Litigation in the federal suit is expected to last into 2012.

Hurwitz was concerned enough about the Fillmore that he sued the state in June last year to prevent it from releasing $4 million in funding for the venue. He was hardly the only one upset when Montgomery County gave Live Nation the lease in 2008. Citizens' groups protested loudly over what they called the lack of transparency in the selection, the expense of the project and the use of taxpayer dollars to fund a theater leased by a billion-dollar corporation.

Budnick said regional promoters' concerns are justified. Live Nation's offers are so lucrative that "tour agents and managers are hard-pressed to say no," Budnick said.

One saving grace for midsize venues has been that while Live Nation can conceivably route a full tour through its amphitheaters, it couldn't do the same with its clubs because it didn't have enough of them.

Caught in the crossfire will be consumers, who may see their ticket prices go up in a sector — clubs — that had been largely immune from skyrocketing prices at bigger venues.

"Historically, competition between promoters leads to higher ticket prices for consumers," Budnick said. Promoters will try to top each other with offers for touring acts, and "a higher advance comes with a higher ticket price."

In the world of amphitheaters, which Live Nation has come to dominate, "there's no question tickets have gone up," Budnick said. "It remains to be seen if the same will happen in the club setting."

Hurwitz said it's possible ticket prices may go up on some shows at the 9:30 Club because of the competition for bands.

Since the theater opened, rival promoters have noted some initial missteps, like above-average pricing and overly safe bookings — a Bruce Springsteen tribute band was booked for the venue's first week. General admission tickets at Fillmore for September range from $10 to $70; tickets for the Canadian DJ Deadmau5 cost $50; his concert at Rams Head Live cost $25 per ticket two years ago. Berghammer said the goal is for prices to hover around $20.

Hurwitz, whose 9:30 Club in Washington stands to lose the most because of its proximity to the Fillmore, said his strategy is to be more selective with bookings and letting fans pick between his club and the Fillmore. For fans, he said, it will be like choosing between "a city's Little Italy or an Olive Garden."

"Let them be who they are, and I'll be who I am," he said. "Hopefully, it won't be a gray area for bands. It'll be black-and-white."

Berghammer said the Fillmore isn't meant to compete directly with the 9:30 Club or other venues. Its goal is to expand entertainment options for an already arts-rich area.

"If you look at Fillmore in the first couple of months, it's big and bold," he said. "But over the long haul, you'll find our programming strategy is diverse, from country to rock en Espanol to Ethiopian music. It's a venue where you do a bar mitzvah and you can do spoken word. That's the ethos of the Fillmore."

erik.maza@baltsun.com

twitter.com/midnightsunblog