Despite all the gloom and doom talk, 2016 was a pretty good year for the concert industry and consumer economy as a whole. Promoters continued to grow ticket sales, tours kept breaking records and blockbuster deals and acquisitions kept reporters busy.
Our big prediction for 2017 is that the music industry — particularly concerts and touring — will continue to go through an aggressive consolidation phase. This year’s six predictions address the consequences of a rollup — everything from lawsuits to new competitors and new market demands — and attempts to make long-term sense of the big deals and mergers ahead.
AEG Live Closes On Bowery Presents And Keeps Buying
First reported on April 20 by Ray Waddell, company officials are reportedly very close to finalizing the acquisition of New York’s Bowery Presents.
“The Bowery deal is going to close by the end of the year,” Jay Marciano told Dan Steinberg on the Promoter 101 podcast taped during Aspen Live. “We believe that will be a great cousin on the East Coast to Goldenvoice’s prominence on the West Coast.”
AEG Live is targeting New York as a market following the launch of Panorama Festival last year on Randall’s Island.
“The money was the easy part. You have two strong entrepreneurs that built this business up and they wanted to make sure this marriage was going to go well,” Marciano said, explaining that there was a year of courtship and meetings that led up to the deal.
“Like a lot of entrepreneurs, they literally had dozens of minority investors,” Marciano said, “and it took forever to grind through that. It wasn’t like we were dealing with a single entity.”
With Bowery firmly in the AEG family, expect the company to pursue new opportunities, particularly in the Southeast to complement AEG’s business throughout Florida.
Sillerman Will Spend Much of 2017 in Court Facing Lawsuits
The bankruptcy and relaunch of SFX Entertainment (now LiveStyle) was a heavily adjudicated affair that won’t end soon for Sillerman. Not only is he facing a lawsuit from his longtime friend Mitchell Slater over an unpaid $2.5 million loan, but he’s also engaged in two lawsuits by investors and shareholders who allege he misrepresented and allegedly lied about several attempts to take the company private, causing the share price to plummet.
That could be just the beginning — investors now controlling LiveStyle have approved a litigation committee created to go after Sillerman and several other key company officials to recover losses and irregularities from his administration of the company.
Radio stations settle with Azoff and GMR fights on in uncharted territory
While dueling lawsuits between the Radio Music Licensing Committee and Irving Azoff’s new publishing company have certainly garnered sensational headlines, there’s plenty or reasons to believe a settlement can be reached before the end of next year. The incentives are certainly there — sure the RMLC wants to slay Global Music Rights before it gets more powerful, but its current case is pretty shaky. How exactly does a “cartel” representing 10,000 radio stations accuse a boutique publishing company representing 70 artists of being a monopoly?
As for GMR, they never wanted this lawsuit in the first place and accused the RMLC of jumping the gun after pricing negotiations between the two started to drag. While Azoff isn’t afraid of a fight — he’s hired Trump attorney Daniel Petrocelli to rep GMR — the bigger battle is with tech giants like Google and Youtube. Getting more money from the radio stations for his artists certainly sets a precedent about the premium value of GMR’s catalog, but he also knows there are plenty of reasons to keep broadcasters and station directors happy. On Christmas Eve, Azoff and the RMLC made a temporary deal to give them more time to negotiate with a likely permanent settlement to follow.
Agencies openly compete with the big promoter companies
The injection of capital into the agency business has the big firms looking for new growth vehicles. Take for example WME, which in 2013 bought IMG, one of the world’s largest producers of sports, fashion and lifestyle events. Last year the combined WME || IMG purchased Ultimate Fighting Championship with the help of Silverlake partners. As a growing part of the company’s revenue stream becomes at-risk events, is it a huge leap to think the company will start to expand their lane into concerts and festivals for the clients they already represent?
With so many events in its portfolio, does WME-IMG decide it needs a ticketing company and signs an exclusive deal with one the big firms? And as more superstar artists like Taylor Swift and Paul McCartney forgo agents and work directly with promoters, do big agencies try to carve a piece of the business back for themselves and produce their own events?
Leiweke Leads New Push in Security Spending
After several terrorist attacks this year in Europe and the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, venue managers are looking to update their security protocols and life safety systems to respond to new threats. Any place people gather outside — entertainment districts and large fields and parks — is vulnerable to an active shooter or a deadly vehicle attack.
Businessman Tim Leiweke has made anti-terrorism a key component of his new endeavor Oak View Group, hiring two former green berets and partnering with former NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton to run Prevent Advisors. Leiweke is studying anti-drone defensive technology, investing in a bomb-sniffing dog breeding facility and forcing venue managers to rethink the way they assess threats. If the big buildings in his Arena Alliance begin to make new investments in security, expect smaller venues to follow suit, ushering in a new round of investment and a possible boom in security spending.
Trump doesn’t take action to get songwriters more money
Am I the only person skeptical that Trump will do anything to help copyright holders in his new administration? In December, a consortium of publishers, recording groups and songwriters sent the President-Elect an open letter in which the 15 signatories not-so-subtly asked the President Elect for help in its fight against Google.
At the top of this group’s wishlist is the repeal or reform of Safe Harbor provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The law puts the burden on copyright holders to identify and notify Google of copyright violations on sites like YouTube. Copyright holders argue they’ve sent millions of takedown notices to YouTube, a process that feels much like a game of whack-a-mole.
Sure the songwriters give Trump a wedge issue he can use to pressure Google, but can they really expect any help from Trump after so many artists and songwriters have publicly refused to perform at his inauguration? (We heard this guy, this band and this sister duo are still available and would really appeal to Trump’s supporters).
Trump won’t do anything to help songwriters, nor will he intervene in the fight between BMI-ASCAP and the Department of Justice over 100% licensing. Instead, he’ll likely stick to an agenda that includes playing Russian Roulette with our nuclear arsenal, crying little baby tears about his portrayal on Saturday Night Live and denying the fact that not only is a majority of the country opposed to his presidency, but that for a man of his stature, his hands are really, really, really tiny.