LN Invests In Upgrades

Live Nation is investing heavily in its venues this season, wiring 90 venues for broadcasts and upgrading amphitheatres’ sound systems, video screens, infrastructure and customer service.

At six sheds, LN is introducing curtaining systems.

LN has 36 U.S. venues wired for television, mobile phone carriers, terrestrial and satellite radio, and online use as well as for the Instant Live division, which sells recordings of concerts immediately following shows. By the end of 2006, LN expects to have a total of 120 venues wired.

LN also expects to have curtaining systems in place at a half-dozen outdoor venues. Curtains are nearly standard in enclosed venues these days, but until now have been rare, if not unheard of, for amphitheatres.

“They’ll come down from the roof, blocking off the lawn,” LN President of Global Venues Bruce Eskowitz told Pollstar. “It’s a functional way for a band that wants to play to reserve seats only.”

The curtains will reduce capacity to anywhere from 5,000 to 8,000 reserved seats, Eskowitz said.

Recipients are the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in San Antonio; Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in Charlotte, N.C.; Ford Amphitheatre in Tampa, Fla.; Nissan Pavilion at Stone Ridge in Bristow, Va.; Cricket Pavilion in Phoenix; and UMB Bank Pavilion near St. Louis. LN has been working with engineers to design the systems.

“It gives us the ability to just go out and create a more intimate environment at an amphitheatre if that’s what an act wants,” Eskowitz said. “We’re just trying to make sure our venues are as flexible as they can possibly be for the acts and the fans.”

Sound equipment has been upgraded at several venues including Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, Calif.; UMB Bank Pavilion; NYC’s Irving Plaza; Louisville Palace Theatre; Ford Amphitheatre; Detroit State Theatre; PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, N.J.; and the Verizon Wireless sheds in Virginia Beach and San Antonio.

LN has also contracted a hospitality consultant, LRA Worldwide, after the LRA mystery-shopped various Live Nation venues and convinced the entertainment company it could improve the overall quality of its customer service.

“We’re training all of the thousands of seasonal employees who come in contact with all of our amphitheatres this summer,” Eskowitz said. “This includes Aramark, security, guest services, housekeeping and box offices.

“We’ve created a single, standardized training manual, an employee handbook, mystery shopper programs to see how we’re doing, and constant customer feedback. The program is rolling out next year to clubs and theatres,” he said.

Screens have been upgraded for the lawns of the Tweeter Center in Camden, N.J.; Shoreline; Sound Advice Amphitheatre in West Palm Beach, Fla.; First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre in Tinley Park, Ill.; Nikon at Jones Beach Theatre in Wantagh, N.Y., and Nissan Pavilion.

This year, screens will be upgraded at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine, Calif.; Verizon Wireless in Indianapolis; Ford; UMB; New England Dodge Music Center in Hartford, Conn.; and Boston’s Tweeter Center.

The F&B prices have been rolled back at the sheds, including $5 beer and $3 bottled water. An energy drink – Red Bull –- will be added.

“We’re doing testing in ’06 for rolling out in ’07 wireless POS, where you can order food from your seat and have it delivered,” Eskowitz said. “We’re testing SMS text messaging to order food and beverage to your seat. We’re also testing wristbands where you can embed a credit card number and swipe it onto a machine to pay quicker.”

LN is also improving signage for Aramark, its main concessionaire, in eight buildings. Several of these improvements are in the works at Shoreline Amphitheatre, along with two new elevated sections for patrons with disabilities, sushi and veggie wraps, remodeled restrooms and a re-paved plaza.

– Joe Reinartz