Live Nation Entertainment and Vice Media today announced a joint venture whereby the two companies will create content around the live music space and co-launch a new digital platform slated to roll out in 2015.
"We thought about how can we take 23,000 shows [that] our artist management division [puts on per year] and turn it into exciting content," said Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino at a press event for the announcement, held with Vice co-founder and CEO Shane Smith. "Vice has done a great job at talking to millennials," Rapino said, noting that with the media company the two entities can "fill a void in the live music content space."
"Vice likes to make shit, but not in a bad way... we like to make stuff," said the outspoken Smith, adding that Vice has done a lot of research and found that their audiences' "biggest passion points are music and news." Smith said he sees a "big white space" in the market, where he says there's been "no innovation," citing the example of music videos which he says have changed little over the past few decades.
At the press event at Live Nation's Beverly Hills office, the two companies showed short produced videos on the new platform, which is still as yet unnamed, and includes: an environmental vertical called Earth Works that featured Snoop Lion and Ben Bridwell of Band of Horses in various natural settings; another vertical entitled Hometown Heroes featured musicians such as Chief Keef in Chicago, Danny Brown in Detroit and Jay Z in Brooklyn giving tours of the places and people they grew up with; and another series entitled Here Comes the Nighttime, directed by Roman Coppola, that will feature the social aspect of Arcade Fire's pre-performance preparations, featuring musician, comedian and actor friends who will host the series, such as Bill Hader, Zach Galifianakis and Michael Cera, among others.
The new content will not only live on Live Nation and Vice's co-branded site, but also on Vice's various platforms which include TV shows, web platforms and mobile sites both nationally and internationally.
Live Nation, which includes Ticketmaster, Live Nation Concerts, Live Nation Media & Sponsorship and Artist Nation Management, is the world's number one promoter, with yearly revenue at $6.5 billion in 2013. In the most recent quarter, the company's revenues rose 11 percent, to $2.5 billion, while adjusted operating income increased 17 percent, to $258.1 million.
Vice Media has reached improbable and impressive business heights since its inception in 1994 as an irreverent punk zine out of Montreal. The media company was most recently valued at $2.5 billion after closing a $500 million round of funding in September. Its global network of online channels now includes news, sports, technology and music, with offices in 36 countries. The company produces an Emmy-award winning news show for HBO and has had content and/or sponsorship deals with Intel, General Electric and Dell among others.
Michael Rapino explained that their partnership came about last year when the two companies found themselves pitching against each other for a sponsor. The two Canadians realized that not only did their interests align, but together they could likely earn more sponsorship dollars.
According to Smith and Rapino, the two will split the new venture's advertising revenue but would not reveal their respective investments in the new platform --- except for Smith to repeat a saracastically that they spent a "trillion dollars." As for staffing the new platform, their current staffs will oversee the platform with staff hires to be announced soon.
Both companies are in something of a rapid expansion mode. In October, Billboard reported that Live Nation is seeking to acquire a majority stake in C3 Presents for a reported $125 million. C3 is the U.S.'s largest indie promoter, with tentpole events that include Austin City Limits and Lollapalooza among others. That same month, Live Nation and manager Guy Oseary announced the launch of Maverick, a new management concern with eight top managers including Laffitte Management's Ron Laffitte, I Am Other's Caron Veazey, Blueprint Group's Gee Roberson and Cortez Bryant, Reign Deer's Larry Rudolph and Adam Leber, Quest Management's Scott Rodger and Spalding Entertainment's Clarence Spalding. Collectively, they manage more than two dozen of the planet's biggest artists, including Madonna, U2, Paul McCartney, Pharrell and Arcade Fire. And earlier this week, the promoter announced the launch of Live Nation Indonesia in partnership with Java Festival Production.
Vice's $2.5 billion valuation (which some argue is an overestimate) came in September after Vice raised $500 million by selling two ten-percent stakes worth $250 million to Technology Crossover Ventures (TCV), a Silicon Valley fund (an investor in Spotify and Netflix) and to A+E, owned by Disney and Hearst. Those deals came after talks fell through with Time-Warner Cable which reportedly would have included Vice's operation of the HLN cable news network. The recent TCV and A&E deals, however, should enable Vice to expand its cable and tech footprints.
In 2013, the Brooklyn-based media company sold a five percent stake to Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox for $70 million, when the company was valued $1.4 billion. WPP, the world’s largest advertising group, the Raine group and former Viacom chief executive Tom Freston are all minority shareholder. James Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch's son, sits on Vice's board.
Recently, Vice was criticized by some New York City music fans for its alleged role in displacing two Williamsburg Brooklyn music venues in Glasslands and Death by Audio (and possibly a third in 285 Kent). The vitriol came after it was revealed that the former zine would be leasing space where these venues reside for a new 60,000 square foot headquarters.
Correction: The article incorrectly identified Bjork as taking part in the series Earth Works. Bjork has not been confirmed as featuring in this series.