because the purpose of this event is to benefit the Gulf Coast, not ticket scalpers.”
Y’know, if that’s the purpose, perhaps they should have figured out a way to let 200,000 people come down for the show, because that would have benefited the Gulf Coast about six times more than this Small Stages show will. Last I heard, Mobile doesn’t restrict admissions to Mardi Gras.
It’ll be great to have a nationwide audience for Alabama on basic cable giant CMT, but how many of those couch spuds are gonna grab the family, jump in the minivan and head South, especially after they see the latest video of sludge on the sand on their late local news right after the Buffett broadcast?
Meanwhile, the only thing that could stop this entertainment juggernaut is a hurricane, which, Alex by name, emerged in the Gulf just in time to force a postponement of the show until July 11. Were I Governor Riley, I wouldn’t worry. Read up on Irving Azoff and you’ll learn that this is one moneygrubbing poltroon who knows his politics. Check the backstage pass list and I bet you’ll find Bob and Patsy’s names on it. Maybe even the kids’.
Some more good-buddy business polluted the coast last week. Maybe you’d heard that the White House issued a moratorium on new drilling offshore in the Gulf for six months, so the 33 sites affected by the order could be checked out for any similarities to Deepwater Horizon. Clearly, one spill at a time is all anyone can handle hereabouts.
Nevertheless, the moratorium triggered an outburst of apoplexy among politicians beholden to Big Oil PACS, and ratchetjaws such as Louisiana Governor Jindal fairly frothed for the cameras over the hundreds of thousands of regional jobs purportedly at risk, perhaps not realizing that the moratorium did not affect hundreds of oil rigs already up and operating and employing thousands of folks in the Gulf.
Before you could wipe a dipstick, Hornbeck Offshore Services v. Ken Salazar had been filed in U.S. District Court, where The Honorable Martin Feldman took very little time to find for the plaintiffs, ruling that the moratorium would have “an immeasurable effect” not just on the local economy, but on the very “availability of domestic energy in this country.” Feldman dusted off his finest rhetorical flourishes: “If some drilling equipment parts are flawed, is it rational to say all are? Are all airplanes a danger because one was?” Ignore for a moment the fact that if, say, an L-1011 goes down because of a structural flaw, the next day most every other one around the world is out of service and being inspected for the same flaw. Wonder, instead, what might have gotten Judge Feldman so hot under the judicial collar about this moratorium. Could it have been his personal stock portfolio? Reports indicate Marty is heavily invested in not just energy stocks, but fossil fuel energy stocks such as Peabody Coal and Exxon, as well as (reported by Rachel Maddow’s staff) an energy management firm called Black- Rock that, according to The New York Times, happens to be the largest shareholder in…BP.
Apparently, oily sludge is beginning to wash up in the courtrooms, too.
Courtney Haden is a Birmingham Weekly columnist. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.