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Scene and Heard: WHAT'S IT WORTH TO YA? 

Club owner's new approach makes music fans the real ticket masters

As the economy continues to falter, concert promoters and nightclub owners are getting creative as they vie for a cut of your paycheck. The world's biggest concert promoter is dealing in volume. And in downtown Cleveland, one club owner is using a performance-based honor system.

This week, Wilbert's (wilbertsmusic.com) owner Michael Miller has debuted a model he calls "FPAYG," which is short for "Free! Pay as You Go." For 21 of the 27 shows on his schedule, music fans can enter for free. If they enjoy the show, he asks they give the band a few bucks on the way out. (Miller says some bands play just for the door. Some play for a guaranteed minimum. For some shows, the venue and bands split the take.)

In recent months, Miller had been experimenting with suggested donations — usually around $6 — for local acts. He's usually glad to work cheap: Located just across from Progressive Field, he'll let patrons in free with an Indians stub. Miller says he got the idea for the FPAYG model from a video of a presentation at this year's NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) convention. The free model is based on two ideas: to motivate people to come out, and to give people a reason to spend money.

"My thinking is, 'OK, free, and pay what you think [the acts] deserve," explains Miller. "What I get from it is, they want customers and I want customers. It's putting the value directly on the customer: 'What do you value on it?'"

Miller, who makes his money on food and liquor sales, says the acts understand the need for some flexibility. "Most of the bands I book want to play to more people," says Miller.

"I don't know if this is an effective model, but am certainly willing to try it," says Jeremy Mackinder, bassist of Whitey Morgan and the 78s, a Michigan band that plays Cleveland regularly. "I really look forward to the gig, and I hope that this plan works out well for both the club and ourselves."

Small independent clubs aren't the only ones feeling the pinch. This season, Live Nation — the world's largest concert promoter, which owns the House of Blues chain and books concerts at Quicken Loans Arena, Blossom and Time Warner Cable Amphitheater at Tower City — has been offering "four-pack" deals for most shows. From club concerts to Blossom shows, fans can buy four tickets for a discount that usually amounts to a free ticket.

"It's very popular and appealing with people who are traveling in a group or on the bubble of whether to got to a show," says Michael Belkin, senior vice-president of Live Nation's Midwest division. "It's no mystery what's going on in the world in 2009. Our mission statement is to keep people coming to concerts." — D.X. Ferris

BUSTED.JPG

Even if you're just a teenager, screwing around with your cell phone can leave you branded as sex offender for the rest of your life. At the American Civil Liberty Union's final Brown Bag Lecture of the year, law professor Toni Clarke will discuss the legal issues around "sexting," the controversial and legally nebulous practice of teenagers transmitting explicit images of other minors.

"My intent is to impart the dangers and risks of sexting [to teens] and where it could take them," says Clarke, who teaches at Ohio Northern University. "And to let them know that some people are working to protect the children from overzealous prosecutors, the ones that are pursuing child pornography charges when [for example] a girl sends sexy pictures to her boyfriend."

Clarke, an expert on juvenile-delinquency issues, hopes that as legal issues around sexting develop, prosecutors will develop "less draconian" approaches, and "think of sanctions that are age- and maturity-appropriate. It does us ill to punish [sexters] in a way that will affect them for the rest of their lives. Adolescents push the envelopes. And as technology advances, they will find more and more ways to do things we wish that they wouldn't."

Clarke's lecture will identify some of the potentially serious actions that teens may undertake casually, such as taking pictures of minors, passing them from phone to phone, storing them or posting them on web sites. Under certain circumstances, Clarke says, sexters can be charged with applicable child-pornography violations, even for unsolicited pictures.

"Child pornography laws are set up to protect children from predators," says Clarke. "I see children as young people doing things they don't see as risky. So I'm hoping to educate them [about] the kind of legal intricacies that kids aren't necessarily thinking about. They just think it's funny or cool."

The lecture will take place from noon-1 p.m. Wednesday, August 5, at the Max Wohl Civil Liberties Center (4506 Chester Ave.) Participants are invited to bring lunch. Free drinks and desserts will be provided. To RSVP, call 216.472.2220 or e-mail contact@acluohio.org. — D.X. Ferris

ABORTION POLITICS: CRAZY AS EVER

Thrice-married admitted porn addict Phil Burress of Cincinnati's Citizens for Community Values ("Policing Ohio's Bedrooms for More Than 25 Years") must be working the phones again. A couple of weeks ago, state legislator John Adams, a Republican from west-central Ohio, re-introduced what's being billed as "a father's right to choose" legislation. In reality, it's "a father's right to dictate."

HB 252 would require written permission from the father before a woman could get an abortion; no permission, she's out of luck. In cases of rape, the woman would have to file charges first, no matter what the circumstances; in cases of incest, an underaged woman would somehow have to force her father/grandfather/uncle to take a paternity test that could lead to his prosecution. A woman who's not sure would have to get all potential fathers to take paternity tests as well and if she just doesn't know who it might be, tough luck. It even requires the man's permission if the fetus dies in the womb, unless a woman's life or health is threatened.

The bill provides criminal penalties for a woman having an abortion without permission or giving incorrect information about the father's identity (perhaps to prevent women from naming Adams out of understandable spite.)

"There needs to be responsibility for actions," Adams told Central Ohio's Daily Reporter. "There is merit to chastity and young men and women waiting until marriage."

Adams has 15 cosponsors, all old white men, mostly western and rural Ohio Republicans with the exception of Democrat Roland Winburn of Dayton, who's apparently suffering from an excess of hardline conservative Catholicism.

Some progressive blogs and groups like Planned Parenthood are pretending to freak out in order to use this ludicrous proposal to their advantage. A Planned Parenthood e-mail hyperventilates, "This legislation could be scheduled for a hearing at any time. It has received increased attention in recent days, and was a featured story on WBNS, Columbus' CBS affiliate. We need your donation to defeat this bill."

Well, actually, they don't. This bill is a close facsimile of one that Adams and eight cosponsors introduced in 2007 that went nowhere back then, when Republicans controlled the state House of Representatives. Now Democrats control it. This one's strictly for show. Clearly, these legislators expect nothing more out of this than a beneficent smile and pat on the head — and perhaps a little campaign support — from self-appointed moral guardians like thrice-married admitted porn addict Burress. — Anastasia Pantsios

scene@clevescene.com

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