Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Live Nation’s Irish takeover continues

Now that Live Nation have purchased Dublin’s O2 outright, what can we expect next from the live music behemoth?

Dublin's O2, the latest addition to Live Nation's ownership portfolio

Tue, Feb 25, 2014, 09:45

   

The Live Nation in Ireland story has been long in the works. Back in November 2007, as news broke then about Live Nation’s increasing footprint in Ireland, I wrote a piece for this paper about the company, its background and its business model.

Back then, the company had inked a deal to manage Harry Crosbie’s various Dublin venues (the economic bust KO’d plans for a Vicar Street 2 mentioned in the article, while Vicar Street continues to be booked by Peter Aiken’s team at Aiken Promotions) and it was also in negotiations about buying out Denis Desmond’s MCD Concerts.

Fast-forward six years or so and you can clearly see how Live Nation have copperfastened their presence in the Irish live music market, chiefly through their Festival Republic partnership with Desmond. For instance, even before the judge takes his seat for the upcoming court case (which is more eagerly anticipated in many quarters than any gig this year), they own a signficant chunk of the Electric Picnic. They were all over last summer’s Phoenix Park shows, they’re also in the mix for Longitude and they’re probably more than willing to forget about their participation in last summer’s Oxegen flop.

But while the Live Nation/MCD partnership might not be the most lucrative thing in the company’s portfolio (a lot of red ink last year, especially from those ill-fated shows in the Phoenix Park, while Live Nation were also heavily involved in the refinancing of Desmond’s €60m Bank of Scotland (Ireland) debts), this hasn’t put a halt to their gallop.

Indeed, now that they own outright the biggest venue in Ireland, we can expect Live Nation to be even more active players on the local scene. Per the Irish Independent, the company paid €35m to NAMA for the 50 per cent of The O2 which was previously held by Harry Crosbie.

It’s a significant move, though it’s worth bearing in mind that they’ve successfully managed the venue for many years (it’s reported to be one of the more profitable sheds in their management portfolio, though this may have changed in recent times) and have always happily facilitated the non-Live Nation alligned promoters. Indeed, with attendances and revenues falling in recent years, they’d probably welcome anyone who can fill the place. But complete ownership probably means that they’ll be able to sweat the asset a bit more to make back their investment in the docklands’ venue and other Irish ventures. This, we may expect, will have a knock-on effect on ticket prices and concession fees.

But the bigger picture also deserves a good, hard look. Live Nation also controls ticket agency Ticketmaster which means they’re raking in the cash from punters’ entertainment spent at every turn. Indeed, should it turn out that Live Nation get more involved with their local friends MCD in promoting shows at the venue, they’ll be taking cash every which way. All they need to do to make the circle complete is manage the acts (or book a MCD-controlled act) and have a hand in the PA hire or security barriers as well (I’m sure there’s someone in Park Road who can help with that).

While it’s noticable that Festival Republic are not in the loop when it comes to MCD’s big outdoor shows this summer – no sign of them on the posters for the Marlay Park shows, for example – the parent company’s increasing influence on Desmond’s business means that Live Nation are never far from the conversation. There are sure to be more investments and ventures in time – the company are sure to want a say in the long mooted and now government-funded venue in Cork, which is turning into quite a saga per local sources – as Live Nation and co seek to leave their mark. Time, perhaps, for observers other than those on the live music beat to take a much closer and forensic look at how Live Nation operate and the various entertainment industry ties they now have here.

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