Although Denver’s iconic concert venue Red Rocks Amphitheater is currently a ghost town amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Denver City Council voted on two taxpayer-funded contracts with AEG and Live Nation.
According to DenverRite, the agreements with the world’s two largest concert promoters totaled $10.5 million and are good through 2022. The deals lock the city into paying the companies if and when they book or promote shows at city-owned venues like Red Rocks, the Denver Colosseum, and the Denver Performing Arts Complex. However, this $10.8 million is not guaranteed, as they are only incentives to hold shows at city-owned venues, rather than Denver’s other concert spaces like Fiddler’s Green Amphitheater, Pepsi Center, First Bank Center, and the Fillmore.
In a vote, the city council approved the contract 11 to 1. Brian Kitts of Denver Arts & Venues told DenverRite that he’d be surprised if that $10.8 million was achieved.
“If the industry came roaring back then yes, maybe, we would hit that cap, but it’s kind of a no-harm-no-foul situation with a cap like that,” Kitts said. “Some people see (the contracts) and think that that’s an automatic payment to those promoters. And it’s not. It’s performance based. So if their performance isn’t there, there’s no payout.”
On the other hand, Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca, who voted no, said that during this crisis, the city needs to “be re-calibrating and digging deep into our budget to reallocate dollars more appropriately to meet the needs of this crisis.”
“And I do not believe that these entertainment promoter contracts are relevant at this point and should absolutely be something that we’re consider after we’ve had an opportunity to re-calibrate.”
Councilwoman Robin Kniech echoed a similar sentiment, telling DenverRite that the city of Denver has a “limited pool of ticket promoters” and “we had a pretty long explanation from our arts department about how these two individual companies have got a corner of the market, so to speak, and are very difficult to work with.”
However, Skye Stuart, the legislative director for the mayor’s office, told DenverRite that the intent of these contracts is to increase city revenue for large events that are booked at these venues. Additionally, the money that will go towards AEG and Live Nation will not come from funds that would go towards medical equipment or other needs during this trying time, since the payment will come from a special revenue fund meant for the city’s art department.
Kitts, who had worked at the Pepsi Center after 9/11, said that it’s “cliche to say that we haven’t seen anything like this before…but in this case we just have no idea how it plays out.”
Earlier this month, Red Rocks cut its concert schedule through mid-May due to “growing concern” around the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Throughout this spring, the venue was set to feature performances from acts like Snoop Dogg, Sublime, Five Finger Death Punch, and Brantley Gilbert – however, all shows have been cancelled or postponed. All venues owned by the city of Denver have also suspended operations through May 11, as well as other venues like the Broadmoor World Arena.