Live Nation Acquires BigChampagne; Valuation Approaching $30 Million

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Music and media measurement firm BigChampagne has now been acquired by Live Nation, according to official statements by both companies late Wednesday.

“This acquisition strengthens our commitment to be the leader in artist-to-fan data,” said Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino.  “BigChampagne’s expertise will accelerate our mission to drive deeper fan engagement throughout Live Nation driven by world class data technology.”

The valuation seems solid, but nothing nosebleed.  According to the source that first tipped the deal to Digital Music News, the acquisition was completed for “somewhere between $20 and $30 million,” deemed a “reasonable valuation” given the current marketplace.  A second source slightly disagreed, and pointed to something “much closer to $30 million,” all of which suggests a final price tag in the high-$20 million range.

In either case, a number of BigChampagne cofounders are now lined up to divide this pie, making this far short of a ransom but definitely enough to handle grocery bills.  “It’s definitely not ‘f–k you money,’ but it’s a decent exit,” a separate source quipped.

As part of the deal, BigChampagne cofounder and CEO Eric Garland will assume stripes as GM of LiveNation.com, while cofounder Joe Fleischer will become SVP of Content & Strategy for the site.  The pair have been steering this ship for years – Garland since 2001 – and will continue to broaden the analytics and charts focus within their new parent.

BigChampagne certainly has assets and people, though Garland in particular seems like a good brain to pluck.  Live Nation and Ticketmaster have been searching for ways to drive greater sales through data, including a heavy shift towards Facebook-driven sales.  Garland will help the company tap into the ‘power of data’ to boost sales and strategy across live concerts, ticketing, and merchandise.

Accordingly, both Garland and Fleischer will be “compensated handsomely,” according to a separate source, but “nothing near Hubbard or Rapino bucks,” a reference to the multi-millions cleared annually by Ticketmaster CEO Nathan Hubbard and the Live Nation CEO.  Since Live Nation (LYV) is publicly traded, the actual salaries may ultimately come to the surface through SEC filings.

Hovering in the background here is Billboard, and its owner, Prometheus Global Media. The development closely follows the release of BigChampagne’s series of Ultimate Charts, considered a major competitive stab at charts like the Hot 100 and Billboard 200.  But Billboard incorporates critical CD-based information from Nielsen Soundscan, still a very important part of the sales picture.