We’re gonna make a little prediction — 2017 and beyond are going to be great years for investigative reporting. With Trump in the White House and a number of high-profile music lawsuits winding their way through the courts, reporters who know how to navigate legal filings and build relationships with sources are going to stay very, very busy.
Anyone who reads Amplify knows we take investigative reporting seriously and that our readers are often the first to learn about new developments that affect the live music industry. Amplify has consistently broken big stories and provided in-depth follow-up coverage on important stories. Below are the seven biggest stories we broke in 2016, ranked in order of page views. Happy clicking!
7. The Case of the EDC Three and How They Got Away
Pasquale Rotella, Todd DeStefano and Reza Gerami were preparing to go to trial for corruption and bribery charges related to the 2010 Electric Daisy Carnival at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum when allegations of prosecutorial misconduct once more derailed the case. Amplify was the first to report that Deputy District Attorney Terri Tengelson with the LA DA’s public integrity unit had been accused of accessing sensitive documents containing attorney-client privileged emails between Rotella and his attorney. Through our reporting, we revealed that the Public Integrity Unit office doesn’t have basic protocols in place for dealing with electronic evidence. In order to avoid more public scrutiny about the mishandling of the case, the DA’s Public Integrity Unit swiftly cut sweetheart plea deals with Rotella and Gerami who plead guilty to much softer misdemeanor charges and avoided criminal charges. DeStefano also accepted a plea which cost him six months in jail and a fine of $500,000.
Postscript: Pasquale and his co-defendant’s legal troubles aren’t over — the defendants in the original case plus former GM Pat Lynch and DeStefano’s wife are preparing to begin a civil trial.
(Aug. 15) Pasquale’s Lawyer Talks About Plea Deal
(Sept. 16) How Pasquale Rotella Was Set Free
6. Eventbrite vs. Wantickets: Exposing the Cut Throat World of Ticketing
Eventbrite’s failed attempt to acquire Wantickets has become a massive headache for the company. After the deal fell apart in July, new buyers purchased the company and began probing the roles of President Barak Schurr and former CEO Diego Carlin in the failed acquisition. Wantickets alleged that Schurr and Carlin started working for Eventbrite before the sale was finalized and successfully signed several Wantickets clients as customers. After the deal collapsed, Schurr and Carlin were hired to work at Eventbrite, causing more disruption between the ticketing companies. Amplify was the first to report that Schnaier asked a New York judge to force the men into arbitration proceedings that could lead to the enforcement of a non-compete clause in the men’s contract. Amplify sifted through the complicated legal filings to break down the case and what it meant for Wantickets, Eventbrite, and Schurr and Carlin. We uncovered some pretty lurid details, like a failed plan by the men to launch a sponsorship business for night clubs called Noir Life.
Postscript: In November, Wantickets expanded the case and filed a lawsuit against Eventbrite accusing the company of aiding and abetting Schurr and Carlin’s breach of fiduciary duty and tortious interference.
(Nov. 22) Wantickets Files Suit Against Eventbrite
5. Ray Waddell Leaves Billboard for the Oak View Group
At the end of 2015, industry veteran Tim Leiweke announced that he would be starting a new venture called Oak View Group with Irving Azoff and MSG Entertainment. Earlier this year, Leiweke announced that he was the hiring seasoned Billboard touring reporter Ray Waddell to join OVG and launch several content initiatives for the company. Amplify broke the news of Waddell’s exit from Billboard after 30 years and revealed his plans to help Leiweke grow the company’s media presence and develop a new industry event for sports and live music professionals.
Postscript: It’s only been a few weeks since Waddell left, but Amplify has learned that Leiweke and company are in talks to acquire a trade publication and potentially appoint Waddell to head up editorial.
(Nov. 30) Ray Waddell Is Leaving Billboard
4. Michael Rapino Stands with Artists Against HB2
In March of this year, North Carolina passed a bill that discriminated against the LGBT community and restricted transgender people’s ability to use public bathrooms. This overt act of discrimination prompted dozens of high profile musicians and touring shows to cancel dates in the state, beginning with Bruce Springsteen. Amplify was the only publication to get an interview with Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino, who made it clear that Live Nation was 100% behind artists who chose to protest the law. A long time supporter of the LGBT community, Rapino insisted that Live Nation would support performers who wanted to continue playing in North Carolina as well. Rapino also made it clear that the venues (and their bathrooms) that Live Nation operated in North Carolina would remain open for all North Carolinians.
Postscript: North Carolina is still losing shows because of the controversial bill. Earlier this week, the San Francisco Symphony canceled two performances in April scheduled for the University of North Carolina.
3. The Prophets of Rage Weren’t Who You Thought They’d Be
On May 17, Rage Against the Machine’s Twitter account shared the cryptic image (left), fueling buzz and questions from fans and the music industry about a possible reunion. The band’s twitter directed fans to a website called ProphetsOfRage.com, where they could find a countdown that ended on May 31 at 7 a.m. PST. Amplify was the first to confirm that the hints weren’t leading to a new Rage Against the Machine reunion and album, but to a brand new “supergroup” with members of the band. The Prophets of Rage Tour would feature guitarist Tom Morello, bassist Tim Commerford, and drummer Brad Wilk without their lead singer Zach de la Rocha. In de la Rocha’s place would be Public Enemy’s Chuck D and Cypress Hill’s B-Real. We were the first to announce that the group would perform songs from all three groups on the Make America Rage Again Tour.
Postscript: The group went on to tour from May to October, including a protest performance of the Republican National Convention. On Aug. 19, they also released an EP titled “The Party’s Over.”
2. ScoreBig Crashes and the Secondary Market Panics
The “opaque” ticketing aggregator and resale site began to face financial difficulties as early as 2014 and started taking longer to pay for the inventory sold through their site. Amplify was the first to report that on Sept. 23 the company fired its staff and effectively shut down due to a liquidity crisis, leaving brokers blind sighted and customers unsure if their tickets would be honored. ScoreBig’s customer service department remained open as customers began to call in about invalid tickets. Our follow-up reporting revealed that ScoreBig had been dealing with serious structural problems which led them to seek a buyout that didn’t arrive in time. Our continued coverage saw the cancellation of hundreds, possibly thousands of tickets on unsuspecting fans and angry brokers looking for compensation. The aftermath also saw larger broker alliances, such as DTI, come forward with compensation for brokers to reduce future mistrust in the secondary market.
Postscript: In November, secondary ticketing company TicketNetwork purchased ScoreBig and took over operations. The company’s liabilities are being folded into a new company that will handle the liquidation of ScoreBig as it attempts to repay competitors following its epic collapse. ScoreBig also currently faces two lawsuits— an LA case from Ticket Broker Eric Fuller and another in New York filed by SeatGeek.
(Sept. 24) ScoreBig Closes Down Amidst Liquidity Crisis
1. Cara Lewis Launches Independent Agency
After contract negotiations went sour, legendary hip hop agent Cara Lewis was let go from CAA at the end of 2015. Lewis, who was named number 35 on Billboard’s 2014 Women in Music list, had previously worked for WME for 23 years and her clients included Eminem, Pitbull, and Kanye West. Amplify was the first to reveal that Lewis was going solo in January of this year. Lewis launched C Lewis Group with as little fan fair as possible, bringing over several clients from CAA and getting back to work booking shows for her clients.
Postscript: Shortly after breaking her silence with Amplify, Lewis signed Chance the Rapper.
(Jan. 26) Cara Lewis Launches Her Own Company
(Jan. 28) Cara Lewis Goes Solo