In what seems to be the latest chapter of Live Nation’s conquest of the Southern California music scene, the multi-billion dollar entertainment company announced yesterday that they’ve purchased Spaceland Presents and the promotion business’ three Los Angeles venues: Echo Park’s Echoplex and the Echo, and the Regent in Downtown.
Mitchell Frank, who started Spaceland in the ’90s, has run the Echo night club and the larger Echoplex venue for well over a decade. In that time, both spaces have played an undeniable role in establishing Echo Park as a hub for local, independent music. As the venues gained more notoriety, they also started attracting national talent, making the city a common stop for larger touring acts.
In 2012, Frank took over the lease for the Regent, a historic movie theater in Downtown L.A. Since then, the theater has hosted a wide variety of concerts, movie screenings, and even swap meets. In addition to these three venues, Spaceland has been successful in producing such events as the Twilight Concert Series at the Santa Monica Pier, the Levitt Pavilion’s Summer Concert Series (both of which are free to the public). They produced the Desert Daze music festival along with festival founders and operators, Moon Block. Desert Daze is not part of the Live Nation deal and is now partnered with Knitting Factory and Red Light Management.
Thus, it’s clear that Live Nation has made a pretty hefty acquisition. Just months after buying the Observatory venues in Santa Ana and San Diego, and mere weeks after announcing a partnership with Anaheim’s Chain Reaction, this is another in a long line of deals the company has struck with Southern California music venues in recent months. It’s interesting to note that, much like the Chain Reaction, the Echo and Echoplex are both fairly mid-sized venues, with the larger of the two having a capacity of just over 650. The Regent, on the other hand, is more akin to the Observatory venues, with a capacity of about a thousand.
The Echo and Echoplex have been vital to, not only Los Angeles, but the greater Southern California music scene. Warpaint and Hanni El Khatib are just a few artists who started their careers on the Echo’s stage, while countless touring acts like LCD Soundsystem and Kendrick Lamar, have filled the Echoplex. Both establishments have also hosted weekly dance nights, such as Mile’s Tackett’s Funky Sole.
It seems that this coexistence of an independent, kind of neighborhood party vibe with some national and corporate talent is what has always made these venues unique. Now, the question is, as it is with every other venue Live Nation has acquired in recent months: How much of that will change?
From a venue owner’s perspective, the resources that Live Nation has to offer are certainly enticing. On the surface level, especially in Frank’s case, where he’ll keep his same job title and his employees over at Live Nation, there don’t seem to be many drawbacks to the acquisition. However, from an artist’s standpoint, it must certainly be intimidating to see another well-established independent venue get “swallowed up by the big fish.”
As a handful of massive entertainment companies assume control over the booking and promoting duties at more and more music venues, one can’t help but notice the underlying anxiety about the potentially approaching monopolization of the live music industry. Will ticket prices be affected in the long run? Will it be difficult for newer artists to get booked? How will regional music scenes thrive with just a few large and arguably disconnected entertainment companies at the helm? It’s very well possible that these acquisitions will provide the venues with what they need to succeed in the long run. Time will tell.