"It's Like Borg in Star Trek; it just keeps eating stuff." This is the comment made last week by a local independent promoter who heard about Live Nation's purchase of House of Blues Entertainment for $350 million. Live Nation, a spin-off company of Clear Channel Entertainment, is still tied to Clear Channel.
Last year, Clear Channel was by far the largest national concert company, selling about 30 million tickets. Second-place House of Blues Concerts sold about 7 million. AEG sold 6 million. When the merger is complete, Live Nation will book and/or control eight local radio stations and six concert venues (Coors Amphitheatre, Cox Arena, Open Air Theater, 4th & B, the House of Blues nightclub, and Pala Casino).
"This is going to eliminate the little guy," says an independent promoter. "Now they have a complete lock on the market. Before, we had checks and balances. No one person had all the control."
That promoter thinks he may get squeezed out of booking acts that are at the 500- to 1500-capacity ticket level.
"They can go to the band's agent and say they want to book the whole country. What is the agent going to say? No?... If [Live Nation] controls all the [venues], they can go right to the record labels and get promotional money. They won't even need to worry about radio stations."
San Diego's independent promoters/venues now include Viejas Entertainment, Casbah/Tim Mays, Harlan Schiffman/Fineline, Soma, the Belly Up Tavern, and Humphrey's Concerts-by-the-Bay.
Not all local indie promoters think they are doomed. One points out that Viejas Entertainment has made inroads with its outdoor Bayside venue at the Embarcadero.
"[Viejas] took almost everything that might have played at Coors or Cox," says a promoter about the expanded Bayside series that this year included Santana, Steely Dan, and Chicago.
One promoter suggested that a big loser will be Ticketmaster.
"Live Nation is steering away from Ticketmaster. They want to use their own ticketing. I'm sure they are having meetings at Ticketmaster, deciding what to do about getting back the market share they just lost with Live Nation."