Lollapalooza co-founder and former WME executive Mark Geiger announced the creation of a new company called SaveLive which he hopes to use to both save independent venues from collapse amid the pandemic and network them together to compete with industry giants.
Geiger told the New York Times that he has built a war chest of $75 million from investors, which he hopes to use to purchase 51 percent shares in clubs across the country. He says he is already in negotiations with several.
“The hope here is to create a network effect,” Geiger says. “To be a long-term backer, helper, grower of these businesses, and enjoy the wins.” Rather than building his own venue empire, plans are for the independent venues to operate as an interconnected network that stands in stark contrast to the vertically integrated monolith that companies like AEG and Live Nation Entertainment – who have both drawn criticism for borderline (or explicitly) monopolistic practices through the years.
“I believe the artist economy is going to be very big when it comes back. Artists will want to tour to get their cash moving again, and people are going to love going out more than ever.”
Geiger’s hopes are to have his venture serve as a lifeline for existing clubs that might otherwise not survive the restrictions on live event attendance brought on by the coronavirus. Most live event spaces have been shut down completely since March, and many fear they won’t survive, particularly with the partisan battles holding up needed stimulus money in the form of the Save Our Stages Act. Knitting together a patchwork of independent clubs that have thus far avoided tying on to behemoths like AEG, Live Nation, or even the regional enterprises that predated both would be a hard sell were the stakes not so dire for so many.
“Geiger’s solution on some level scares me,” Frank Riley of High Road Touring told The Times. “He is going to buy distressed properties for money on the dollar and end up owning 51 percent of their business. Is that independent? I don’t know. But it does save the platforms on which things grow and where artists are sustained.”
Part of the resistance to Geiger’s SaveLive plan likely stems from the fact that he spent much of the past two decades atop one of the largest players in the entertainment business, serving as partner and Head of Music at William Morris, which later became WME. He left that company in June, as it shed large numbers of staffers amid the pandemic, similar to most large players in the entertainment industry.
His indie bona fides are equally well established, however. While in college, he started his own concert promotion company, then promoted artists including the Pixies, the Smiths, New Order and Janes Addiction while working as a booking agent with Regency Artists and Triad. Later, he teamed with Janes Addiction’s Perry Farrell and agent Don Muller to launch Lollapalooza, which quickly became one of the largest and most popular summer festivals in the world.