The News from Paterson, New Jersey on October 18, 1980 · 35
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The News from Paterson, New Jersey · 35

Paterson, New Jersey
Issue Date:
Saturday, October 18, 1980
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The Newa, October 19, 1980 35 Flhe Pop Scene : I Tlhe CTeat T - sMrtt war .4!? ,,.. V' . ii, -ww ' X :-';s'i:is . ! .i-rV- - . WteSr .4 ; ' ' Sji J' - ', ? - I " Even though they apparently aren't as popular among pop stars Molly Hatchet, are a major industry estimated by some to gross as they are among stheir fans, T-shirts bearing the emblems of as much as f 100 million a year. That's counting what the popular entertainers, like Ted Nugent (center, standing) and bootleggers get. By JEFF IIOWRE Y "T-shirt bootleggers are like a pack of maggots," says Bruce Palley, director of financial affairs for Leber-Krebs, a management company that handles Aerosmith, Ted Nugent and others. "It's not unusual to have several hundred show up for a big concert. Bootlegging is a phenomenal problem." Palley and other managers and merchandisers licensed by rock stars to run their T-shirt concessions are worried. Their multimillion-dollar industry is being threatened by renegades who roam the parking lots outside America's concert halls, hawking shirts that are cheaper and sometimes better designed than those sold by legitimate dealers inside the arenas. A landmark court case scheduled to go to trial in late October will mark the merchandisers' first major attack on the East Coast printing houses that allegedly supply most of the bootleggers. Filed jointly last November by Leber-Krebs and Bill Graham's Winterland Productions, the suit will test the applicability of trademark statutes and the strength of ."personality rights" laws, which stipulate that artists and their licensed representatives have exclusive rights to the commercial exploitation of their names and likenesses. It appears that the legal battle will be long and expensive: at least one of the alleged bootleg manufacturers is already preparing antitrust-based countercharges. Only those dealers who have explicit licensing arrangements with an artist can legally sell his or her shirts. Such legiti mate dealers estimate that they gross over $50 million annually and that bootleggers are taking home at least that much. Bootleggers are often willing to scuffle with anyone daring to invade their turf, and industry reps claim that some are armed. "I've had a gun put to my head and been told there was a price on my life," claims Marc Robbins, director of merchandising for Front Line Management, which represents the Eagles and Jimmy Buffett, among others. The Great Southern Company president Ira Sokoloff recalls policing the parking lot at a Molly Hatchet concert in Birmingham, Ala., and being told by a shotgun-toting bootlegger to "f off.'' ' Bootlegging is a highly organized operation. The larger outfits often have three or four crews that follow major tours in vans and trucks packed with shirts. The more powerful crew bosses offer their sellers "protection" from competitors. Payoffs are a way of life (many insiders claim that bribes are handed out by some authorized dealers as well). Stadium concessionaires have been known to "rent" vending vests the perfect front to bootleggers for the evening, and low-paid rent-a-cops on concert security duty sometimes look the other way if a bootlegger Is willing .to share his often-considerable profits. . Bootleggers pay no taxes, artist royalties, rentals to arena managers or licensing fees for the photos and logos they use. Most, but not all, sell cheap, low-quality Pakistani shirts. Consequently, they have a much higher profit margin than do the licensed dealers and can sell their shirts for less. Seizure orders permitting the confisca- . tion of bootleg goods have been only partially effective in stopping bootlegging. The biggest problem is sheer numbers: there are sometimes so many bootleggers at one show that it would take a National Guard unit to serve court papers on them all . "Seizures have been an effective tool, but they're not the entire answer," says Dell Furano, president of Winterland Productions. "We're now assessing other strategies. We've hired ' private investigators to trail bootleggers to get a clear idea of how their organizations work. We're hoping our suit against the printing houses , will cut the problem off at its source." One of the defendants in that case is Leon Dymburt, president of Great American Screen Designs, a custom T-shirt manufacturing firm in Brooklyn. He insists that such legal harassment is part of a scheme by big merchandisers to monopolize the market. "The whole bootlegging problem is blown out of proportion," says Dymburt, who clains that bootleggers would pay royalties if there were an office set up to channel them to the artists. "If the merchandisers stopped bootlegging, kids still wouldn't buy (licensed) shirts. They're exorbitantly priced and poorly made. It's a simple case of a few powermongers trying to control the whole Copyright I960 by Rolling Stan magaiiM.

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