Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Meet the happy campers inside the Live Nation tent

We know that Live Nation are a very big deal, but it’s still a surprise to see just how big the company has become

Dublin's 3Arena, one of Live Nation's many gaffs worldwide

Wed, May 6, 2015, 09:09


A couple of years ago, Live Nation used to bill itself as “the future of the music business”. This may have sounded like a fanciful piece of copywriting, but Live Nation have demonstrated year on year that they fully intend to stick to that script. These days, the company owns or operates live venues worldwide, promotes hundreds of thousands of events, shows and festivals every year and has acquired or partnered with music promoters, theatrical producers and festivals all over the place.

While those broad brushstrokes make it seem as if Live Nation is some sort of ruler of the music universe, the actual list of just what the company owns or controls brings this into sharper focus. In a Music Business International report on Live Nation’s acquistion of Swedish dance promoter SPG Live and an unnamed “artist management business located in the US”, you’ll also find a full list of the various entities that Live Nation counts as subsidiaries, a list taken from the company’s most recent end-of-year accounts.

It’s an eyewatering rundown. As we already know, Ticketmaster is listed, as is secondary ticketing marketplace Get Me In, both important components of the Live Nation business plan to control all aspects of the live business, especially when it comes to selling tickets. The huge number of management companies listed which will come as a surprise to many, though Live Nation have been adding to this stable with great gusto in recent years. We knew about some of these, like Roc Nation Management and some of the companies now affiliated to Guy Oseary’s Maverick Management set-up, but there are others listed which will give many still outside the Live Nation net pause for thought about what’s going on.

It’s clear that Live Nation made a corporate decision a long time ago that they were no longer just in the live music business. Capitalism fans in the audience will have to admire how the company’s designs on the entire music business infrastructure (bar the label side of things, oddly enough) have come to pass. Those who worry and wonder about how the business has got carved up by monopolies, though, will look at this list and worry and wonder some more. If anyone thought we were seeing the demise of gigantic, multinational, corporate, monopolostic, controlling entities in the music business when the major labels got a hammering at the start of the century, they’ll have to think again. Live Nation make those majors’ hunger for world domination look like a bunch of retired folks playing board games.

There’s an element of Tidal to all of this: when you’re part of the club, you can see no wrong and anyone who makes their cash from Live Nation or one of their subsibaries is probably perfectly happy with what’s going on. But for the music business in general, it’s surely not a good thing for so much control and buying power to be vested in one company. When you control the management company, the promoter, the venue, the ticket agency, the secondary ticketing agent, the merchandise company and probably the company who flog the popcorn at the venue, you’re making money at every single turn of the exchange. Is this a good thing in the greater scheme of things? Probably not, but that’s capitalism for you.

Live Nation have Irish interests and there are, naturally enough, a few Irish companies listed in the financial reports. These include Amphitheatre Ireland (who run the 3Arena), Festival Republic Dublin (the company behind the Electric Picnic and other big outdoor shows), Principle Management (formerly U2′s management joint) and The Ticket Shop. Of course, there are a number of UK and European companies listed which operate in one way or another in the Irish market – such as LN-Gaiety Holdings and Get Me In Ltd – and there may well be a couple of other companies who enjoy a modicum of Live Nation investment or support which are not listed as they’re not (yet) wholly owned by the parent company.

It all adds up to a profile of a company with their fingers firmly prodded into every single pie they can lay their hands on and waiting greedily for new batches of pies to come out of the oven. Such an expansive portfolio doesn’t necessarily mean it’s all a bed of roses at Live Nation Towers, as the company’s recent announcement about the doubling of losses in the first quarter of 2015 show.

But it’s the company’s control over so many disparate parts of the music business sausage-making machine which is the most intriguing, interesting and potentially pernicious aspect of all. It remains to be seen if this is a good or bad thing overall for the industry. If you’re inside the Live Nation tent, you’re probably a happy camper, but there are many who will rightly question just how healthy such control can be.