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NEAR TRUTHS: THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD

The live sector was built by an eclectic group of giants, Damon Runyonesque characters from all over who built the foundations of the behemoth that ruled the earth before the shutdown, and who ultimately paved the way for Live Nation: Don Law, Ron Delsener, Jack Boyle, Brian Murphy, Irv Zuckerman, Bill Graham, Larry Magid, Jules Belkin and Cecil Corbett.

Robert F.X. Sillerman bought Michael Cohl’s concert promotion company, The Next Adventure, in 1999, which revolutionized the business by giving the Rolling Stones $67m for the 1989 Steel Wheels global tour, thus ensuring all of the promoters bought out by Sillerman of all Cohl’s huge artist tours. This changed the landscape of the concert promotion business forever and set the precedent for today. Sillerman’s roll-up of the above-mentioned top concert promoters, meanwhile, transformed a regional concert promotion business in North America—known as SFX in the ’90s—into an asset that would be sold to Clear Channel in 2000 for north of $4 billion.

Clear Channel spun off its entertainment division as Live Nation in 2005, with Michael Rapino—who promoted concerts for LaBatt’s beer in his native Canada before first working with Cohl—as boss. Under his command it has become the juggernaut we know today, fueled not only by its massive event promotion and stratospheric ticket sales but also by unprecedented deals with artists like U2, Madonna, Metallica, Coldplay, Rod Stewart, Drake, Maroon 5, Jay-Z’s Roc Nation and the rest of the Artist Nation roster. In 2019, LN reported its ninth straight year of record growth; but for events out of anyone’s control, it would certainly be celebrating a 10th.

AEG, comprised of Concerts West, Goldenvoice, The BoweryPresents, Festival Productions, Madison House Presents and Zeromile, became a similarly behemoth presence on the music landscape, under the guidance of Jay Marciano. Marciano was leading Universal Concerts when it was absorbed by House of Blues, and stayed with the company to run its booking operation; leveraged to the hilt by the purchase, HOB was run by a hedge fund—and the joy ran out of it for Marciano, who went to AEG as a consultant with the title of Chief Strategy Officer. He then left after two years to run the Madison Square Garden/Radio City Music Hall operation, only to return when Tim Leiweke hired him in 2011 to run the European operation. He became head of AEG Presents in 2013 and in the ensuing years has helped the company double its total venues. Between its high-profile venues such as Staples Center and the O2 arenas, Mercedes Benz Arenas (Berlin and Shanghai), Accor Arena, T-Mobile Arena and L.A. Live, plus festivals such as Hyde Park, Coachella, Stagecoach, Electric Forest, Rock en Seine, New Orleans Jazz Fest, Firefly, Hangout Festival and Camp Flog Gnaw, it’s the promoter of choice for the Rolling Stones, Elton John, Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, Justin Bieber, Celine Dion, Carrie Underwood, Luke Combs and Kenny Chesney, among others.

We would be remiss if we didn’t mention that Irving Azoff had a hand in the expansion of both companies—and the live sector in general. The deal to merge his Front Line Management and Ticketmaster with Live Nation was transformative.

Live Nation and AEG did massive yearly ticket sales pre-shutdown —and many big artists were earning 90% of that revenue. But the tables have turned and the landscape is undergoing another metamorphosis, where—for now—the rights holders also hold all the cards.

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