Local music lovers may not notice a difference, but the global entertainment giant, Live Nation, is finalizing a deal to buy majority interest in the Madison-based concert-promotion company Frank Productions.
The deal, which is scheduled to go through Friday, brings two competitors together as one.
“Essentially, we are entering into a partnership with Live Nation, so that affects our business, not just in Madison, but across the country as well. We will be working alongside them,” said Charlie Goldstone, president of Frank Productions Concerts.
Publicly traded Live Nation Entertainment, formed in 2010 from the merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster, is buying 51 percent of Frank Productions Inc., Goldstone said. He said he was not privy to the purchase price.
The deal will allow Frank Productions — itself one of the largest independent concert promoters in the country — to still operate independently, the autonomy to promote shows the way it wants to, and form partnerships the way it always has, Goldstone said.
“We have access to their resources now to take what we are already doing and do it on a much larger scale, and grow more than before,” he said. “We are maintaining our autonomy as a company.”
The staff of Frank Productions will stay as it is, as will the company’s brand, he said.
Frank Productions, in the past year, has been gathering local resources at a rate that’s raised eyebrows among performers and those who love live music.
Early last year, the 54-year-old, family-owned company announced plans for its own, new 2,500-seat concert hall on Madison’s Near East Side called the Sylvee, expected to open in October.
Then, in February, Frank Productions took over the 14-year-old High Noon Saloon on East Washington Avenue, perhaps Madison’s top local rock club.
The following month, Frank Productions announced its merger with Majestic Live, the company that also operates the Majestic Theatre, another major local music venue.
Frank Productions will still operate independently in Madison, Goldstone said, with Live Nation now a partner. The Madison company has more than 70 employees nationwide.
Frank Productions CEO Joel Plant said the merger is important, but whether it will impact concert-goers depends on whom you ask.
Still, the move has major impacts for his company, allowing it to continue its “aggressive, strategic growth with a new partner with whom we would be directly competing if it weren’t for this partnership,” Plant said.
It’s a big opportunity for Frank Productions to continue to use and develop its business model with its artists, fans and venues, while getting to take advantage of the depth and breadth of Live Nation’s resources, he said.
Frank Productions lost a chance to take over the Orpheum Theater in 2013, when it was purchased by Gus Paras. In 2016, Paras entered into a partnership with Live Nation, which now books music at the historic State Street theater.
Under the new partnership, Live Nation has asked Frank Productions to take over operations at the Orpheum Theater effective immediately.
Herb and Sylvia Frank founded Frank Productions in Madison in 1964. The couple’s sons, Larry and Fred Frank, now co-own the company.
“This partnership made sense for Live Nation on every level, as we’re excited to welcome Larry, Fred and all of Frank Productions to the team,” Bob Roux, co-president of Live Nation’s U.S. Concerts division, said in a statement.
Documents to merge the companies will be signed Friday, and the transaction will be effective Feb. 1, Plant said. He wouldn’t reveal the purchase price.
The purpose of building the Sylvee was to elevate Madison to a higher level on the Midwest music scene by bringing more and bigger artists to Madison who weren’t coming here, either because there wasn’t enough room or there wasn’t the right kind of venue, Plant said.
Frank Productions had been exploring the idea of the theater for several years and faced some location setbacks. It eventually landed on the current site, the 800 block of East Washington Avenue. Construction began in May.
After construction began, Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino contacted the Frank brothers to see if they would be interested in a joint venture that would allow both companies to take advantage of each other’s strengths, Plant said.
Frank Productions has been booking major musical acts into the outdoor, city-owned Breese Stevens Field since 2015. The arrangement, Plant said, is a good illustration of what can happen when the company gets creative and develops a new space for music in Madison.
“It hasn’t taken away from any other venues,” Plant said. “It has simply added to the mix, and I expect with the Sylvee coming online and now this new partnership with Live Nation, we’ll simply see an acceleration of that growth and expansion — more music, more acts, more happy fans.”
Neither Live Nation nor Frank Productions needed to conduct the transaction to stay solvent, Plant emphasized.
The deal is being done in the spirit of a partnership. Live Nation needed to take a majority interest to be able to consolidate financial statements, which is important to them as a publicly traded company, Plant said.