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Free and cheap concerts coming, thanks to CD price-fixing settlement

October 15, 2009 |  4:40 pm

TowerRecords Remember record stores?

Well, Californians in 40 counties can tap a toe or hum a bar in their memory, to the tune of $549,000 that's been allocated for free and discounted live-music performances up and down the state starting Nov. 1.

The grants, announced today by the California Arts Council and Atty. Gen. Edmund G. Brown Jr., will drain what's left of a $6-million cash kitty that five big CD distributors and three retail chains anted up in 2004 to settle the Golden State's share of nationwide price-fixing allegations.

Under the original settlement, California public schools, libraries and colleges got 665,000 free CDs valued at $9 million for their collections, while individual CD buyers who filed claims received $13.86 each. What's left of the fund for cash claims will pay the piper -- guitar picker, violinist, what-have-you -- for the upcoming performances.

Keep reading to see what Southern California spots will do with the money.


In Southern California, Loyola Marymount University will get $15,000 to provide free admissions to its sacred music programs; Hope University in Fullerton will get $15,000 to underwrite freebies and discounts for performances of contemporary and experimental music, done by artists with developmental disabilities; Performance Riverside will get $15,000 for free and discounted tickets and to bus school groups to the opera; San Diego's Guitars in the Classroom program gets $13,545 for free performances; Cal State San Bernardino gets $2,600 for free and discounted admissions to its brass chamber performances; and the Ventura Music Festival will have $15,000 to provide free Latin music concerts for incarcerated youngsters.

Nationwide, the settlement involved a $144.4-million payout that included $77 million in free compact discs for schools, libraries and hospitals. Most of the loot came from the distributors -- Sony Music Entertainment Inc., EMI Music Distribution, Warner-Elektra-Atlantic Corp., Universal Music Group and Bertelsmann Music Group -- with retailers Tower Records and Musicland Stores Inc. (both of which folded in 2006) and the still-plugging-awayTrans World Entertainment Corp. (parent of the f.y.e. and Wherehouse Music chains) combining to pay $3 million. The legal charge was led by attorneys general in New York and Florida, but benefited consumers in 40 states.

At issue was an attempt by the big distributors and large retail chains to prop up CD prices that were being undercut by big box retailers such as Best Buy and Circuit City, who were offering deep discounts on music as a lure to draw customers to their stores to buy other stuff.

-- Mike Boehm

Earlier: Music distributors, retailers to settle price-fixing case

Photo: Tower Records on Sunset Boulevard before its 2006 closing. Credit: Los Angeles Times