WHAT? Robert F.X. Sillerman is continuing his aggregation of EDM-focused entities with as many as six new acquisitions and alliances under his resurrected SFX Entertainment, with more reportedly set for announcement in the coming months. The new slate includes a joint venture with Dutch promoter ID&T for North American rights to several of its festival brands, said to be a $20 million deal; the acquisition of two Miami nightlife companies, Miami Marketing Group and Opium Group, which control nine venues between them; Hukka Entertainment, which produces Hangout Festival and other large-scale events; and New Orleans festival Voodoo Experience, which while announced by Sillerman could not be confirmed by Billboard.
WHY? The flurry of activity is reminiscent of Sillerman’s $2 billion rollup of concert promoters in the ’90s, which he eventually flipped to Clear Channel for $4 billion, culminating in the creation of what evolved into current live entertainment behemoth Live Nation Entertainment. While Sillerman’s original stated purpose in this latest endeavor was to purchase EDM-focused companies, his recent gets don’t necessarily fall within that explosively popular genre. Rather, they set up SFX for a different kind of dominance: one entrenched in the festival market, and buoyed by strong, pre-existing brands already known to consumers.
WHO? ID&T joins previously acquired promoters Disco Donnie Presents and Life in Color as the jewel in the SFX crown. CEO Duncan Stutterheim has long indicated that a deal was in the works; he told Billboard in September that he was “talking to everyone.” Industry reports indicate that Stutterheim’s primary motivation is to bring his events to North America: He simply lacked adequate capital to do so.
The company’s well-developed event brands include 8-year-old Tomorrowland, the largest dance music event in the world: In 2012, the three-day camp-out festival drew 180,000 people from more than 75 countries to the Belgium town of Boom. If all of those attendees purchased a basic three-day pass at 198.50 Euros ($267)-which doesn’t include the lower-cost options of one-day passes, or the higher costs of VIP passes, camping passes and other add-ons-the festival could’ve grossed as much as $48 million. Industry estimates put the cost to produce Tomorrowland at $12 million-$15 million, which means it could profit in its very first year-if the American market responds with similar fervor.
IF? The question arises, as it did nearly 20 years ago: Is SFX getting value for its money? Back then, Sillerman paid hefty earnings multiples, leading one promoter to tell Billboard at the time he would sell “when the money got stupid enough.” Though the festival business is currently thriving, it is, like the rest of live music, cyclical and fraught with high risk and narrow margins.