Pearl Jam Wrapping Up Next Album

Band continuing battle with Ticketmaster by avoiding associated venues.

Pearl Jam is putting the final tracks down for their next album, which will contain about 12 or 13 songs and which could be released this winter, according to their manager.

A 1998 tour, probably in the summer, is planned, and it will find Pearl Jam maintaining its anti-Ticketmaster stance by only playing venues where tickets can be sold by alternative means.

Just when the new record will be released and the tour launched is impossible to say right now, Pearl Jam manager Kelly Curtis added.

"Pearl Jam don't go for a release date," said Curtis, indicating that the band will complete an album it is happy with, and then determine when it will be released. He did, however, say they were "pretty close to finishing up the cutting" of the tracks, for which he said they had already recorded in excess of 16 songs.

"They like to record the songs, then go and sit on them for a while and see what they want to keep and what doesn't work," said Curtis about the band's modus operandi. "Then, when they feel good about it, they put it out."

Curtis said the band "is thinking they want it out this winter," although it was unclear if that meant it would make Epic Records' late '97 release schedule. According to Epic, there is currently no Pearl Jam release on this year's schedule.

As for the feel of the album, which singer Eddie Vedder told Addicted To Noise at this summer's Tibetan Freedom Concert, would be harder than the band's last album, 1996's No Code, Curtis said "It depends which 12-13 [songs] make the cut."

Curtis confirmed that the band is still in the studio and that they've recorded more than 16 songs, but that not all of those tracks were necessarily hard-driving.

Curtis said the group definitely plans to tour after the record is released. However, in keeping with their pledge to avoid Ticketmaster, the ticketer which the group has waged an on-going battle with for more than three years, the band will "play shows at non-Ticketmaster venues."

Since the last time Pearl Jam tried a non-Ticketmaster tour in 1995 (the company has exclusive contracts with a number of large venues), Curtis said several venues have chosen to not renew their Ticketmaster contracts, easing the way for the band to hit the road again.

Bassist Jeff Ament and guitarist Stone Gossard testified in front of a governmental sub-committee in June of 1994 over what they argued were the company's exorbitant service charges, which they said made it difficult for young fans to afford their concerts. The group was ultimately dealt a blow, however, when the U.S. Justice Department announced in July of that year that it had ended its investigation of possible anti-trust violations by Ticketmaster after finding no proof of monopolistic practices.

"I haven't gotten the sense that there have been any large-scale changes in Ticketmaster's exclusive deals with major venues," said Gary Bongiovanni, editor of concert industry trade magazine Pollstar.

Bongiovanni said that if the band is set on avoiding all Ticketmaster venues, it would be difficult, if not impossible for them to play every major market in the appropriate venues, such as the Forum in L.A. or New York's Madison Square Garden. "They would have to compromise the facilities they would play," he added.

However, a music industry source named New York's Randall's Island (site of this year's Tibetan Freedom Concert), the L.A. Sports Arena and L.A.'s Dodger Stadium as appropriate venues that do not have exclusive Ticketmaster contracts.

Bongiovanni said there were some less prominent markets where Ticketmaster has no presence at all. "Other than Pearl Jam, nobody has ever tried to do this before, and they weren't very successful the last time," Bongiovanni said.

Besides, he added, they're a good live band and need to get out there and play for their fans. "The sense I've gotten from the music community and even among fans, is that they're ready for the band to get out and play and get the Ticketmaster thing behind them," Bongiovanni said. "That's not an endorsement of Ticketmaster, but it does seem like the band is letting the business get in front of the music."

Don Muller of ArtistDirect, the band's booking agency, said, although it was early yet, "we are planning on them going out and playing as many dates as they can."

Muller, who pointed to last fall's mini-tour of venues on the Eastern seaboard, in which the band played venues that were not Ticketmaster affiliated, as proof that it can be done. "There will be markets where it's difficult and the band may have to skip those markets," he said. "But can we route a 40-city tour. Will it be 40 major cities? I can't say. We haven't started really working on it yet."

Muller speculated that the tour would take place in two parts next summer, although that too is subject to change based on when the album is completed. "I do know that in working with this band and people seeing the struggles they've had that a lot of building managers have called and offered to play them any day and any way they can," Muller said. "We have a list of buildings that we can get into." [Mon., Sept. 29, 1997, 9 a.m. PDT]