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Music giant buys Bonnaroo amid festival boom

Getty/AFP/File / Jeff Gentner Entertainment giant Live Nation said Tuesday it was buying a controlling stake in Bonnaroo, one of the most influential US music festivals, in the latest consolidation in the booming industry

Getty/AFP/File / Jeff Gentner
Entertainment giant Live Nation said Tuesday it was buying a controlling stake in Bonnaroo, one of the most influential US music festivals, in the latest consolidation in the booming industry

Entertainment giant Live Nation said Tuesday it was buying a controlling stake in Bonnaroo, one of the most influential US music festivals, in the latest consolidation in the booming industry.

New York (AFP)

The addition cements Live Nation Entertainment’s status as a leading festival company with its portfolio already including Lollapalooza in Chicago and the Reading and Leeds festivals in Britain.

The Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, one of the last major US music events to be independent, helped spark the rapid growth of the industry after its launch in 2002.

Bonnaroo — attended for four days each June by up to 90,000 fans — is known for highlighting indie rock and Americana acts but also attracts major headliners, who this year will include Billy Joel, Robert Plant and D’Angelo.

Live Nation, which also runs Ticketmaster, said that it would take a controlling interest in Bonnaroo, but the two sides did not disclose financial terms.

Live Nation will also own a share of the 700-acre (300-hectare) Bonnaroo property — known to fans as “The Farm” — where it said it will invest in improvements.

Bonnaroo’s founding partners, Superfly and AC Entertainment, will still run the festival day-to-day and maintain its signature touches, such as environmental sustainability.

“Through this partnership with Live Nation, we’re even more empowered to enhance the festival while preserving the integrity of the event that we’ve thoughtfully built over the past 14 years,” Superfly co-founder Rick Farman said in a statement.

Getty/AFP/File / Jason Merritt
Sir Elton John plays at the 2014 Bonnaroo festival

The Bonnaroo founders said they made the decision mostly due to Live Nation’s capacity to develop The Farm, which will increasingly be used for events other than the festival.

“The values of Bonnaroo, the vibe of Bonnaroo, no one wants to see that change, it’s not going to change,” AC Entertainment president Ashley Capps told industry journal Billboard.

– Rapid changes –

Music festivals, long popular in Europe and especially Britain, have seen soaring growth in the United States over the past 15 years and have turned into must-do dates on artists’ calendars.

Sensing the boom, Live Nation has been rapidly expanding and in December bought C3 Presents, which runs both Lollapalooza and the Austin City Limits Music Festival.

In 2013, Live Nation paid a reported $50 million for a 50 percent stake in the Electric Daisy Carnival, hoping to tap into the particularly hot market for electronic dance music.

AFP/File / Robyn Beck
The parent company of Coachella in southern California — arguably the most closely watched US festival (scene from festival pictured) — is owned by Live Nation’s rival AEG

The parent company of Coachella in southern California — arguably the most closely watched US festival — is owned by Live Nation’s rival AEG.

Most of the festivals started off with independent streaks. Coachella’s desert venue was first picked by alternative rockers Pearl Jam to protest the dominance of Ticketmaster.

This year marks the birth of a number of new festivals, including the first US edition of Rock in Rio, to take place at newly built Las Vegas grounds.

– An original festival –

Bonnaroo jolted the music world in 2002 when it quickly sold out without traditional advertising, a harbinger of the social media buzz that drives many modern music events.

Bonnaroo — the name was coined by New Orleans R&B icon Dr John to mean good times and comes loosely from the French for “good street” — was initially able to take off due to financing by Coran Capshaw, best known as the manager of the Dave Matthews Band.

Bonnaroo has since managed to keep an independent vibe.

The festival each year turns into the semblance of a city, with round-the-clock films, a hair salon and even a temporary post office.

© 2015 AFP

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