One of Los Angeles’ last indie promoters is joining the world’s largest concert company.
Mitchell Frank announced Friday he was selling his L.A.-based concert promotion company Spaceland Presents and its three Eastside venues to Live Nation, the world’s biggest concert promoter who has now acquired or signed exclusives with seven L.A. venues in the last two months.
The Spaceland acquistion ends Frank’s affiliation with Knitting Factory Entertainment, which acquired a 49% stake in Spaceland Presents in 2015 that led to a 2016 partnership with Moon Block for the Desert Daze psychedelic rock festival in Joshua Tree. The festival arrangement has ended now too. Mitchell says he’ll continue to operate his venues and work with his long time staff, telling Billboard, “No one’s leaving the company and my email will stay the same.”
Frank launched Spaceland Presents in 1995 just a few years before SFX’s Robert Sillerman consolidated a series of promoters to form the company that would become Live Nation. As the talent buyer and producer for the former Spaceland music club, Frank was a well known promoter and artist in L.A.’s DIY music movement, transforming Silver Lake into an indie enclave that’s occasionally accused of taking itself too seriously.
Frank expanded into Echo Park in 2001 with the Echo and later the Echoplex after spliting with Spaceland venue owner Jeff Wolfram in 2010 (the two started working together again this year). In 2012, he leased a former Vaudeville theater near downtown L.A.’s burgeoning Broadway corridor and two years later opened The Regent Theater and accompanying Love Song bar. Today Spaceland Presents produces more than 1,200 concerts annually, booking shows for the Santa Monica Pier, the Los Angeles Natural History Museum and the Echo Park Rising festival.
Live Nation’s acquisition comes as the company is beefing up its own venue presence in Southern California, striking deals with Chain Reaction in Orange County, acquiring the Observatory venues in Santa Ana and North Park, and the SOMA in San Diego. The agreement opens Frank to one of L.A.’s biggest network of venues, including the Hollywood Palladium, the Wiltern, the Forum and Rose Bowl.
Billboard spoke with Frank to talk about his decision to sell Spaceland to Live Nation and what he sees in the future for L.A.’s thriving music scene.
What does this deal mean for your business and your venues?
Basically what this means for Spaceland is just more of the same. I don’t know how to describe it any better than that. No one’s leaving the company and my email will stay the same. We’re staying downtown. We still have the same venues that we’re managing. I’ll be able to continue to operate an artist-first company that enables us to continue doing what we do, hopefully on a larger scale within the Live Nation network. And maybe do some larger shows and some different types of events.
So does this mean that you’re no longer affiliated with Knitting Factory Entertainment?
Correct. Knitting Factory is no longer my partner, we are now wholly-owned by Live Nation.
Why did sell the entire company instead of a 51% controlling interest?
It was just a way to clean everything up.
Are you going to be working on any special projects for Live Nation or are you going to focus on your venues and your shows here in L.A.?
I think that I will do both. I’ll help them with Southern California strategy as well as working on our venues. But I don’t really know until I start.
So why did you decide to sell?
I made a global decision a few years ago where I had to figure out, based on the landscape I saw was happening in other markets like San Francisco, what I wanted to do long-term. I made the determination at the time that I either was going to have to put up a major stance or be acquired, because I wanted to grow. I’ve been living with this glass ceiling for so long in this market where I can only get to The Regent size (700 capacity) and then I get shut out because I just don’t have any properties that are 2,000-cap theaters. I would have to go and rent a venue and then you’re playing with big boy money once you get up to the 3,000 to 5,000 capacity venues. I hit an endpoint where we could take an artist only so far, and now with Live Nation I can have a longer term relationship with an artist.
How competitive has the music market in L.A. become over the last decade?
It’s extremely competitive and I was operating knowing that someone was going to come eat my lunch sooner or later. When we started talking to Live Nation, it seemed like it was a good fit for their portfolio and a good place for us to land. There’s just such incredible people that work there, people like Brian Smith and Jordan Zachary, plus Andrew Hewitt, Rich Best and Eric Herz. It’s an amazing team, especially here in L.A. and they’re genuinely interested in helping cultivate and grow artists.
The Regent and the Echo are really the first stops for artists as they start to break through the live music world. How will they fit in with what Live Nation is doing in L.A.?
I look at myself and our venues as an A&R source. Los Angeles is a breeding ground for new and interesting music. A lot of the time, the only thing that artists really see from a venue is the dressing room and the stage and then they’re back in their sprinter van. We want to help lay out the welcome mat for these artists, because they keep us in business and we in turn help then go to the next level.
How has Los Angeles changed since you started promoting shows?
There’s a new generation of savvy promoters and top notch venues that make Los Angeles one of the best places for live music and entertainment. It’s just amazing how far we’ve coming from 1993 til now, going from being the No. 3 or 4 market in live music to today being No. 1. Every year I think this will be the year that music falls off, but live is still growing. People want to be entertained and concerts are one of the few places you can experience a live performance with other people and enjoy something together.