Nashville-based entrepreneur and country musician Rae Solomon has filed a lawsuit against Live Nation, the North American events promoter and venue operator.
Solomon is the CEO of East Hallows LLC, the company behind Zenitheve, an all-female touring music festival that was set to debut in Chicago this summer.
The lawsuit, filed in Nashville’s Davidson County Circuit Court on May 7, alleges that Live Nation stole Solomon’s female-empowering idea for Zenitheve after two of its executives “intentionally misrepresented” their continued interest in launching the festival.
According to court documents, the initial partnership was discussed throughout months-long negotiations over conference calls and emails.
The documents state that Live Nation requested Solomon outline her entire business plan in detail, including an artist lineup, sponsors, vendors, financials and a timeline.
Once Live Nation had gathered information about Solomon’s game plan, the lawsuit alleges that executives abruptly cut ties with the singer, supposedly claiming an all-female festival was “too risky.”
A month later, the event-promotions corporation unveiled its own country shindig, Chicago’s LakeShake Festival. Among various other similarities, the three-day event’s debut night features an all-female lineup almost identical to Solomon’s pitch for Zenitheve.
As a result, Solomon is accusing Live Nation of “fraudulent, intentional” or “negligent misrepresentation.” East Hallows is seeking compensatory damages, attorney’s fees and related costs to total nearly US$25 million.
Solomon says she applied to Live Nation’s Women Nation Fund in May 2018 and was initially rejected.
The Women Nation Fund is the company’s female-run incubator utilized to develop and finance female-owned concert tours and other live-event businesses. Solomon says she applied to the incubator because it fit with her festival’s mission statement.
It wasn’t until July that Live Nation chief communications officer Carrie Davis reached out to Solomon again in an email asking to set up a phone call to learn more about her pitch for Zenitheve.
When asked what it initially felt like to be approached directly by Live Nation, Solomon told Global News: “When a company like Live Nation announces something like the Women Nation Fund and tells you first-hand that they want to invest in your business, it’s nothing short of a dream come true.”
Solomon continued: “But I think that it’s very interesting that they have yet to actually announce the recipient of that fund.”
Although the Women Nation Fund is supposedly comprised entirely of female executives, Solomon claims she was led on by not only Davis but also Live Nation senior vice-president of mergers and acquisitions Michael Wischer.
“We love the mission and vision, but now need to get some specifics,” Solomon claims he wrote in an email to her. “Honestly, it would be great if you could share whatever you have in terms of a business plan and any key support for it.”
“In hindsight, we thought that it was a little bit strange that we were speaking with a man about the Women Nation Fund,” said Solomon.
Solomon’s communications with Live Nation supposedly ended in October after she was rejected from the Women Nation Fund program. She issued an open letter to her fans and supporters this month explaining the situation and the status of Zenitheve.
Because Solomon alleges that LakeShake stole Zenitheve’s lineup, time frame, location and general idea of gender equity, the festival may not go forward as planned this year.
East Hallows claims it lost many of its deals, investors and sponsors after Live Nation cut ties with the company.
Thanks to various “radius clauses,” artists who were also scheduled to perform at Zenitheve no longer can, including Miranda Lambert and Maren Morris.
They “can’t perform back-to-back dates in a certain region for a certain period of time,” explained Solomon, who added that “Live Nation has (Zenitheve’s) working product so what’s to stop them from stealing the other five shows we had planned?”
“After months of speaking with them, they changed their tune,” said Solomon. “They said they didn’t need to hire me to do the festival and that if they wanted to, they would just do it themselves.
“I never imagined that Live Nation and their executives would steal a female-owned business for their own gain.”
Solomon continued: “But that is precisely what happened… Last year, LakeShake featured only three women throughout the entire weekend so I don’t think it’s much of a coincidence.
“They claim to be celebrating women in country music but, in reality, they’re doing so by taking another woman down.”
“The fact is Live Nation stole Zenitheve,” she added. “What’s to stop them from stealing the others, too?”
Solomon told Global News that since cutting ties with her, Live Nation has not returned any of her calls or emails, adding that she was left no choice but to file a suit against the company.
“With this lawsuit, we intend to hold them accountable for stealing the idea behind Zenitheve so that hopefully we can rebuild and put on this festival.”
Other than Chicago, Zenitheve was in the works to hit Seattle, L.A., Dallas and New York City throughout the year.
Although the future of the festival is currently uncertain, Solomon remains positive and hopes to use her situation in her favour and raise awareness for the lack of gender equality present in the music industry.
“My goal is — and always has been — to put on this festival and to change the way this industry is treating women,” she said. “That goal hasn’t changed.”
“We have a real opportunity here to start to hold companies accountable for their egregious actions,” she continued. “This isn’t about just me, it’s for every girl who’s having trouble getting played on the radio, getting booked at festivals or struggling to be taken seriously as a businesswoman.”
“I look forward to the day where we see justice for the theft of this business,” she wrote in an Instagram post. “A day where no woman has to decide between keeping her career or standing up for herself. A day where we hear as many female voices on the radio as we do men’s.”
“I think that this is just a symptom of a greater problem,” added Solomon.
“It goes to show that the discrimination against women in the music industry goes a lot farther than just artists and music.”
When contacted by Global News, Live Nation declined to comment on the lawsuit.