Business

New NFL-Related Venue Heating Up Already-Competitive L.A. Concert Market

HKS Inc.

An artist's rendering of the proposed stadium complex in Inglewood, Calif.

The announcement of two new live-music facilities in Los Angeles has made the city's fiercely competitive venue market even more intense.

On the larger side, Stan Kroenke, owner of the NFL's St. Louis Rams, has revealed plans to include a 6,000-capacity venue as part of his proposed stadium project for Inglewood, Calif. On the other end of the spectrum, Michael Swier, who opened The Bowery Ballroom and Mercury Lounge in New York in the 1990s (but is no longer affiliated with the concert-promotion arm of New York-based promoter Bowery Presents), is nearing completion on the 600-capacity Teragram Ballroom in downtown L.A., set to open in March when a $2 million renovation to the former Westlake Playhouse is complete.

Though none have been announced, the Teragram likely has shows on the books by now. The Rams project is less of a short term factor and remains a big "if," considering the large number of stadium pipe dreams that have been batted around in L.A. since both the Rams and Raiders (Oakland) bolted L.A. following the 1994 season. But, if that project comes to fruition, the fallout could be interesting as promoters like Live Nation, Goldenvoice/AEG Live, and Nederlander either try to form an allegiance with the venue operators, or make sure their own facilities get the hottest shows.

The 80,000-seat stadium and its footprint would sit across the street from the L.A. Forum, itself a relatively recent addition to the marketplace, re-opening a year ago following a $100 million renovation steered by Irving Azoff under AMSGE, the music executive's partnership with Madison Square Garden Entertainment. The Forum and Staples Center, owned by AEG, are already battling it out for dates, but a proposal of any new venue so close to the Forum, even one that opens no earlier than 2018, can't please Azoff (who declined to comment for this story), and it's positioned to directly compete with the hotly-contested Greek Theatre in terms of capacity.

Beyond the arenas, the L.A. market is packed with venues of all sizes, among them House of Blues (a 4,000 capacity room that, despite reports to the contrary, has no plans to relocate in 2015); The Hollywood Palladium (3,800); The Wiltern (2,000); The Orpheum (2,000); The Echo (750); The El Rey (700); The Roxy (500) and scores of smaller rooms.

Lee Zeidman, as AEG's president of Staples Center and its L.A. Live footprint venues Nokia Theatre (7,000-capacity) and Club Nokia (2,400), is, like other SoCal live music biz players, watching these developments closely. Asked about the impact a new 6,000-seat venue at the proposed site would have on the L.A. market, Zeidman responds, "The bigger question is what impact would it have on a venue across the street from it." As to whether L.A. could sustain another retail/dining/entertainment complex like L.A. Live (as has been proposed in the Rams' plan), Zeidman points out that Inglewood is not L.A. "This proposed [Rams] complex is in Inglewood," he says, "[so] you'd have to ask the developer if Inglewood could support it."

What it ultimately will boil down to is which promoters can tie in with which venues. While smaller venues, particularly clubs, often align with one buyer exclusively or buy in-house, for larger venues of 3,000 capacity and up, often the most productive position (save for promoter-owned venues like sheds) is to work with all reputable promoters. "As with any market, the best venues with the best associated promoters will rise to the top, and the inferior ones will fall off," says Windish Agency agent Sam Hunt. "I'm sure there will be an initial shuffling of allegiances and some confusion as new venues attempt to find their foothold and established ones fortify their positions, but in the end both the artist and the consumer should be better off as a result."

The law of diminishing returns would only kick in if every room were booked every night, rarely the case in any market. More likely is the venues and promoters pitch agents like Hunt even harder. "If these new venue options are truly amazing, then artists will want to play there, and fans will want to attend, and it's likely that they will draw some business away from other established venues," says Hunt. "And if they suck, then they will not likely succeed." 

At least one agent believes L.A. could benefit from even another performance facility, albeit a specific type of room. "I have a good feeling about Teragram," says William Morris Endeavor Entertainment's Kirk Sommer, "but what Los Angeles could really use is a Brixton Academy." Sommer, the agent who brought such U.K. acts as Amy Winehouse and Adele to America, is referring to the legendary 5,000-cap venue in South London (now officially known as the O2 Academy), an immensely popular venue that has been the site of numerous live albums, including releases from Paramore, Faith No More, Motorhead, Sex Pistols, and Judas Priest.

An edited version of this article first appeared in the Jan. 24 issue of Billboard.