On Wednesday, the Los Angeles Rec and Parks Board will convene and figure out what to do about the Greek Theatre after the LA City Council threw out its recommendation to hand the venue over to Live Nation.
According to a report issued by R&P boss Mike Shull, the city is considering a plan to self-operate the building — basically run the Greek Theatre themselves.
My first reaction is to brush this news off as a toothless negotiating tactic. Something the city can use to put pressure on AEG/Nederlander or Live Nation. I don’t think this threat will work.
I’m not against self-operation — there are many, many buildings that are great candidates for municipal management. But the Greek Theatre is not one of those buildings.
We’ll dive into that in a few minutes, but let’s first look at the building that Shull uses as an example in his memo — Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Denver. He calls the city-owned and operated venue “an example of a highly successful ‘Open Venue’ model.” He thinks it’s a good model for the Greek because “it would enable (Rec and Parks) to maintain control of the programming calendar while providing open access to all promoters on a non-exclusive basis.”
What Shull doesn’t mention is that one of the panelists hired to evaluate the original two Greek Theatre proposals works for the department that manages Red Rocks Amphitheater.
Kent Rice, executive director of Denver Arts and Venues, was one of the five panelists selected by Dan Fenton from Strategic Advisory Group to evaluate the Live Nation and AEG/Nederlander bids to operate the Greek Theatre for the next 20 years. He and the four other panelists, including former Milwaukee County Parks Director Sue Black, unanimously voted in favor of awarding the Greek Theatre contract to Live Nation.
There’s nothing unusual about someone like Rice participating on a bid panel — but it’s important to note in light of Shull’s recommendation. City officials have not released the names of any of the panelists — although both bidders have known their identities for some time. Since this process is now over and the bids and the scoring will likely be thrown out, it’s time for Mike Shull to disclose Rice’s presence on the panel and talk about how that has shaped his opinion for his latest proposal.
THE SPEIL: SELF-OPERATING THE GREEK IS VERY RISKY
The Rec and Parks board is exploring the idea of self-operating the Greek after a disastrous RFP process and seven months left on its contract with Nederlander Concerts.
Self-operating the Greek is an epically bad idea for many reasons. For starters, millions of dollars would instantly disappear. Both bids included large capital investments and money for community programming. That’s off the table if the Greek was run by the city. Besides, the Greek already is an open building — Live Nation and AEG have promoted their own concerts at the Greek for years.
And comparing a self-operated Greek to Red Rocks is not very realistic — yes, that’s a nice thing to attempt to achieve but it’s kind of a long shot. The Greek is not Red Rocks.
Yes the Greek is a world-class venue, but it doesn’t have the market dominance in LA like Red Rocks has over Denver. A touring act coming to LA has far more options than just the Greek— venues like The Forum, Nokia Theatre and the Wiltern. Not to mention downtown LA’s Jewelry District, home to a new Ace Hotel and promoters like Spaceland and Bowery Presents.
For the Greek to thrive in LA, they need an in-house team of bookers, marketers and promoters to advocate on behalf of the building on a daily basis. Without experienced talent buyers and bookers calling agents every day, the Greek would slowly become less and less relevant and see its market share dwindle over the next few decades.
Yes, Red Rocks is a successful building, but it has a team in place with tons of experience in the industry, and the group manages seven city-owned venues. It’s the only amphitheater of its size in the area (Fiddler’s Green in nearby Englewood is much bigger) and it’s got killer name recognition and brand power. It’s one of the few venues (like the Ryman or Madison Square Garden) that bands from all genres seek to play as a milestone in their career.
THE REAL: NEDERLANDER QIUETLY SWITCHES TO AXS TICKETS
After years on Ticketmaster, Nederlander has switched the Greek to rival ticketer AXS. It’s not an unexpected move — AEG and Nederlander have been building closer ties over the past year as co-bidders for the Greek Theatre contract.
And besides, with Nederlander and Live Nation locked into a marathon battle for control of the building, it doesn’t make a ton of sense to contract ticketing with a company owned by your competitor.
Especially if the two have to resubmit new bids to manage the Greek Theatre. Even with AEG and Nederlander riding high following their win at the LA City Council, the amount of time, money and work involved in restarting the RFP process weighs heavy on every person who spent countless hours crafting the first bid.
Could all three sides broker a deal instead? Possibly, but they’d still have to resubmit their bid and win approval from Rec and Parks and the City Council. Folks we’ve spoken with on both sides said there have been zero discussions about negotiating a settlement. Not to mention that’s there is talk of a lawsuit from the guys at Live Nation.
Before the city can evaluate the new bids, they’ll have to hire a new consultant to once more guide them through the process. It seems highly unlikely that the city will rehire Dan Fenton or Strategic Advisory Group, since many already blame the company for bungling the first RFP. Whatever happens, we’re still a long way from seeing this issue come to a conclusion.
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