Alfredo Estrella / AFP / Getty Images – Bigger And Biggest
Among Live Nation’s major 2019 acquisitions was Latin America’s OCESA, which promotes Mexico City’s Vive Latino festival, pictured on March 17.
Live Nation unsurprisingly dominated the promoter world again in 2019, making high-profile acquisitions and striking noteworthy partnerships with key regional forces domestically and abroad.
Many of the entertainment giant’s moves emanated from Southern California, especially early in the year when Live Nation seemed to announce a new acquisition or partnership on a daily basis.
In April and May, Live Nation announced partnerships with venues including Soma and Chain Reaction, and acquired both Observatory clubs outright.
The biggest might have been Live Nation’s May acquisition of Spaceland Productions, the Southern California company with a portfolio including indie mainstay The Echo, and Echoplex and Regent Theater.
“The business has changed dramatically,” Spaceland founder Mitchell Frank told Pollstar, adding that he “saw the writing on the wall” trying to continue as an independent. Live Nation’s activity wasn’t limited to Southern California, and CEO Michael Rapino noted a continued focus on expansion in developed markets.
“We still believe that the U.S.-Canadian market, let’s put those two together, still have growth ahead,” Rapino said in a February earnings call. “We still have opportunities to build more of our businesses in a lot of the ‘A’ markets.” Beyond North America, Live Nation acquired controlling interests in Spain’s Planet Events, Finland’s Hög Agency & Promotion, Singapore’s ONE Production and Latin America’s OCESA Entretenimiento, which owns Ticketmaster Mexico and is a major presence in the worldwide concert business.
Live Nation also made worldwide M&A moves on the festival front, including Finland’s Blockfest, Norway’s Tons of Rock, New England’s Levitate and a majority stake in DF Entertainment, the promoter of Lollapalooza Argentina.
AEG Presents and its subsidiaries were similarly active. Few were more significant than New York-based Bowery Presents, which grabbed headlines at the year’s outset with its decision to renovate shuttered Manhattan club Webster Hall in conjunction with BSE Global. Jay-Z reopened the fabled venue with a momentous underplay in late April.
Bowery Presents also announced plans in March for a 3,500-capacity general admission venue in Boston, which promoter co-partner Jim Glancy cited as another example of how “Bowery has never stopped moving” in a May interview with Pollstar.
Elsewhere, AEG inked booking deals with Detroit’s Masonic Temple Theatre and Las Vegas’ The Joint.
It was busy building its own venues as well. In August, the promoter’s Rocky Mountains outpost, under the aegis of veteran Chuck Morris, opened the 4,000-capacity Mission Ballroom in Denver.
Crucially, AEG and partner Goldenvoice earned a legal victory when a judge tossed out a lawsuit by Soul’d Out Productions that challenged the broad radius clauses used in the contracts for Coachella, the crown jewel of AEG’s festival portfolio and a career event for many artists.
Despite Live Nation and AEG’s dominance, many indie promoters continue to thrive. Montana’s Logjam Presents announced plans for new venues in Bozeman and Missoula, inking booking deals throughout the region and continues to bolster its influence in the region.
In the Midwest, Audiotree launched Audiotree Presents, which will promote Chicago clubs Lincoln Hall and Schubas Tavern, as well as shows throughout Michigan in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Kalamazoo and Ann Arbor.
Across the board, teams continued to shift. In addition to the industry’s myriad promotions – earlier this month, AEG veteran Debra Rathwell was elevated to Executive Vice President of Global Touring and Talent at the company – some heavyweights moved on to begin new chapters.
Industry veteran Larry Vallon retired from AEG following an illustrious career, and Arny Granat, co-founder of Chicago’s Jam Productions, left to pursue a “new adventure” after nearly a half-century with the company.