Live Nation Quietly Purchases Controlling Interest in First Fleet Concerts

Live nation acquires controlling interest first fleet concerts
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Live nation acquires controlling interest first fleet concerts
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Photo Credit: Ryan De Hamer

Live Nation has purchased a controlling interest in First Fleet Concerts—entering the Des Moines concert industry. First Fleet Concerts has influence with most of Des Moines’ major venues.

Owner Sam Summers confirmed the news to Axios on April 1, stating the transaction completed September 2023 after 18 months of negotiations. Summers also co-owns venues including Wooly’s and Up-Down, while recently renovating the Val Air Ballroom. First Fleet Concerts also books shows for venues including Hoyt Sherman, Horizon Events Center, and Lauridsen Amphitheater.

Local music advocates have stated Live Nation’s entry into the market will make it harder for venues because Live Nation can buy and manage its own full tours—icing out smaller venues in favor of Live Nation-owned spaces.

“Our joint venture with Live Nation helps us bring more shows to the Des Moines metro area for fans to enjoy,” Summers told Axios in a statement about the deal. “Our partnership combines local knowledge with industry expertise that benefits our local music scene.”

Live Nation also partnered with Summers to book shows for its Vibrant Music Hall—a new Live Nation venue in Waukee. Axios reviewed Live Nation’s annual 2023 SEC report and found First Fleet Concerts listed as a subsidiary—which entails owning a majority stake. First Fleet Concerts was not listed the same under its 2022 disclosure.

The Val Air Ballroom, Wooly’s, and Hinterland ownership remain separate from the Live Nation deal for First Fleet Concerts. According to Live Nation Chief Strategy Officer Jordan Zachary, “First Fleet runs the business and leads the local strategy” while Live Nation owns an interest in First Fleet—but not the whole company.

Sam Summers’ venue Wooly signed a petition to oppose a Live Nation venue being built in Des Moines back in 2018. So locals have found it surprising to see the owner team up with Live Nation for a joint venture. One of Summers’ criticisms in that early petition was noting he was opposed to its “monolithic approach to business.”