During a conference call delivered following the release of his company’s third-quarter earnings report, Live Nation President and CEO Michael Rapino sharply questioned the viability of former William Morris Endeavor music-division head Marc Geiger’s SaveLive venue-buyout plan.
Geiger, who co-founded Lollapalooza and led WME’s music division for 17 years, until departing in June of this year, formally unveiled SaveLive nine days back. In summary, the undertaking centers on acquiring majority stakes in struggling indie venues across the country, keeping them afloat with the long-term goal of welcoming back fans post-pandemic. Former WME higher-up John Fogelman joined Geiger in spearheading the initiative, which has raised $75 million from investors thus far.
LightShed partner Brandon Ross asked Rapino “what impact, if any” he believes Geiger will have on the industry with SaveLive, and the Live Nation CEO began his response: “The same one he had at William Morris.” The Ontario native Rapino then acknowledged the decidedly rough year that those who work in the live-entertainment space are having, with a particular emphasis on employees.
However, Rapino appeared to find fault with the core concept of SaveLive, or the idea “that these independent venues are so distressed that they’re going to throw someone the keys at a very cheap price. … Any great live club is not throwing anybody the keys cheaply. There’s a lot of capital out there.”
Building upon the point, the 15-year Live Nation exec proceeded to indicate that there’re non-sales means of staying afloat, especially for well-known indie venues like the Troubadour, and that his company doesn’t recognize “a fire sale happening at that level.” Additionally, Rapino described the slim profit margins associated with operating venues even when one owns 10 or 20 of the establishments, relaying that there isn’t “much global synergy or US synergy to leverage off of.”
Also of note during the conference call was Rapino’s describing livestream concerts as a “great opportunity” in terms of complementing traditional crowd-based shows with feeds. “We think going into 2021 and 2022 we’ll be streaming a lot more of our concerts to fans,” he said, both for those who cannot attend in-person and members of the audience who wish to enhance their experience (via “digital backrooms or camera angles,” for instance).
Lastly, Rapino stated that many artists “are just waiting” to get back on the road and resume entertaining fans after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. Yesterday, Beverly Hills-based Live Nation revealed that 83 percent of fans have opted to hold onto their concert and music-festival tickets, and that 95 percent of those who responded to a recent “global survey” are eager to enjoy in-person live music once again.