LN Closes In On South Africa

It may not be the acquisition the global live music biz has been expecting for more than a year, but Live Nation has at least moved a step closer to opening up the South African market by forming a “strategic alliance” with Attie van Wyk’s Big Concerts.

LN International chief exec Alan Ridgeway started talks with the Cape Town-based company just before ILMC 2008, at a time when Celine Dion’s disastrous South African tour was hogging the headlines. Both sides are saying the announcement of an official link is a significant step toward absorbing Big Concerts.

The move goes some way toward fulfilling LN chief Michael Rapino’s strategy of “identifying growth markets to strategically monetize our tours on a global scale,” although only “a relatively small amount” of money has changed hands and Ridgeway says van Wyk is “still running his own business.”

Ridgeway wouldn’t be drawn on whether the fact that LN has not fully purchased Big Concerts is due in part to the economic downturn, the uncertainty surrounding the Ticketmaster merger, or even that LN’s last emerging market acquisition – Elissa Murtaza’s Dubai-based Mirage Promotions – hasn’t yielded much more than an announcement it’s promoting Coldplay at the 15,000-capacity Dubai Emirates Palace August 9. The Mirage deal was also announced around the time of ILMC 2008.

In the same period, AEG Live Middle East, headed by former Mirage general manager Thomas Ovesen, has done or confirmed shows with Bon Jovi, The Stranglers, Kylie Minogue, Sheryl Crow, Simple Plan, Iron Maiden, Enrique Iglesias, and Keane.

“It means that Live Nation and Big Concerts have agreed to work together to create joint bids for the promotion and organization of live international music tours including live music concerts and festivals in South Africa,” van Wyk said of “strategic acquisition.”

Whatever the undisclosed sum involved, it entitles LN to include Big Concerts in its prospectus when pitching for a global tour. Another advantage is SA can route with Dubai, which may help bring LN’s Emirates satellite into the touring loop.

“Big Concerts will therefore be Live Nation’s exclusive promoter for music tours within South Africa,” van Wyk said, although the deal doesn’t preclude him taking on projects for other promoters – including major global rival AEG.

“If they had the tour and no local partner or if they were only looking to do South Africa, then I could do it. If they were trying to compete for a global tour, then I’d have to say my weight is behind Live Nation,” he explained.

Although it’s been suggested that the industry was expecting an announcement that Big Concerts would be bought by Live Nation, van Wyck said, “It means we’re a step nearer if things work out and when this global credit crunch is over.

“It’s already showing an upside because we’re getting more suggestions from individual Live Nation agents and promoters, either wanting us to put on shows or to be included in an offer for shows,” van Wyk explained.

Big Concerts, which was formed by van Wyk in ’89, sold more than 400,000 tickets last year and promoted acts including Elton John, Rod Stewart, Counting Crows, Joe Cocker, Katie Melua, Lionel Richie, James Blunt, and a My Coke Fest lineup that included Good Charlotte, Kaiser Chiefs, Chris Cornell, Muse, Korn, and 30 Seconds to Mars.

The company ranked 35 in Pollstar’s Top 100 Promoters.