Live Nation Venues Grabbed Millions in Independent Venue Pandemic Aid
A number of venues and affiliates received millions of dollars in pandemic relief intended to keep independent venues alive during the pandemic, according to reporting by the Washington Post analyzing Small Business Administration records. Nearly $19 million in aid was taken in by companies that are either direct subsidiaries of the entertainment giant, or companies it has substantial investment in. This is despite the fact that the aid was specifically intended for arts organizations that weren’t part of massive multi-national corporations like Live Nation.
“When we wrote this, we specifically didn’t want these publicly traded companies — Live Nation foremost among them — to get their hands on this money,” said Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), a key co-sponsor of the relief legislation. “I did not want Live Nation getting a nickel.”
Live Nation had lobbied to be able to partake in the governmental aid, relying on the army of operatives it regularly sends out to speak on its behalf in Washington. Despite that effort, the law was written to exclude public traded companies, as well as companies owned or controlled by them, from raking in cash, which many feared would be used to bail out investors rather than keep the lights on at crucial arts organizations that had their doors shut for more than a year by the restrictions on live event attendance.
According to The Post, Live Nation itself did not receive any funding. However, grants claimed by organizations under its umbrella helped shield it from having to pay out of its own pandemic war chest – the company raised more than $1.2 billion in cash in 2020 to weather the storm – to keep them going.
Several companies listed as Live Nation subsidiaries in February SEC filings received funds from the grant program, according to SBA data. They include Wisconsin company Frank Productions Concerts LLC, which received $10 million; artist management firm Gellman Management LLC, which received nearly $407,000; and Missouri firm Delmar Hall LLC, which received $1.75 million. Corporate documents filed in Wisconsin and California list Live Nation executives or subsidiaries having roles at Frank Productions Concerts and Gellman Management. Frank Productions Concerts, Gellman Management and Delmar Hall are all included on a list of hundreds of subsidiaries filed as part of Live Nation’s annual report covering 2021.
A fourth company, The Pageant LLC, received $6.7 million from the program. It, along with Delmar Hall LLC, is 50 percent owned by Live Nation, said Patrick Hagin, who co-owns both businesses. He added that Delmar Hall was erroneously listed as a Live Nation subsidiary.
In a statement, Live Nation argued that it had no control over the companies which took advantage of SBA aid, as it was not majority owner of any.
“Therefore we don’t have the ability to tell these partners that they can’t get access to these funds, especially considering the SBA reviewed and approved their applications before any funds were given out,” the company’s statement said. “These entities control their own day to day operations, and the folks running these small businesses used every resource legally available to them to support their employees through this crisis, which was not only their right but also an entirely understandable and human thing to do.”
As live events have rebounded, Live Nation has quickly followed, posting record earnings for Q1, built largely on surge pricing practices like “platinum” ticketing offerings and dynamic pricing during high demand. These systems disregard any notion of what used to be called “face value” in favor of prices being marked up based on demand, including prices changing between when a consumer adds tickets to their shopping cart and when they enter their payment information to buy. They have also faced increased scrutiny over their record of event safety, facing thousands of lawsuits related to the death of ten at Houston’s Astroworld Festival last fall, and more recently an attack on Dave Chappelle by an armed fan during a California performance.
Main photo: The Pageant in St. Louis – via Wikimedia Commons