After a 15-year absence, Bill Silva, who started promoting concerts in the ’70s while a student at UCSD and went on to produce shows by Pearl Jam, Madonna, Cher, and Depeche Mode, is back doing business in San Diego with a March 6 show at the Valley View Casino Center.
Silva presented Clapton at the same venue — then known as the San Diego Sports Arena — in 1989. He promoted shows by the Police at the now-defunct Aztec Bowl at SDSU and the Who at Jack Murphy (now Qualcomm) Stadium. Silva was also known for using often-overlooked venues for music events, including the Starlight Bowl for Roy Orbison and the Allman Brothers. He also presented Bob Dylan at the Sammis Pavilion at the Batiquitos Lagoon in Carlsbad and Neil Young at the Embarcadero Pops site.
The U.S. concert industry is dominated by two big names, Live Nation and AEG Live. Twenty years ago, each major city had one or two local promoters who did most of the business in that city. Silva was a major San Diego player throughout the ’80s and much of the ’90s. He attempted to open a major amphitheater in Poway but was thwarted by civic protests and by the fact that Chula Vista beat him to the punch with the Coors (now Cricket) Amphitheatre.
Bill Silva Presents sold its rights to promote concerts in San Diego to a company that was later swallowed up by Live Nation. Silva then moved to L.A., where he focused on presenting shows at the Hollywood Bowl and running a management company that oversees the careers of 11 artists, including Oceanside’s Jason Mraz.
Now that Silva’s San Diego non-compete agreement has expired, he is free to reenter the local concert market. That would be difficult for most, since the two concert monoliths have exclusive arrangements on most of the major local venues.
Synergy may work in Silva’s favor, however. If he can promise an artist a show at the Hollywood Bowl, that may help him beat out AEG and Live Nation to secure San Diego dates. Clapton appeared at the Hollywood Bowl last year. Silva is known to have long and deep connections with artists as well as their managers and agents.
Though Silva did not want to comment on his return and the coming year for San Diego concerts, insiders say that 2011 promises to be a significant year for concerts at the former Sports Arena. AEG, which has first rights to the 12,000-seat venue, has invested in facility renovation. Also, Brian Murphy, a 30-year concert veteran based in L.A., has jumped ship from Live Nation to join AEG. There is some speculation that Murphy’s presence on the AEG team may get some artists who might have gone to Viejas Arena (controlled by Live Nation) to play AEG’s Sports Arena.