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Jam Productions Inks Historic Partnership Agreement With Marc Geiger’s SaveLive

Jam Co-Founder Jerry Mickelson says "It's time to announce Jam 2.0 with my new partners, Marc Geiger, John Fogelman, and SaveLive."

Jam Productions, one of North America’s largest independent concert promoters, is set to become a crown jewel of the the SaveLive network, Jam co-founder Jerry Mickelson and SaveLive co-founders Marc Geiger and John Fogelman announced today. The deal anchors the SaveLive presence in Chicago, where Jam is based, and will serve as a launching point for investment and growth in the Midwest targeting small-to-mid-sized venues in the region.

“Jam 1.0 lasted 50 years, became a Midwest institution, and had a lot of success with my first partner,” Mickelson tells Billboard. “It’s time to announce Jam 2.0 with my new partners, Marc Geiger, John Fogelman, and SaveLive.”

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The announcement follows Jam Productions 50th anniversary, making it one of the largest and best known independent promoters in North America with a venue portfolio that includes The Vic Theatre, The Riviera Theatre, Park West, and the Palace in St Paul. Coming out of the pandemic, Jam anticipates producing 450 concerts in 33 different venues across the Midwest, according to a release announcing the partnership.

Launched in 1972 by Mickelson and Arny Granat to promote three WAR concerts, the concert promotion company enjoyed slow but steady growth over its first decade, working their way up to concerts by The Police in 1979 and the Rolling Stones in 1978, according to a history of the company written by the Chicago Tribune in March. Over time, Jam expanded into theatrical productions, venue projects and talent management, and despite overtures from major corporate competitors, the company has rejected acquisition offers and has remained fiercely independent over the decades.

“It has been obvious that for Jam’s business to grow, it needed to be part of a network, something larger with more locations, data and intelligence analytics as well as booking leverage,” Mickelson tells Billboard. “Over the years I considered all the bigger players but there wasn’t a good fit in terms of how we wanted to operate and compete.”

Jam’s legacy, Mickelson says, “will be shaped by how we share and process information, teamwork across all our departments and the ability to accept change to further the growth of the company. These basic principles are part of the DNA that both SaveLive and Jam share which will be the foundation of our partnership to create a very special company.”

Mickelson has known Geiger since 1984 and followed his career as he rose the ranks of the agency business and eventually became co-head of music at WME. In late 2020, Geiger and Fogelman, a former board member at WME, announced plans to raise more than $100 million and help venues struggling to survive the shutdown of live music during the COVID-19 pandemic. Originally created as a backstop against the pandemic, Geiger’s original model sought a majority ownership interest in the venues within the SaveLive network, but the passage of the $15 billion Shuttered Venue Operators Grant eliminated many venues’ need for short-term cash.

Geiger and Fogelman shifted their business model and today, SaveLive is a network “made up of experts in booking, sales/sponsorship, food & beverage, technology & systems, marketing, finance, VIP services, pricing analytics, and more. We have built all these capabilities within the SaveLive family,” Geiger tells Billboard. Once a partner venue joins the network, “we analyze and discuss which services can be of benefit and then work together to fill any gaps, boost revenue, and offer guidance. We custom integrate, provide support and perspective on top of whichever of the above services are needed or hoped for.”

Some partners need many services, Geiger explains, while others “are looking for recommendations,” from SaveLive’s staff of experts. Geiger also described what he said were “a punch list of possibilities” within SaveLive, noting “the first part of the punch list are the services we provide. We bring these services to independents that, for the most part, were previously only enjoyed by the bigger concert giants. As far as the second part of the ‘punch list,’ we’re not ready to divulge specifics about our architecture and ongoing IP. That being said, we think discovery, ticketing and event marketing can be more efficient, less disparate platforms, especially for younger and smaller artists.”

Geiger adds, “The goal for our venue network is to drive guest experiences using deep consumer music preferences to book talent more accurately. We believe that there is potential to communicate existing and future customers more directly and sell tickets more efficiently. We also believe the ticket will turn into a gateway to access the artist and venue offerings much like an airline app functions. Over time if we get this moving, we think the artist development process will be dramatically improved.”

Frank Riley with High Road Touring tells Billboard he supports Geiger’s shift away from its original ownership model – in October 2020, he said Geiger’s acquisition strategy “on some level scares me” but tells Billboard he supports Geiger’s strategy adjustment and wishes him the best.

“He seeks to create a world where the secondary markets enjoys the benefits of primary market and that important for independent artists and our clients who have built their careers in these markets,” Riley says, noting that larger promotion companies have reduced their investment in smaller markets since the pandemic began.

As for what the future holds, Geiger says “the comeback is happening right now, in 2022, but it is a process. Artists are getting themselves back on the road and as a result we are seeing overcrowding in some markets. Fans are figuring out what their personal comfort level is and we see them buying tickets and heading to shows. Overall I expect good drop counts with sales issues continuing to recede as people feel more comfortable in public spaces. For 2023 and beyond, we see a healthy, growing global market, and we have something to add in terms of improving the business for our current and future partners.”