Exit/In Owners Back Away from HOB Sale

What’s it like to walk away from big Live Nation money? It’s a bit scary, but it starts to get easier as you think it through, explained Josh Billue, co-owner of the  and  in Nashville.

Billue almost sold both properties to Live Nation’s House of Blues division before he and his partner had a last minute change of heart.

“Some people probably think we’re idiots for not taking the money,” said Billue, who didn’t disclose the dollar amount but cal, a 6,800-capacity city-owned shed just a few blocks from Broadway along the Cumberland River. It also picked up two more venues – the 9,800-capacity Municipal Auditorium and the 4,500-capacity Carl Black Chevy Woods Amphitheater at Fontanel.

With its venue portfolio mostly built out, the missing piece is something in the 1,000-2,000 capacity range. Roux said Live Nation promotes shows at , the  and , but their busy calendars make it difficult to get the dates he wants.

“Nashville has a nice collection of buildings, but they’re not open that much,” he said.

As for the Exit/In, Roux said he planned to meet with Billue and Cobb soon and hear them out, explaining “I’m hoping to know more and start a new positive relationship,” he said. Billue acknowledged that his talks with the House of Blues team went a bit off the rails, and he said he now finds himself in a dilemma. If he sells to Live Nation, he’s afraid he’ll lose his independence. If he doesn’t sell, he might have to compete against the concert giant.

“They’re the biggest company in the world and they have way more resources than we do,” he said. “What kind of options do we have if they decide to start competing against us?” He’s also clear that he doesn’t want to earn the label of “sellout,” explaining, “What we do deals with artists and art. In my opinion, that’s always been best serviced on a smaller, independent level.” Besides, Nashville is a tight community and Billue said he doesn’t want to be known around town as the guy who sold a famously independent venue to the big guys.

“The Exit/in has been through a myriad of owners and its still here,” he said. “Chris and I take pride in the fact that we’re stewards of the venue. I don’t know that a bigger promoter or company would see it the same way. Exit/In is not really designed to be a booming business. That’s not its purpose. We do it because the Exit/In has a place in Nashville history and we want to keep it going.”