How George W is coining it in from Britain's music festivals

Did you know that US politicians profit from the price you pay to enjoy yourselves at Latitude, etc? The <i>IoS</i> tells all
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The Independent Culture

It is the summer of love of live music. A festival fiesta with more than a million fans paying to watch top-name bands at the 500-plus music events that are now held across the UK.

But as they put their hands deeper into their pockets for tickets, few fans will be aware that their cash is lining the pockets of corporate America; fewer still that some of it may find its way to support the US President, George Bush.

"Live music is booming," says the Performing Rights Society (PRS), which estimates it will reap record-breaking revenues of £1.5bn this year in the UK alone. Riding the crest of this boom is Live Nation, the world's largest live entertainment promoter.

The company has established itself as the predominant player in the UK festival scene, owning O2 Wireless, Download, Hyde Park Calling, and a controlling interest in Leeds, Reading and Latitude, as well as playing a big role in running Glastonbury.

The company, based in Beverly Hills, California, boasts that last year it brought together 64 million fans at 28,000 events in 18 countries. Its control of the industry includes its ownership of several venues, deals promoting shows at Wembley and the Academy venues, and artists ranging from Madonna to Jay-Z.

But Live Nation has faced growing criticism.The PRS has accused it of cutting artists off from money their talent generates. "The creators of the music are seeing their revenue squeezed because their income is based on a fixed percentage of only one element of the total value," said a PRS spokesperson, Aidan Crookes. "Food, drink and merchandise are the growth area for live music, as well as the secondary ticket via online sites, of which the songwriters receive no cut," he says.

Live Nation's links to the US media giant Clear Channel Communications could prove contentious. Live Nation was spun-off from Clear Channel in 2005. Live Nation stresses it is no longer part of the parent, but the companies share directors. Live Nation's board members include Lowry Mays, also chairman of Clear Channel, Mark Mays, chief financial officer for Clear Channel, and Randall Mays, son of Lowry. Lowry Mays is a close friend and financial associate of the Bush family and a big donor to the Republican Party.

Clear Channel was accused of cronyism when it dropped the US shock-jock Howard Stern's radio show after he criticised Mr Bush. Clear Channel stations were among those who dumped the Dixie Chicks after they questioned US involvement in Iraq.

Clear Channel has been linked in a $26bn (£13bn) deal with two US companies, one of which, Bain Capital, was founded by the former Republican candidate Mitt Romney, who still holds a blind investment in it.

Michael Eavis, the founder of Glastonbury, said: "I could argue I wouldn't want to associate with Clear Channel, but I get on very well with Michael Rapino [CEO of Live Nation]. I don't have a problem with the Bush thing."