Lollapalooza co-founder Marc Geiger has expanded his growing SaveLive venue and promoter business to Milwaukee by partnering with Rave — an under-the-radar deal struck as the local gig industry evolves, with new offerings music venues causing tension in the scene.
Neither the Rave nor SaveLive have released statements about the deal, and details are not publicly known. Neither a representative for SaveLive nor Leslie West, co-owner of Rave with Joe Balestrieri, responded to requests for comment.
But the Rave is now listed as a partner on the SaveLive site – not on the homepage, but on the “partners” page – an addition that has happened since April.
Geiger, who headed the William Morris Endeavor global music division from 2003 to 2020, launched SaveLive in October 2020, as venues struggled during the pandemic, “to bring scalable services and benefits to owners of independent theaters and secondary markets,” according to a description on SaveLive’s website.
According to Variety, SaveLive’s plan when it launched was to acquire a 51% stake in independent venues and promoters, although a company representative told Variety that the majority stake deal was not not the case for all partners. SaveLive had enough clout to secure $135 million in funding in February from four venture capitalists.
Rave deal comes amid plans for rival venues
The Rave and SaveLive deal emerges as Madison-based Live Nation-backed promoter FPC Live plans to build a two-site live music complex at the former Bradley Center site in the Deer District. On Monday, FPC Live scored a narrow victory with the Milwaukee Plan Commission, securing a needed zoning change recommendation by a 3-2 vote.
That vote followed nearly four hours of debate, with several critics speaking out against the proposal aligned with a new pushback effort, Save MKE’s Music Scene, which includes Rave, Pabst Theater Group, Shank Hall and Cactus Club as supporters.
One of the recurring arguments from critics at Monday’s Planning Commission meeting was that FPC Live, with the support of Live Nation, would starve local independent promoters and venues of business. This has been the focus of a campaign the Rave has shared in recent days on its social media pages and with its newsletter subscribers protesting the venue proposal.
The fact that the Rave has the backing of SaveLive and venture capitalists could become a counter-argument to FPC Live as the back and forth continues, although Live Nation and FPC Live are still far bigger players than SaveLive and Rave.
FPC Live was the 33rd biggest promoter in the world in 2021, according to concert trade publication Pollstar, selling 187,548 tickets. It sold far more than that in 2022, with FPC Live co-chairman Charlie Goldstone recently telling the Journal Sentinel that he sold 180,000 tickets for shows at the American Family Insurance Amphitheater alone and at the BMO Harris Pavilion, as part of his preferred promoter deal with the Milwaukee. World Festival Inc. venues outside of Summerfest.
FPC Live is also the main promoter of the Fiserv Forum, including sold-out shows with Post Malone and Harry Styles. He also promoted the state’s largest single concert by attendance this year, with Mötley Crüe and Def Leppard at American Family Field.
In 2018, FPC Live’s parent company, Frank Productions, also based in Madison, sold a majority stake to Live Nation, which is by far the largest concert performer in the world. In its second-quarter earnings report last month, Live Nation said revenue of $4.4 billion, up 40% from 2019, and that the company had already sold more tickets. than she had for all of 2019, putting her on track for a banner year.
Pabst Theater Group partners with AEG
It is expected that if FPC Live opens its venue complex in the Deer district – which includes a 4,000 capacity venue and an 800 capacity venue – that virtually all visits from Live Nation clubs and theaters routed through Milwaukee will end up there. instead of the Rave, Pabst Theater Group venues and other locations around town.
The FPC Live project will then be examined by the zoning, neighborhood and development committee of the municipal council. After that, the full common council would vote on the committee’s recommendation. The board will also need to approve a liquor license for new sites.
Local firm Eppstein Uhen Architects designed the building which, if approved, would be constructed by Miron Construction, in partnership with JCP Construction. The complex could host 135 events a year, executives said, with plans to open in early 2024.
With a formidable competitor closing in on becoming a bigger player in Milwaukee, the Rave may not be the only independent local venue finding outside alliances.
The Milwaukee Business Journal reported last week that AEG, the world’s second-largest live music player, will partner with the Pabst Theater Group on a 3,500-capacity venue project, built from the ground up in as part of the Iron District project, where an 8,000-seat football stadium would serve as the anchor tenant.
Representatives for AEG did not respond to the Journal Sentinel with confirmation, and Pabst Theater Group CEO Gary Witt declined to comment.
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Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Joe Balestrieri’s name.