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Live Nation buys owner of Echoplex and the Regent in a wave of acquisitions

Live Nation buys owner of Echoplex and the Regent in a wave of acquisitions
The crowd at Taking Back Tuesday, a DJ-driven club night for pop-punk and emo at Echoplex in Echo Park. Echoplex is one of several properties acquired by Live Nation this year. (Gil Riego Photography)

Live Nation said it has acquired Los Angeles-based concert promoter Spaceland Presents, including its local music venues Echoplex, the Echo and the Regent, as the giant events firm continues to expand its footprint in Southern California.

The acquisition, which closed Thursday, is the latest in a string of about a dozen deals that Beverly Hills-based Live Nation has made with Southern California music venues in the past year amid a growing consolidation in the industry.

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The concert promoter has spent $20 million to $25 million on the transactions, which range from property purchases, exclusive booking or management arrangements or co-promotions, according to a person familiar with the deals who was not authorized to comment on them.

Live Nation said properties like the Echoplex, a venue in Echo Park that holds 660 people, provide more options for musicians and bands by offering them a range of club sizes in different locations. The Regent, a theater based in downtown L.A., has a capacity for about 1,000 people. The Echo on Sunset Boulevard holds 350.

By acquiring smaller venues, Live Nation can get involved with artists earlier in their careers, said Ron Bension, president of Live Nation Clubs & Theaters, a division that focuses on venues that range from 250 to 3,000 in capacity. He declined to disclose the price of the deal.

“To be able to move bands through these venues ... is an advantage to the bands, fans and to us,” Bension said in an interview.

In addition to the venues, Live Nation purchase Spaceland’s promotions business, which books performances at events including First Fridays at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles.

Spaceland Presents President Mitchell Frank will hold the same title at Live Nation and his company’s headcount of 170 employees is expected to remain the same.

The deal underscores the growing concentration in the promotions business. Independent concert promoters have struggled to compete against L.A.-based AEG and Live Nation, two of the biggest players in the space. For example, in March 2017, organizers put the Make Music Pasadena Festival on hiatus, citing the challenges of securing talent on a limited budget.

Frank said it’s challenging as an independent concert promoter to secure larger venues without working with a larger partner.

“I felt limited in the size and scope of shows that we could do,” he said.

By joining Live Nation, the company can help take an artist from a smaller, intimate club to a larger theater, and possibly one day an arena-sized event.

“We want to have the opportunity to grow with an artist,” Frank said, adding that he expects to see more consolidation in the industry.

But as more independent venues and concert promoters get acquired or disappear, some industry observers are concerned about the effect on ticket prices and the atmosphere of the venues.

“I worry about these indie venues losing their individuality, their unique small feel that’s very high touch,” said Kelli Richards, president of entertainment and digital music consultancy the All Access Group LLC. “When it gets to the Live Nation and AEG system, there is a chance it becomes a more corporate vibe.”

Frank says that he doesn’t foresee any negative effect on Spaceland Presents. If anything, joining Live Nation will help his venues and events improve their productions for concertgoers, he said.

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He said prices are based on artist fees, and he doesn’t see them escalating at his company. The average ticket price for a concert at the Echo and Echoplex is roughly $15 to $16, he said.

“With a little bit more resources and more networking, we’ll be able to do what we do a little bit more and a little bit better,” Frank said.

Frank started Spaceland as a club in Silverlake that would help establish the indie rock scene in the 1990s. He ended up cutting ties with Spaceland’s physical space, and its name is now part of his concert promotions business. Frank’s other venues have continued to garner acclaim for its artist relationships.

Live Nation and its arch rival AEG dominate the concert promotion business. AEG, an affiliate of the Anschutz Corp. that owns the Staples Center and L.A. Live, lists more than 150 event venues in the world, including stadiums and theaters that it owns, manages, consults or is affiliated with. In 2018, Live Nation said it owns, operates, leases or has exclusive booking rights or equity in 237 venues globally.

Two years ago, Live Nation set a goal to grow its portfolio in Southern California, identifying areas where it lacked a footprint or properties with the capacity to attract certain types of events.

In San Diego, Live Nation didn't have a venue with a capacity for more than 2,000 people, so it entered into an exclusive booking deal with Soma.

“We felt that we had an opportunity to fill those gaps,” Bension said, adding the company looks for great partners with great venues or influence.

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