AEG Closer to Seizing New York Concert Industry With Bowery Deal

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Calvin Harris performing at the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival on Sunday in Indio, Calif. Credit Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Coachella

The booming concert industry, already dominated by two corporate powers, is getting even more consolidated.

AEG Live, the second-largest company in the global concert business, is close to completing a deal to acquire a majority of The Bowery Presents, an independent promoter in New York, according to two people with direct knowledge of the negotiations who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

If completed, the deal would give AEG — whose portfolio already includes the Coachella festival and major arenas like Staples Center in Los Angeles — a powerful foothold on the East Coast. The Bowery Presents puts on dozens of shows each month in clubs such as Terminal 5 and the Music Hall of Williamsburg in New York, as well as at major sites such as Madison Square Garden, where in September it will present six concerts by Adele.

Concert industry executives said that the deal would effectively turn the New York market into a battleground between AEG and Live Nation Entertainment, the industry’s biggest power. The two companies have long dominated the global touring business but have had somewhat limited roles in New York. AEG controls the PlayStation Theater near Times Square, and Live Nation has clubs including Irving Plaza and the Gramercy Theater, along with amphitheaters like Jones Beach.

This month, Live Nation also bought the promoters behind the Governors Ball festival, an annual event on Randalls Island. This summer, AEG — which is privately owned and is controlled by the billionaire investor Philip F. Anschutz — will put on a competing festival, Panorama, at the same location.

AEG and The Bowery Presents declined to comment. News of an imminent deal between the companies was first reported by Billboard.

In recent years Bowery has also become a force with satellites and partnerships in New England, Philadelphia, upstate New York and in Southern cities such as New Orleans and Atlanta. A highly influential player on the concert circuit, Bowery has forged close associations with artists and championed a model of booking acts through successively larger sites in the company’s network.

It was not clear how the deal might affect the Bowery organization and its venues, but the company is expected to remain relatively autonomous and retain its name, according to the people with knowledge of the negotiations.

The Bowery Presents was founded in 2004 but traces its beginnings to the opening of the tiny Mercury Lounge a decade earlier. Next, in 1998, was the Bowery Ballroom, which Rolling Stone has called the best music club in the country, and by the 2000s, The Bowery Presents began to expand rapidly. Last year, The Bowery Presents sold nearly 1.3 million tickets, according to Pollstar, a concert industry trade publication.

While AEG is gaining a majority stake in The Bowery Presents, it is unclear whether the deal will include the Bowery Ballroom or the Mercury Lounge. Those are owned by Michael Swier, who founded those clubs and began the Bowery enterprise. His partners, Jim Glancy and John Moore, bought him out in 2010, but the Bowery Ballroom and Mercury Lounge remain associated with The Bowery Presents through a complex working relationship.

Mr. Swier, who also owns the Teragram Ballroom in Los Angeles, declined to comment on Wednesday.

As news of the deal reverberated among fans and throughout the concert business, some bemoaned the encroaching power of major corporations and the influence that Live Nation and AEG have had on issues like ticket prices, which have gone up steadily since the mid-1990s.

“The advent of both of those companies has pushed everything — from ticket prices to artist fees — upward and upward,” said John Scher, a veteran concert promoter in the New York region. “I don’t think that’s generally very healthy for the business.”

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