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Madison Square Garden Co. Takes Controlling Stake in Boston Calling Events

Another top-level entry into the still-hot festival market.

The Madison Square Garden Company has made its first major entry into the festival market, buying a controlling interest in Boston Calling Events, (BCE), producers of the Calling Music Festival in Boston.

BCE co-founder and CEO Brian Appel will continue to operate the business, which also owns and produces the annual Boston Calling Block Parties, a series of outdoor events showcasing local music; and the Copenhagen Beer Celebration, a new festival showcasing brewers and musical acts that will be held for the first time this September in Boston’s City Hall Plaza. BCE’s signature event is Boston Calling, launched in 2013 and claiming 250,000 tickets sold. Boston Calling is curated by Aaron Dessner, member of the band The National.


“We have been exploring music festivals as a way to further expand and strengthen our position in the ‘live experience’ space and are very pleased to welcome Boston Calling Events to the MSG family,” says David O’Connor, president/CEO of the Madison Square Garden Company, in a statement. “Over the last three-and-a-half years, Boston Calling’s popularity has been built by its commitment to operating as an open and independent festival that welcomes artists from all genres. We want to support Boston Calling Event’s efforts to preserve this well-earned reputation as it moves forward with its plans to expand and enrich this great event for a great city.”

Adds Appel, “We are excited about joining a company that not only shares our commitment to delivering artist- and fan-friendly events, but that truly believes in the growing value of unique and exceptional live experiences. Their support will be invaluable as we continue to work on delivering successful events for music fans, while exploring new opportunities in the festival space.”

BCE recently announced that starting in 2017, Boston Calling, which traditionally took place over two weekends during the year, will now take place annually on Memorial Day weekend and relocate to a new location in nearby Allston, Mass., with expanded capacity. Producers believe the move will enable the three-day festival to broaden its programming, including comedy, visual art, and a new film festival.

The Boston Calling Festival is one of the country’s only remaining independent, urban music festivals and takes place in a city where MSG has had a live entertainment presence for the last eight years through a booking agreement with the Wang Theatre. In addition to expanding MSG’s festival offerings, which also include MSG’s 50 percent ownership of the Tribeca Film Festival, MSG says the BCE acquisition will provide access to developing artists that can go on to play MSG venues. They say the partnership will also enable both companies to explore joint cross-promotion, sponsorship, marketing and bookings opportunities.