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Live Nation's Ron Bension Talks Fillmore NOLA & Expanding In Eight New Markets Through 2020

Fillmore NOLA
Courtesy of Live Nation

Fillmore NOLA

The clubs and theatres division expects between 5-7 new buildings by next year.

Coheed and Cambria played the grand opening of Live Nation’s latest Fillmore venue in New Orleans Monday night (Feb. 18) after the Foo Fighters postponed their christening duties due to Dave Grohl’s arm surgery. The rescheduled dates were only a minor hiccup in what Live Nation’s president of clubs and theatres Ron Bension sees as the debut of a venue that will fill a much-needed absence in the Louisiana market.

“In New Orleans, the Fillmore is really filling a void that has long been here of a venue in the 2,000-2,500 capacity. So many bands bypass this market because there isn’t a great live music venue to accommodate that size,” Bension tells Billboard. “If you are Duran Duran, you’re not going to New Orleans because there is no place for you to play.”

Duran Duran will follow Coheed and Cambria with two nights at Fillmore NOLA, located at Harrah’s Casino before the venue welcomes Blackberry Smoke, Gucci Mane, Dan + Shay, Dropkick Murphys and more in the coming weeks alone.

"It is one of those venues where it is not just about the show. It’s a good environment to come and hang before the show, relax and get a bite to eat and hang out afterwards," says Bension of the space that will include a lobby bar with small-batch liquor, local beers and southern cuisine including Louisiana Hot Chicken Tenders.

The BG Lounge, named after Fillmore founder and legendary promoter Bill Graham, "is the coolest place. It’s got this sultry feel to it. It is lit with candles," adds Bension about the VIP lounge/room for private or smaller events.

Fillmore NOLA will mark the eighth building of that name for Live Nation with the ninth hitting Minneapolis soon. The industry giant touts Fillmores in San Francisco, Philadelphia, Denver, Detroit, Miami and more.

“It is so much fun to add to the family of Fillmores, but at the same time make them unique to their communities,” says Bension. “That’s what is so great about them. They are major market venues and they have a similar DNA, but all of them are very individualistic to the communities where they are in.”

According to Bension, the newest Fillmore will have a Mardi Gras vibe along with art and artifacts from the area, but still feature chandeliers, red curtains and posters that are signatures for the Fillmore style.

In the past six years since Bension has been at the helm of Live Nation’s clubs and theatres, the division has grown from 35 venues to 76. The division has come to open, operate and/or book a wide breadth of facilities across the country: Marquis Theater and Summit Music Hall in Denver; The Wiltern, Majestic Ventura Theater, and Observatory properties in Southern California; Masonic Cleveland; and Varsity Theater in Minneapolis among others.

“We don’t want a bunch of empty buildings just to say 'we’ve got 76 buildings around the country, aren’t we great.' It is about filling those buildings with great performances and artists who say ‘that was a great experience for me and my fans. I want to come back,'" says Bension. "Not only are we growing and expanding, we reinvest significantly in our buildings. Live Nation is willing to put their money where their mouth is."

Bension adds that Live Nation is in the process of designing two new venues in Portland, Ore. and says they are active in eight other primary and tertiary markets where the company sees opportunity for growth.

"It is important for us to map out where we are going next and we’ve got a pretty good idea and roster of deals in motion for the next two to three years," says Bension. "It is possible that anywhere from five to seven venues are slated between now and the end of 2020."

Live Nation is investing in smaller venues as it grows all of its divisions, hoping to help graduate bands from clubs and theaters to amphitheaters and arenas.

"You learn [artists] needs and you learn how to work better with them, how to market them better and continue to refine that throughout the years," says Bension who mentions that the divisions don’t functions as islands. "We work with U.S. concerts and international [divisions], walking these bands through so that there is continuity and the marketing expertise remains and you’re not starting from scratch."


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