Frank Productions staffer criticizes Orpheum/Live Nation deal on WORT

A war of words over "the Wal-Mart of promoters."

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Today on WORT's A Public Affair, host Nigel O'Shea interviewed several venue owners and concert promoters about the state of music in Madison. One of his guests, Charlie Goldstone of locally based concert promoter Frank Productions, sharply criticized the Orpheum Theatre for its recently announced partnership with Live Nation. Frank is currently planning to build a venue on East Washington Avenue that will have a capacity of between 2,000 and 2,500, similar in size to the Orpheum. Goldstone brings it up at around 42:00 in the segment below:

Goldstone says: "To echo Nigel's concerns, we have seen kind of a corporatization of what's going on on State Street, and unfortunately, the sad part of it is, the Orpheum has now been a part of that. I mean, a lot of people don't know this, but earlier this summer the Orpheum Theatre signed an exclusive booking arrangement with Live Nation Entertainment. For people who don't know who Live Nation is, it's a publicly traded mega-corporation based out of Beverly Hills, California, who doesn't have a single full-time employee in the state of Wisconsin. In the industry they're referred to as the Wal-Mart of promoters because they've basically built a business going into cities and either acquiring and downsizing local independent promoters like Frank Productions or simply running them out of business. And it's sad to see the Orpheum allow them into our market to attempt that as well." He then goes on to tout the still-unnamed new Frank venue as being locally owned and operated.

It's a little surprising that he's so openly critical of Live Nation, because Frank has co-presented shows with Live Nation, and there are still Frank Productions shows for which you can buy tickets through Ticketmaster, which is part of Live Nation.

Orpheum general manager Perry Blanchard, who was also a guest on the segment, counters: "First of all, the ownership of the theater is still local. We have a booking arrangement, and the person that books our room books the House of Blues in Chicago, and Billboard's just put out a list yesterday of the top 25 clubs in America, and the House of Blues Chicago was number 5. And when we were looking for people to book our room, we had many conversations with a lot of promoters, and Live Nation came to us and they were the most realistic about what they expected from our venue. And the reason we went with Live Nation was because we want the ownership of this theater to stay local, and we need events in our room to keep it thriving, and they're driving so much business into our room right now that we couldn't be happier with their involvement. And ultimately, with what the Franks had coming down the pipe, we needed to have the best company to help us compete with what was coming down the line."

Blanchard later adds: "You can say what you want about Live Nation but they're the best at what they do, and we're certainly happy to have them on board with us."

Anyhow, not entirely surprising to hear a business criticize a competitor, but it's a bit more heated than I would have expected. The segment overall is worth a listen—good on O'Shea for asking some hard questions and stirring up the conversation.