Dance promoter Insomniac hits city with seven-figure lawsuit over canceled Tiesto concert

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Tickets never went on sale and promotions were never staged, but a planned headlining concert by electronic artist Tiësto is the center of a seven-figure civil suit filed against the city of Los Angeles on Friday. Local dance promoter Insomniac Inc. claims the city breached its contract when it canceled what would have been an Oct. 30 concert by the well-known trance artist in the West Hall of the Los Angeles Convention Center.

On Monday, the mayor’s office referred requests for comments to the convention center, and a spokeswoman for the facility said no statement or comment would be forthcoming. In its filing, Insomniac -- the company that also staged the now-controversial two-day Electric Daisy Carnival in and around L.A. Memorial Coliseum in late June -- claims that the city did not have proper cause to terminate the concert, for which tickets were to go on sale Aug. 17.


Insomniac writes in its complaint that the city cited the rampant use of the drug Ecstasy at Electric Daisy, as well as the death of a teenage girl who attended the concert and died of a suspected overdose, as its reasons for calling off the Tiësto appearance. In its claims for damages, Insomniac cited more than a dozen recent deaths at or after major music or sporting events, including that of a 27-year-old man who died after being punched at a Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim game, essentially arguing that the Tiësto appearance was unfairly singled out because of public perceptions of dance and electronic rave-like concerts.

“Events like [Electric Daisy] and the Tiësto concert are held at legal venues and are planned in conjunction with law enforcement and medical personnel,” reads the claim. “[The Convention Center’s] unilateral termination of the contract will send the wrong message by suppressing the popularization of electronic music, encouraging it to revert back to its underground, unsafe beginnings.”

Insomniac is asking for damages of at least $1,015,180, citing a loss of profit of $436,250 and an estimated production cost of $668,750. Court documents state that Tiësto was guaranteed $250,000 for the single-night event. The artist’s management, Complete Control, did not respond to requests for comment.

Insomniac, which promoted five sold-out Tiësto shows in and around Los Angeles in 2008 and 2009, noted that its planned convention center event was no different from Sunday’s concert at the Hollywood Bowl, which featured dance act the Chemical Brothers.

“I can’t help but draw comparisons to the ’80s movie classic ‘Footloose,’ where dancing and rock music were banned,” Insomniac founder Pasquale Rotella is quoted in a statement. The company believed as recently as Aug. 4 that the Tiësto concert was a go, but less than two weeks later, the city returned Insomniac’s second rental payment of $14,400.

“If this breach is allowed to stand, Insomniac will be known as a promoter that cannot follow through on its commitments,” reads the filing. “As a result, artists of Tiësto’s caliber may henceforth by unwilling to contract with Insomniac.”

A copy of Insomniac’s rental agreement with the convention center notes that the city may terminate the contract for the reason of “good cause.” Should it do so, reads the contract, the “tenant agrees to waive and forgo any and all claims for damages against City by reason of such termination... Tenant shall have no recourse of any kind against city.”

The dance community has faced strict scrutiny in Los Angeles since the Electric Daisy Carnival, which drew an estimated crowd of 80,000 to 100,000 people per day, and led to more than 100 hospitalizations. Two days after the event, 15-year-old Sasha Rodriguez died of suspected drug-related causes.

The Coliseum Commission then imposed a temporary ban on rave contracts, although three events scheduled for the remainder of 2010 were granted approval to continue. The commission -- the joint state, county and city panel that oversees the venue -- has, however, imposed new restrictions on the promoters of dance events.

Going forward, promoters must enforce a strict age limit of 18 by checking identification, hire a team of emergency-room doctors to work on-site and warn rave-goers about the dangers of the illegal drug Ecstasy. The July 17 electronic-focused Hard L.A., which was to feature appearances by M.I.A. and Die Antwoord, among others, was canceled, and promoter Gary Richards noted that the city forced “a lot of extra stipulations and requirements” that “resulted in unforeseen costs to the event.”

A heavily policed Aug. 7 festival, Hard Summer, went off as planned, and resulted in only four arrests. An Aug. 21 dance concert at the L.A. Sports Arena didn’t fare as well, resulting in more than 80 arrests and three hospitalizations.

-- Todd Martens