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Sharks And Local Culture: Concerts In Ann Arbor

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Doubts are proliferating ovei Ann Arbor's concert scène. Concerts at the University of Michigan so far this year have been few, finan cial failures and, taken as a series, culturally disappointing. Moreover, the SUN has learned that of the five popular events announced on campus, three have been backed by private, outside promoters. More events backed by private promoters may be negotiated. The situation has caused concern, not only that the University may find an excuse to crack down on concerts with un- fortúnate results, but that Ann Arbor's relative independence from the Detroit promoters may be threatened. The center of concert promotion is, as always, the University Activities Center (UAC), the student events clearing house whose staff, financial resources and con- nections assure it the sponsorship of most concerts which come to pass. While the present troubles have been linked to UAC events director Peter An- drew's departure in August, his former assistant and successor Sue Young says the situation is about to improve. Last year UAC produced, among others, Carlos San tana with John McLaughlin, BB King, Judy Collins, Alice Cooper, Duke Ellington, Bob Dylan, Gato Barbieri, J. Geils, Gladys Knight, and Joni Mitchell. So far this year only two have been produced by UAC, SoutherHillmanFuray and Joan Baez, both of which failed attendance wise. Monday Young signed a contract with Detroit promoter Steve Glantz of the Michigan Palace for an Arrowsmith concert Nov. 22. A contract for a non-U AC concert, Todd Rundgren in Hill Aud. Oct. 29, was offered first to Bamboo Productions in Detroit, then when a University official rejected the deal, to Standback Productions in Lansing which finally produced the show. Bamboo acquired its present local rep- utation shortly before the UAC-sponsored Dylan concert in Crisler Arena last December. Bamboo provided the booking, the backing and handled the ticket sales. The day before the event the Michigan Daily revealed that tickets for the best 1500 seats in the house had been systematically scalped at prices between $50 and $75. Bamboo is the creature of Bob Bageris, the most powerful promoter in Detroit. In Detroit's incestuous music business Bageris also counts as the former partner of Detroit's second most powerful promoter, Arrowsmith Glantz's father Gabé. MONOPOLY MUSIC The Arrowsmith and Rundgren promotions, whüe apparently legitímate, dramatize Ann Arbor's vulnerable position within the sphere of influence of powerful Detroit promoters. University towns are an especially easy mark because student organizations, frequently inexperienced and lacking in business sense, provide easy access to plush, low-cost and profitably situated University facilities. While the UM refuses to rent halls directly to outside promoters, it does rent to any student group who puts up the price in advance. Penurious student groups in turn solicit backing from private promoters with plenty of cash, acts and productions up their sleeves. Since the promoter puts up all of the money, and possibly the production staff as well, the student group becomes a front for the promoter and takes away as little as 10% of the potential profit in return for its name. While University officials worry about potential financial liabilities, an even greater concern for concert-goers is the probable University reaction to any concert fiasco. As it has shown in its handling of the film groups, University executive officers are prone to freezing schedules and pass- ing draconian regulations. The larger problem is the promoters themselves. In the big, bad music business pow- erful individuals come to monopolize and control bookings throughout entire regions, mostly because it is more profitable for the major agencies to work through their biggest and most trusted customers. "Bageris is my boy," Dylan-agent Bill Graham is reported to have reacted when informed of the scalp last December. GLANTZ & BAGERIS In Detroit now the major powers are Bageris and Steve Glantz . While Glantz owns and books the Michigan Palace, Begeris has an exclusive on bookings from Premier Talent, the national agency which controls appearances by 60 per cent of the pop music acts in the world. With his Premier monopoly, Bageris puts on most of the concerts at Cobo Hall, Masonic Temple andOlympia. The 23 year old Glantz is the scion of the notorious Gabe Glantz, sharpie lawyer, slumlord and music promoter. The eider Glantz owned and booked the Grande Ballroom in the mid-sixties, turned partner with Bageris in the Eastown theatre venture, and, after a falling out, successfully sued Bageris for more than $100,000. The eider Glantz has since retired from a visible role, perhaps because he is busy with a heavy load of civil actions against him for various real-estate dealings. Bageris is hurting, not only from the settlement he owes Glantz, but from a cocaine bust by Detroit pólice in September. The S400.000 found in his room at the time helped motívate an Internal Revenue Service investigation into his financial affairs. Despite such complications, both the Glantz duo and Bageris have been eager to promote concerts in the lucrative Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti "markets": Bageris, with the Dylan coup, a Stephen Stills concert before that and, more recently, the aborted Rundgren production; Glantz with the Arrowsmith show, the two which he wants to follow it, and regular bookings at Eastern Michigan University. WILL THE CONCERTS 1MPROVE? As threats real or imagined mount against Ann Arbor's concerts, however, the new UAC events director promises relief from a fairly dismal autumn. We've been slow getting started," Young told the SUN, "but now we're off and running." Since 1971 Ann Arbor's best answer to Detroit promoters and music it isn't in- terested in was Peter Andrews, the local promoter who also co-produced, with John Sinclair and Rainbow Multi-Media, three artistic but financially losing Blues and Jazz Festivals. Andrews is gone, however, due to a UAC decisión apparently based on his work with Sinclair and fear that his non-University promotions might constitute "conflict of interest." While Andrews partisans have suggested that Young won't be able to fill the shoes, Young says negotiations are now in progress with agents for no less than seven acts, including "jazz, black music, heavy high-volume rock and middle of the road." The only reason Arrowsmith was booked through a promoter, she says, is that all available dates were already reserved by Glantz. According to Young, booking through a promoter is an "odd situation." Although it can come about when promoters have cornered the market, she says it can also be an advantage to "share the risk" for high-priced,acts, since with greater financial resources a promoter can buy three or , four dates at a discount price, then put up the necessary capital for a UAC show. According to Glantz' representative in Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor. Glantz would like to produce two other major concerts at the UM. According to the representative, contracts for Arrowsmith will be on the same terms as possible future shows. UAC will be guaranteed S2.000 or 20% profit, whichever is greater, pay no expenses for which it isnot reimbursed and assume no liability. In return Glantz gets the use of a University facility, provides the necessary financial backing and gets fourfifths of the profit. Young attributes the dismal fall bookings to UAC's change in directorship. A late start prevented signing acts of choice, she says, and even University halls were hard to reserve. Now Young says timely ing for future shows will make better choices possible. THE ARGONAUTS If UAC clears $2,000 or 20% profits from its Glantz shows, its deals will be considerably more respectable than the deals promoters offer weaker student groups. The Rundgren concert, for example, was sponsored by a group which came into existence in September and calis itself the "Argonauts." The purpose of the Argonauts, says the club's principal officer Robert Malaby, "is to have a free concert." All Malaby says the group needs to put on the free concert is money. The money necessary to front the Argonatus rental of University facilities was deposited in the group's University account by Standback Productions. In return, the Argonatus were to receive only ten per cent of the profits, but received nothing as the concert failed financialiy. According to Malaby, original backing for the concert was to be provided by the ubiquitous "lawyer from Southfield." Malaby says the group managed to contact Rundgren 's act directly through its agent, the William Morris Agency in Chicago. When the first backer failed to come through, says Malaby, the Argonatus took their contract, first to Bageris in Detroit, then,after University official Torn Easthope rejected Bageris, Gary Lazar of Standback. While the tickets Standback sold for its event were Bageris tickets, Lazar denies that he had to buy a contract from Bageris to get the show. Bageris sold Lazar only the tickets, so the story goes, in order to save Lazar time for the last minute rescue job. Four days before the Ann Arbor show, Bageris had booked the Rundgren act in Toledo; the night after Bageris booked the same act in Flint. Despite the Rundgren reprieve, considerable nervousness pervades the University officials, student groups and promoters now responsible for Ann Arbor concerts. "The more publicity about outside promoters, the less we're going to be able to put on,"Lazar told the SUN. "The University wants to keep the situation as quiet as possible. because if word gets out that outside promoters are being invited in, then there'll be fifty scrambling to get in and it'll all be over." U-M HYPOCR1SY The situation is complex. Severa! months ago the University issued guidelines designed to prevent the use of its halls for profit by non-student promoters. While the University thus moved against student groups, in some cases with disastrous results, it has failed to move against the outside concert promoters. The SUN's concern is that a few men in Detroit may be gaining more control over the kind of tnusic which comes to this city, in particular through a concert series noted for its creativity and uniqueness. Now we learn from Maury Rinkel, student accounts auditor, that the executive officers will probably be handing down new regulations governing concert promotions. While the SUN doesn't want bigtime Detroit promoters moving into Ann Arbor concerts, neither do we want the University to pass the kind of repressive regulations which would stifle creative and locally-originated music promotio'h. A solution would be University funding of local cultural events, as chosen by a coalition of student and community groups independant of outside direction. But the University has never regarded its concert series as an important service to its students, nor has it recognizéd its ties to the youth community around it. Instead concerts have been treated as a nuisance, and now the shit may be coming home.