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Say no to the Live Nation/Ticketmaster monopoly

5/2/2018

In mid-January, the City of Des Moines Economic Development office put out a Development Concept Request to developers for the Argonne Armory Building. The “Armory,” as it is known, is an Art Deco building on the bend of the Des Moines River, constructed in 1934. Conveniently, only three proposals were submitted: Two are for housing units and one for two music venues (800 and 2,000 capacity) to be operated by Live Nation/Ticketmaster. The city staff and council were scheduled to workshop the proposals on April 30. If you read the development request, it asked for “intrigue” and “impact” as evaluation points. It’s hard to believe, with all the housing that has gone up that another housing project in a marquee building would even be considered, leaving the music venue the only option.

While a venue of this size would be a needed addition to our music scene, bringing in the Live Nation/Ticketmaster monopoly as operator with the benefit of subsidies from our local government is the absolute wrong way to bring this project about.

A venue of this size, with standing room on the main floor and seating/VIP on the balcony, could help fill a huge gap in the music scene. We have two all-seated theaters with Hoyt Sherman Place and the Civic Center; however, we have nothing of this “club” configuration in the 1,200-2,500 capacity in the metro. A venue like this could to draw six to eight meaningful artists per month that are either misplaced in other venues or more likely won’t play Des Moines at all.

Like many of these civic projects where the City is turning over land or buildings to private developers, subsidies of some form are normally offered to help the project happen. As a promoter of live music by owning the Vaudeville Mews (open in 2002), partner in Nitefall on the River (10th year) and project manager of 80/35 (11th year), I’ve worked with countless people in this community to take Des Moines from musical obscurity to where we are today, with great clubs like Wooly’s, Lefty’s and Gas Lamp, as well as the other thriving festivals like Big Country Bash, Hinterland and 515 Alive. We’ve created a notable music scene. Now Live Nation/Ticketmaster intends to swoop in and take it over. It’s what they do. It’s how they work. In fact, recent investigations by the Justice Department have put them under fire for monopolistic business practices.

Handing over a prized jewel with city subsidies to the world’s largest music promoter is a mistake. It’s wrong. The city needs to slow down and open up this process to consider the long-term health of the music industry as well as the capacity of the existing promoters to take things to the next level with the right venue.

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This music scene has been built with care, passion and love by local people. Live Nation/Ticketmaster runs 80 of the top 100 arenas in the nation. Why do they deserve any kind of subsidy? How can Michael Rapino (CEO) and his $10 billion company care about Des Moines as much as the people who grew this scene? I’m part of a small grass-roots group that is fighting for Des Moines’ music future. I ask you to get the facts at www.choosedsmmusic.com, join our cause and say no to the Live Nation/Ticketmaster monopoly. ♦

Amedeo Rossi is a promoter of live music. He owns the Vaudeville Mews, is a partner in Nitefall on the River and is the project manager of the 80/35 music festival.

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