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Black Promoters Assn. Attends Music Business Class at NYU

By Bob Grossweiner and Jane Cohen

When the Agency for the Performing Arts settled with the Black Promoters Association in the latter's antitrust and discrimination lawsuit, the financial terms of the settlement were confidential. The most important element of the settlement for the plaintiffs was to simply allow black promoters to bid on shows like any white promoters have always had the right to do.

Leonard Rowe of Rowe Entertainment acknowledged at concert promoter [New Audience's] Julie Lokin's graduate course in concert management, at New York University, that APA has asked if he would like to bid on forthcoming Fleetwood Mac and Boston tour dates.

According to plaintiff's music attorney Bob Donnelly, it really did not matter if Stevie Nicks, or Christine McVie were part of Fleetwood Mac. "They didn't even get offered tours before," he advised Celebrity Access. "So this is progress. It's a start at least. It doesn't matter if the African American promoters are outbid. Before the APA settlement, they weren't informed about these shows. Now they are at least allowed to play the game."

Ever since the BPA filed its suits in 1999, Lokin's graduate, and undergraduate classes have studied the lawsuit. This year Lokin invited Donnelly to address the class, but he was unavailable. Lokin held the class, and a week later, Donnelly called to say he was available. What Lokin did not know was that Rowe, and one of the litigators, Richard Primoff, of the law firm Rubin Baum would also show up.

Donnelly has spoken about the cause at various law schools, but never for the entire period. Here it was the only topic for two hours.

"It's rare when the students are this engaged," he said, “and they were well prepared. I was thrilled that the students were as interested as they were, studying for a degree in the music business.”

"It allowed us to put a human face in the cold words of summons and complaints," he added. "Some of the students learned a lot from hearing us, and got an understanding of discrimination, and how it dramatically changed the life of Leonard over the past 25 years — how he was dismissed in his role as a concert promoter, and as a human being. And how he was forced to take a back seat to white promoters in relations to black artists like Lionel Ritchie, Tina Turner and Janet Jackson, whose careers he helped to nurture. Leonard was so eloquent in his discussion."

Actually it was a class that was well prepared by Prof. Lokin. Donnelly noted that one student made a comment that "there would have been the same sort of reverse discrimination if the black promoters hired only black-owned catering firms, black-owned limo companies, and the like."

"I thought Leonard Rowe answered the comment effectively by assuring the student that if the black promoters did not hire those companies, they would never be able to make a living, since the concerts the black promoters were allowed to handle represented such a tiny fraction of the overall concert business," Donnelly said.

Donnelly said that the plaintiffs will try to show that agents do not make managers aware of all offers and that agents only accept bids from certain promoters rather than opening it up to all promoters — the heart of the lawsuit.

Donnelly believes that he, Richard Primoff, and Leonard Rowe had, by the end of the class, won over the students to the plaintiffs' side.

"A few expressed skepticism about the plaintiffs' case, but I think in the end, the class was in favor of the plaintiffs' point of view," Donnelly noted. "We thought the class was very smart with a lot of business savvy, and we were thrilled to be challenged by them."

Lokin agreed that the plaintiffs won over some of the class.