Radius clauses are impacting more than Mija
Mija is not on this years HARD Summer Festival lineup, and fans aren’t the only ones disappointed about this. The producer took to Twitter when the festival lineup was released to reveal that she too was incredibly disappointed not to be playing at the Fontana, CA-based festival this year. Fans are not typically given insight as to why artists perform at certain venues and festivals while not appearing at others. Scheduling is certainly a huge factor when it comes to artists appearances, but there are many other factors that go into the booking process. One of those “other factors” came to light when Mija tweeted that she would be unable to play at HARD due to something called the “radius clause.”
Radius clauses are a behind-the-scenes contract component tour promoters utilize that have been a hot topic in the music industry for years. Tour promoters are the ones financially at risk when you go to see a concert or a festival. It is the promoter’s job to pay the artists and sell the tickets/sponsorships to the events they represent. If a ticket doesn’t sell, that’s typically money out of the promoter’s pocket — not the artist’s. However, if an artist is charging more money then the promoter can make back through the ticket sales and sponsorships, then the promoter is unlikely to re-book that artist. Balancing the cost of the artist booking against the ability to monetize the event through ticket sales and sponsorships is a difficult task, so promoters created radius clauses as a protection against the money they were fronting for their festivals and events.
Radius clauses are, in essence, a non-compete clause. They stipulate that a performer cannot perform within a certain radius of a city for a specified length of time before and after a show they have agreed to perform at. In essence, it gives the promoter a form of territorial exclusivity, ensuring that the performer does not book concerts with competing promoters and venues in nearby areas, which can undermine ticket sales for their main event. In some cases, once a promoter’s event has sold out, the Radius Clause can be lifted because the promoter is no longer at risk of losing money on the event. In others, the artist isn’t allowed to perform in surrounding areas for months before or after the show regardless of how the event goes.
The controversial nature of radius clauses has led them to spend significant time in and out of the public spotlight, but Lollapalooza’s usage of them has gained significant attention over the past 10 years. At one point, the state of Illinois actually investigated the festival for creating a monopoly on artists due to the severity of their clauses. Lollapalooza specifies that artists booked are unable to play within a 300 mile radius of Chicago for six months before and three months after the festival. That ‘s right: Lollapalooza puts a 9 month hold on artist’s touring in and around Chicago to perform at their festival, preventing them from performing in cities such as Detroit and Indianapolis for three-quarters of the year due for one performance at the festival. While the headliners can sometimes waive this stipulation, the festival is infamous for enforcing this for a majority of the artists.
Radius clauses, especially ones as broad ranging as Lollapalooza’s, are impactful for both the artist and the fan. Those who live in and around Chicago miss out on hundreds of performers for nine months of the year. It’s no secret that touring is how artists’ make the bulk of their income in a day and age where consumers can illegally download any song they would like. Radius clauses limit an artists’ ability to tour, connect with their fans in certain regions of the country, and they put artists in a precarious situation. Artists have to weigh the prestige and career advancement playing a festival such as Lollapalooza can give them against having the ability to tour to venues sometimes hundreds of miles away from the festival itself.
While there are certainly two sides to this story, it’s hard not to empathize with artists and fans who simply want to go to shows and enjoy the music, just like Mija. Although she has since taken her petition against Radius Clauses Tweet down, Mija has received overwhelming support from peers and fans. Even Gary Richards, otherwise known as Destructo, tweeted back at the artist saying she was welcome to perform B2B with him. Richard’s started HARD Summer Festival in 2007, but unfortunately remains powerless when it comes to the back end contract negotiations preventing Mija from playing this year.
The promoter for HARD Summer Festival enforcing the radius clause is none other than Insomniac, founded by Pasquale Rotella. Rotella and Richards have historically not gotten along, so it’s not exactly surprising for Richards to speak out about the way Insomniac conducts their business. He did not stop with his reply to Mija, and tweeted again that anyone blocked from playing HARD Summer Festival was welcome to come play during his set.
As for Mija, she may have deleted her tweets directly calling out Insomniac but she has made clear that she would love to make it to the festival one way or another. Festival attendees should be sure to check out the parking lot if they are looking for an impromptu renegade techno set.
H/T: Consequence of Sound