The Forum: A Model For The Future?

The remodeled and repurposed  in Inglewood, Calif., clearly had a great debut in 2014, proving that a music-dedicated arena is a successful concept. It’s so good, in fact, that Forum execs are candid about possibly expanding the model to other markets. 

The “Fabulous Forum” has had a storied history in Los Angeles, hosting acts from Led Zeppelin to Elvis, but it lost its mojo when the Los Angeles Lakers left it for the sparkly, new .

The property was sold to a church, with public events an afterthought. That changed when Madison Square Garden bought the property in 2012 and announced a $90 million makeover. MSG Chairman Jim Dolan formed a strategic alliance with music industry leader Irving Azoff, telling the press that there would be a hands-off policy that would allow Azoff to do what he wanted as the arena’s idea man. It was a bold move for MSG, considering it was entering a market dominated by venues controlled by AEG and Live Nation.

Also bold was the Forum’s concept: music. There would not be any anchor sports team gobbling up premium dates and putting holds on potential playoff nights. Instead, a touring artist could pick its date without having to work around the venue’s main tenant. And the venue caters to artists in unique ways, from lighting that covers the entire roofing grid to the absence of suites.

Some artists dislike suites because they reduce the intimacy between the musician and the audience. Others dislike them because of financial concerns: traditionally, suite holders pay the buildings for all-inclusive, annual subscriptions, and suite revenue is not part of a settlement agreement.

The model is a hit, with the Forum booking 50 shows in 2014 when successful arenas usually have about 30 shows, not to mention hosting the MTV Video Music Awards.

So, although the venue has yet to see its first-year anniversary, execs from Azoff on down are already floating the idea of creating more buildings like the Forum.

“I think being able to bring the Forum and what Jim and Irving are building, as far as music venues, would be amazing in different cities,” the Forum’s Dana DuFine told Pollstar. “I think it would only be a plus and a positive in so many ways.” DuFine – a longtime artist manager, record exec and associate of Azoff – was brought on board as a consultant last spring. She was soon named MSG’s senior VP of West Coast operations.

She added that MSG now has a West Coast complement to the Garden in New York in a philosophic sense.

“The Forum will always be ‘The Fabulous Forum,’ and everybody’s going to want to come. When you’re growing up, you always wanted to see a show at Madison Square Garden. You always want to see a show at the Forum. Bringing that to other cities, I think, is a gift.” DuFine added that a West Coast venue for MSG, as well as her background as a manager, have helped recruit shows.

For instance, her management pedigree along with the Forum’s marketing department were instrumental in convincing Tom Petty‘s manager, Tony Dimitriades, that his artist could sell out multiple nights at the Forum.

As for the West Coast, it helped secure Louis CK’s visits to the Forum, the  and Madison Square Garden in a mini-tour of MSG buildings.

As for 2015, the Forum anticipates 80 shows, from multiple nights of  to family shows like the Hello Kitty Supercute Friendship Festival to the Marvel Experience tour.