It appears that Under Armour was not one of the advertisers that pressured City Paper to take a negative music review off its website, but that the other complainer – along with LiveNation DC – was the Baltimore Arena.
“Yes, we did complain, because it didn’t seem like [the reviewer] was a fan of country music,” public relations manager Meaghan McCracken said, speaking by phone with The Brew. “It was sold out, it was a great show, everybody loved it.”
Arena officials know reviews are opinion and can be negative, McCracken said, but felt the one written for City Paper by Travis Kitchens about the February 1 Jason Aldean concert was “way out of line.”
“We don’t have these problems with the Baltimore Sun,” she added.
City Paper editors told The Brew last week – and disclosed in a blog post subsequently removed by the weekly’s outgoing owner, Times-Shamrock Communications – that they were pressured by two major advertisers who vowed to pull all their business unless the review was spiked.
Asked if the Arena made threats, as well as complaints, McCracken said she had no knowledge of any pressure the Arena put on City Paper to pull the material.
Attempting to clarify that question, The Brew made calls Friday to McCracken’s supervisor, Jamie Curtis, director of marketing and public relations at the Arena. Those calls have not been returned.
Under Armour has not yet returned our calls to confirm or deny a report that they also complained about Kitchens’ harsh review.
Sources with knowledge of the matter said over the weekend the pressure on City Paper editors came from LiveNationDC and the Baltimore Arena.
LiveNationDC, meanwhile, had this brief response to our detailed question about their interactions with City Paper’s editors and general manager and whether threats were made:
“While we don’t always agree with our reviewers, we look forward to working with City Paper in the future. Thanks and have a great weekend,” Jeremiah Xenakis, LiveNationDC director of marketing, said via email.
Live Nation Defeated Convenience-Fee Cap
Last year, Ticketmaster/LiveNation was at the center of a local controversy over the convenience fees charged for tickets to concerts, sporting events and other entertainment.
In the wake of an irate ticket purchaser’s federal lawsuit, City Councilman Carl Stokes tried to pass a bill limiting fees to no more than 15% of the ticket’s price.
Consumer advocates said the context for the high-fee policy was the monopoly power gained when Ticketmaster and LiveNation merged in 2010, giving the conjoined entity control all aspects of the concert business, including managing artists, promoting them, selling tickets, beer, and parking and putting out albums.
The bill was watered down after a phalanx of lobbyists appeared before the Council’s Judiciary and Legislative Investigations Committee.
Take the Review Down – or Quit
CP Editor-in-chief Evan Serpick did not name the complaining advertisers in his blog post, but he did describe the agonizing bind they put him in.
“Our general manager, my boss, after explaining to me that the loss of revenue would be equivalent to one or two peoples’ salaries, sent me an email telling me to take the review down,” Serpick wrote.
“My options as editor, as I saw them, were to take the review down or to quit my job.”