Requiem for a Lightweight Nightclub

Billboardlive is still blaming Sept. 11 for its many troubles

Also apparently having a different vision is Mark Keys, Billboardlive's former director of creative and production services, credited by many observers as having brought in the bulk of the club's TV and video productions. Emi and Tony Guerra, once touted as the spot's nightclub rejuvenators, have also jumped ship, as have an array of less visible promotions and support staffers.

According to several sources at the club, Mitchell Chait has become an infrequent presence there, seemingly devoted to placating Billboardlive's Las Vegas investors, such as telecommunications mogul Larry Townes. It's a day-to-day situation that has left Loughary as the literal last man standing from Billboardlive's startup executive crew.

Even before this most recent burst of employee attrition, however, Loughary responded to criticism over the venue's live-music bookings (or lack thereof) by personally taking charge. This past March he reversed his earlier policy of relying on outside promoters who merely rented out the space and paid artists their guaranteed fees out of their own pockets. While such an approach may have limited the club's financial liability, few promoters were willing to take the risk, leaving Billboardlive quiet much of the time. But according to detailed information provided by an insider, Loughary's assumption of control over booking made a bad situation even worse.

Loughary with Ashanti, one of the few buzzworthy artists to grace the club's stage
Seth Browarnik
Loughary with Ashanti, one of the few buzzworthy artists to grace the club's stage

A March 21 concert with 38 Special saw the grizzled Southern rockers receiving $18,000 to perform. When several staffers questioned the appeal on South Beach of a band put out to pasture on the Gulfstream racetrack and the state-fair circuit (and performing during the dance-oriented Winter Music Conference, to boot), Loughary reportedly insisted he'd seen 38 Special fill Las Vegas's House of Blues -- and that they'd have the same effect on Ocean Drive. In the end, though, barely three dozen ticket buyers showed up inside the 1553-person-capacity room.

An early April appearance by the middling New Orleans outfit Cowboy Mouth earned that band $9000, with Loughary dismissing concerns that such a booking was better suited to a smaller room such as Churchill's. That night saw only 120 paying customers.

LL Cool J's June Billboardlive gig netted the aging rapper $33,000 -- quite a hefty price given LL Cool J's lack of a recent hit or anything even approaching a semblance of buzz. Sure enough, less than 200 bought tickets to the show. Further highlighting Loughary's shaky grasp of the entertainment world, LL Cool J was booked in northern Florida, a week later, for just $17,000.

Though Loughary concedes the Cowboy Mouth sum "sounds about right," he disputes the 38 Special and LL Cool J figures -- while brusquely declining to provide any evidence to the contrary. Not that he isn't willing to take his licks: "There's a cost to learning. We needed to put out some feelers and see what would draw and what wouldn't draw."

"That's a pretty severe bruising," notes Gary Bongiovanni, editor-in-chief of Pollstar -- the leading trade journal of the concert industry -- when informed of these near-empty engagements. "Somebody's going to have to have some deep pockets to support that kind of loss," Bongiovanni added, a notion which has no doubt crossed the minds of many of Billboardlive's debtors. "Obviously these are not good talent-buying decisions. When you spend that kind of money and there's that little of a return, clearly a mistake was made somewhere."

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