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Knitting Factory buys 49% stake in local promoter Spaceland Presents

Knitting Factory buys 49% stake in local promoter Spaceland Presents
Mitchell Frank in his downtown Los Angeles office. (Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times)

Spaceland Presents has long been one of the most influential independent concert promotion firms in L.A. Now they're set to potentially get a lot bigger.

The firm announced this week that Knitting Factory Entertainment had acquired 49% of the L.A.-based firm, which books venues like the Echo and Regent and produces shows at the Natural History Museum, Santa Monica Pier and the Getty Center.

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"You get to a point in your career where you want to figure out what's next," Spaceland Presents founder Mitchell Frank said in a phone interview with the Los Angeles Times on Thursday. "This is about resources. We're keeping our name, we're keeping our independence, and right now it feels like the best of all worlds."

Neither Frank nor Knitting Factory reps would give an exact figure for the investment, but Frank said he had considered a sale or investment in Spaceland Presents from several other promoters.

Spaceland and Knitting Factory have previously collaborated on booking the Regent in downtown L.A. and on the upcoming Desert Daze festival in Joshua Tree. That fest is expected to draw around 2,000 fans of experimental rock to the Institute of Mentalphysics, which features architecture associated with Frank Lloyd Wright and his son Lloyd, as well as stark desert scenery.

"We've found a partner that appreciates our independent spirit and champions it," said Phil Pirrone, the founder of Desert Daze. "I think were going to start seeing more and more niche, specifically curated festivals as opposed to the big multigenre format we've become familiar with."

Frank said this investment comes as Spaceland is preparing to announce up to four new festivals like Desert Daze. The event could be a preview of a new wave of up to a dozen smaller or genre-specific gatherings, like the music-comedy crossover Festival Supreme, which would reshape the L.A. festival scene.

"We're going to be very selective and focus on how we can make shows more special," Frank said. "More handcrafted and handpicked. Growing [Desert Daze] from two to five thousand people is more what we want to do than compete with Coachella."

Knitting Factory President and Chief Executive Morgan Margolis said their prior projects laid the groundwork for a new partnership, one in which each entity could keep its individual staff and brands but potentially expand into new markets outside Southern California, including cities like New York, home to Knitting Factory's flagship venue. Knitting Factory currently has around 600 employees and books close to five thousand productions a year.

"I definitely don't just want this to be a SoCal partnership," Margolis said. "This is global."

However, he added, he doesn't intend to change much about the way Spaceland does business.

"I'm into collaborative conversations, but I'm not going to be directing them in their business," Margolis said. "Their team adds to my team."

The move would dramatically expand Knitting Factory's reach back into L.A., where it owned a venue from 2000 to 2009. It also opens up new hospitality collaborations for each firm — Frank has opened several bars like El Prado and restaurants like Malo, while Knitting factory owns the chain of Federal Bars in North Hollywood and Long Beach, and is a partner in the new Arrive Hotel, a 39-room boutique hotel in Palm Springs.

Frank founded Spaceland as an indie-rock club in Silver Lake in the mid-'90's, and helped grow acts like Beck and Silversun Pickups into international stars.

The Knitting Factory investment would still leave Spaceland at a much smaller scale than concert promotion firms such as AEG-owned Goldenvoice or Live Nation. But it could help move Spaceland from a place where, as Frank described it, "We find good bands, other people like them, and they move up" into new territory.

"We don't think we're going to be going up against Goldenvoice," Frank said. "We're always going to be more boots-on-the-ground. It's in our DNA."

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UPDATES:

Sept. 16, 2:50 p.m.: This article has been updated with additional details and comments from Spaceland Presents founder Mitchell Frank.

This article was originally published at 6 p.m., Sept. 15.

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