Exclusive: Inside the New iHeartRadio Theater Los Angeles (Photos and Q&A)

Clear Channel opened its first iHeartRadio Theater three years ago in New York, and on Oct. 22 the radio conglomerate will open its second venue in Los Angeles with a live album release party for Katy Perry’s “Prism.”

Located at the Burbank Studios in the former home of “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” the new 20,000-square-foot performance space will hold about 450 people and be used for iHeartRadio album release parties, and TV and radio broadcasts. Clear Channel, which is leasing the space from Worthe Properties, will also rent the theater to record labels, artists and other partners for movie screenings, tour rehearsals and other activities.

Clear Channel Recruits Katy Perry to Debut New iHeartRadio Theater in Los Angeles

“We’ve been working on it for the past year with the designers and wanted to make it unlike any other venue, both in its feel and capabilities of how we use it for TV shows and broadcasts,” Clear Channel Media and Entertainment president of national programming platforms Tom Poleman tells Billboard.biz. “There’s no other facility that I can think of that’s going to be used in this way, where it’s an experience not only for the consumers on site but also touches so much media simultaneously.”

The upcoming Perry album release event will feature a performance and Q&A with the Billboard cover star and will air in its entirety live on 175 Clear Channel stations around the country beginning at 6 p.m. pacific. The party will be recorded and televised on the CW Network on Oct. 25. Walmart, in partnership with Monster Headphones and AT&T, will be the official on-air radio and social media partner. TV personality Mario Lopez will handle hosting duties.

In this exclusive interview about the new iHeartRadio Theater Los Angeles, which includes never-before-seen photos of the venue’s interior, Poleman explains how Clear Channel will use the facility to promote the company’s 840 radio stations, how others in the music industry can benefit from the new L.A. performance space, what types of revenue Clear Channel expects to generate from the theater, and more.

Billboard: Clear Channel opened the iHeartRadio Theater New York in 2009. What prompted you to open on in Los Angeles?
Tom Poleman: The New York theater has been our base for hundreds of live performances over the last few years. What’s great is that it allows stadium-level acts to perform in an intimate setting, but then the performance itself actually touches millions. So the genesis behind iHeartRadio Theater Los Angeles is rooted in the success we’ve had in New York. Many artists have expressed interest in performing that way, and because so many of them are in L.A. we decided this was the natural next expansion.

Aside from Clear Channel events, how can others in the music industry utilize this theater?
In New York the capacity is about 250, and in L.A. it’s 450. So it gives you more flexibility if you’re a band, for example, that’s getting ready to go out on tour and need a practice facility. It has a great stage, and the lighting and sound systems are state of the art. We’re going to be doing movie screenings there as well. But more than ever, we want the music industry to look at this as a way to showcase artists as they release new projects and before they go out on tour.

Will the theater be open to promoters who are interested in booking hard-ticketed concerts?
We’re not really set up that way. It’s certainly something to be discussed down the road.

Beyond the Katy Perry album release party on Oct. 22, does Clear Channel have anything else lined up at iHeartRadio Theater Los Angeles?
Yes, we just haven’t announced them yet. But we’re going to be doing a ton of Katy Perry-like events and a lot of album release parties. That’s become one of our best vehicles for introducing new music to consumers. We did it at the El Rey Theatre (in Los Angeles) earlier this year with Justin Timberlake. It was a live performance mixed with interviews and questions from the audience about [“The 20/20 Experience”]. Ryan Seacrest was the host. That’s the model of what we want to do at the iHeartRadio Theater. It’s a cool, intimate setting that allows us to instantly share with our regular listeners at terrestrial radio stations. It’s set up for live broadcasts, which is a big plus for us. 

Besides renting it out, what other revenue will you generate from the L.A. theater? The Katy Perry event alone has partners like Walmart, Monster Headphones and AT&T, so it seems like there are quite a few sponsorship opportunities.
That’s something we approach with management as a partnership -- we have this great platform for you to not only expose your music but also integrate advertisers who are important to you. So it’s a win-win all the way around for Katy Perry, [Clear Channel] and the advertisers we integrate.

Was there a specific reason you chose the space at Burbank Studios?
First of all, it’s literally right across the street from our L.A. stations (KISS, KOST, ALT 98.7). Secondly, it was the old “Tonight Show” space and has a lot of history. If there are ghosts in the building, hopefully they’re all on our side [laughs]. But more than anything the proximity to our radio stations made it a perfect fit. So maybe we’ll have someone like One Direction or Katy Parry visiting KISS, and on the same day they can walk across the street and be on 150 radio stations all at the same time.

Is Clear Channel planning on opening iHeartRadio Theaters in other cities?
Yeah, we’re thinking about it. I’d say it’s very likely, but no announcement just yet.

 


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