Outside Lands Ouster?

City officials, Examiner hassle local promoter that created music fest.

You'd think the music promoters at Berkeley-based Another Planet Entertainment would have earned some time resting on their laurels after pioneering a wildly successful festival in Golden Gate Park. But the Outside Lands event, which reaped $800,000 for the city during its three-day run last August, has brought no such luck.

As it turns out, the city is now making the local company that midwifed Outside Lands compete with national promoting outfits to host its own event. Recreation and Park officials have invited all interested parties to submit qualifications to put on an oddly named “Golden Gate Park Benefit Concert” next summer. Never mind that no such process is required for any other event held on park property. The aim is to ensure fairness, officials say — and to guarantee that the city's pockets are adequately lined as a result.

“It generates revenue for the park,” says Rich Hillis, acting deputy director at the Recreation and Park Department. “The commission wants to make sure it gets the maximum amount of revenue and selects the most qualified promoter.”

This hasn't gone over particularly well at Another Planet. “It seems very strange,” Sherry Wasserman, the company's president, tells SF Weekly. “We've never had this happen before promoting concerts.” Major events such as Outside Lands are “our lifeblood,” she says, particularly when faced with competition from the likes of Live Nation, one of the corporate mammoths that has submitted a bid to host the Golden Gate Park event. “I don't think they understand the competitiveness of what we do,” she says of city officials.

Another headache arrived last week when the San Francisco Examiner's Ken Garcia suggested in a column that the city's selection process is actually window dressing. He quoted anonymous sources who said the contract will once again be steered to Another Planet, despite any appearances of competition. What he failed to point out is that the Examiner is itself owned by Colorado billionaire Philip Anschutz, whose Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) was one of four bidders who met with Rec and Park officials last week.

Garcia says his column would have clarified Anschutz' financial stake in the future of Outside Lands if he had known AEG was interested in the event. “I was not aware of it, and if I had been, obviously I would have disclosed it,” he said.

All the same, add journalistic insult to bureaucratic injury as Another Planet's comeuppance for a job well done. Just don't expect the laurels anytime soon.

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