In its first major act as operator of the Greek Theatre, the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks (RAP) held a scheduling event last Thursday at Griffith Park’s Friendship Auditorium to book the talent for the concert venue’s 2016 roster.
The event will most likely be remembered as far less exciting than any of the acts the three promoters (LiveNation, Nederlander and AEG) were vying for, as representatives from the groups took turns one-by-one applying for date reservations, which are called holds, for different artists or groups. The reservations are for talent named on the application, regardless of which company ends up promoting them. RAP’s general manager Michael Shull said the schedule is from April 15 to Oct. 31, 2016.
The lottery to select the order, and then the process to apply one-by-one was part of an open venue model RAP is using to manage the theatre. Shull said open model means one promoter does not run it anymore and it allows all promoters an equal shot.
“We wanted it to be fair and transparent,” Shull said. “We didn’t want, on day one, a promoter to email all their applications and they get the first hold on each date. Everyone got a fair shot per artist. [We opted for this process] to be fair to anyone who wanted to submit applications.”
Artists with the first hold reservations are given priority over other holds for that day. Shull said 189 applications were submitted. An artist can have as many as five dates reserved. After last Thursday, the bookings resumed on a first-come, first-serve, basis.
“I think everybody would agree that it was a fair process,” Shull said. “There were a couple questions and bumps and we moved through it quickly.”
Alex Hodges, CEO for Nederlander Concerts, said the process does “raise an eyebrow,” because he believes it might have been too early to start making so many holds for next season. Hodges believes 99 percent of the reservations are, what he called, “straw holds” or “faux holds,” meaning they are based on promotion perception, and there’s no way to tell which ones actually will result in a concert date until they are confirmed. That means the actual 2016 event calendar will end up looking much different than the holding calendar.
“It was a lot of guessing,” Hodges said. “Artists don’t know where they’ll start their tour yet. They don’t know when they’ll be in Los Angeles.”
Hodges said it was unusual to have so many holds so far in advance. Before the lottery process started, Hodges said at this point in the year with Nederlander as the management team, The Greek would maybe have approximately one dozen holds for next season. Artists are still just now booking shows for this September and October, as Nederlander completes its final months as operator of The Greek.
“To have 700 or 800 holds this early is unusual,” Hodges said, referring to how Nederlander managed The Greek’s calendar. “Between December and January, I would typically have 350 holds for the following summer, of which only 10 or 12 would actually have confirmed dates. It’s new, it’s different, it’s imperfect. We have to work with whatever we have to work with.”
A major difference that will come as a result of the lottery system and the open venue model will be the challenge process, Hodges said. After Thursday, a promoter or artist in the second or lower holds can challenge the artist who has the first hold, Shull said. To challenge, the promoter or artist has to put up $25,000, which will go to fees for the event. The artist holding the first position will have 48 hours to answer. If they match the $25,000, the first place holders keep the date.
Hodges said usually the challenge process has a lot more dialogue and discussion so promoters can help artists figure out the best dates for their show.
“Right now, we don’t know any of the artists with holds in front or behind us,” Hodges said. “There’s a lack of communication.”
Hodges said there have typically been 50-70 shows for the summer. RAP’s goal is to obtain approximately 70 concerts.
“It’s a brand new way of doing business,” Shull said. “Bottom line is, we’re looking for more revenue. For us, [the Greek Theatre] is an asset. For us, it’s about making sure we’re maximizing the value of the assets.”
The Greek Theatre is located at 2700 N. Vermont Ave. and was built in 1929. It is owned by the city of Los Angeles and is one of RAP’s highest revenue producing properties.
Last year, RAP ended business with Nederlanger Concerts as the theatre’s manager after four decades. Nederlander Concerts’ tenure as the theatre’s management team will end in November.