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A Year Later, Acquisition of PromoWest a Sign of the Times

Taijuan Moorman Taijuan Moorman A Year Later, Acquisition of PromoWest a Sign of the TimesPhoto by Taijuan Moorman
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Last November, PromoWest Productions announced its acquisition by LA-based AEG Presents, the second-largest live music company in the world.

Concert goers have been unfazed – while PromoWest now operates as a division of AEG, it has still maintained the PromoWest name, with Founder and CEO Scott Steinecker remaining at the helm. Now that the dust has settled, Steinecker spoke to Columbus Underground about the transition and the future of PromoWest, including the 50th anniversary of Newport Music Hall in 2020 and the opening of EXPRESS LIVE! in Cincinnati slated for 2021.

Taijuan Moorman: What’s the transition been like since the acquisition?

Scott Steinecker: The transition has been good. It’s been a little tough on the employees because it’s a whole different world; it’s a corporate world now. PromoWest itself hasn’t changed the way we do anything promotionally, or show wise or number of shows. Just the way we have to report everything is completely different. So that transition has been the hardest part. But we knew 2019 would be that transition year and we hope that by the end of this first year, everything will be smooth.

There’s just been a lot to learn, but the overall business as a whole hasn’t really changed. We’re still booking the same kind of shows that we did. We did the same number of shows we’ve done in the past. They have brought about a dozen more shows maybe to us than we would have had before. But we do 500 shows a year in Columbus, Ohio, and we do a couple hundred in Pittsburgh. And then we do the Bunbury Festival in Cincinnati, and we’re in the middle of building an EXPRESS LIVE! in Cincinnati. So it’s been a busy year. But not that much to the public has changed for the concert-goer, but internally it’s been a little different.

TM: Where do you see this putting PromoWest in the future?

SS: We’re now part of the second-largest [live music] company in the world. I mean Live Nation is the largest concert company in the world. AEG is the second largest. I had an offer from Live Nation in 2015 and I passed. I turned it down. And then we got the offer in ’17, or actually ’18, from AEG. And we decided to go on it. Because both those companies, Live Nation and AEG, are buying up pretty much all the independent promoters. We were the fifth-largest independent promoter in the country. It was just a matter of time, because they had picked off the first three, and then 10, 11 and 12. I mean, we knew at some point they were going to be coming after us. And they did in ’15, Live Nation did, and then ’18 we got the AEG offer. So it’s where the industry is going. It’s consolidating and pretty soon there’s going to be two companies doing it on the large level.

TM: Do you welcome that kind of consolidation or is it kind of just go with it?

SS: You have to go with it. I’ve been doing this now for 40 years and I’ve seen the industry do its changes over the years. Yeah, consolidation — and most industries have that, where they have a consolidation period. And that’s what the concert industry is going through. It’s consolidating. It’s going to be two companies pretty soon.

It’s kind of a bummer. I mean, I like to be an independent. The reason I chose AEG over Live Nation is they let us keep our name, PromoWest, and they let me continue to run it all. And we can still stay independent. ‘Cause they’re just a huge independent. They’re not publicly owned. They’re not on the stock exchange like Live Nation is. So that’s why I chose AEG, to keep our independence. And so the shows still say PromoWest presents. And it’s still the same bookers — myself, Adam Vanchoff, Steve Boyer.

TM: How do you go about making a decision as big as that? Is it a lot of meetings…?

SS: Yeah. Oh yeah. And it has to be timing. …I’m 59 years old, so I was starting to think, “What is gonna be my exit strategy?” So it was timing and it was watching the industry. [You] used to have Live Nation buying arena tours, now they’ve come down and they’ve been buying whole tours in the middle ground, which we are, we’re 5,000 and under. So once they started doing that, then AEG started getting in that game, buying smaller, middle-sized tours. The writing was kind of on the wall that pretty soon the independent guy is… Like, Maren Morris, this country act that’s coming out — I called the agent and said, “Hey, what about a Maren Morris date?” And he said, “Oh, sorry, Live Nation bought that whole tour.” So tours are being bought totally by either Live Nation or AEG. And then the independents, we have to get what they aren’t buying. And they used to not mess in our world. They used to just fight over the arena stuff. Now they’re playing in our world. So it was the timing, it was probably a smart move.

Plus I was getting ready to build in Cincinnati. And Cincinnati has Live Nation heavily in that market. So I felt like it’d be better if I had an 800-pound gorilla behind me going into Cincinnati. So all those things — my age seeing where the industry was headed, and the fact that I was building in Cincinnati — those three helped me make my decision to sell.

TM: What’s the timeline look like for the EXPRESS LIVE! in Cincinnati?

SS: The end of March 2021. We’re already building. They’ll be done with the building at the end of next year, and then they’ll turn it over to us. And then we’ll take two or three months to get all the FFNE — furniture, fixtures and equipment in. So probably, maybe April 1, 2021.

TM: Do you have anything to add?

SS: One thing that’s pretty cool with this is we have three anniversaries next year. Newport Music Hall is going to be 50 years old.

TM: Wow!

SS: It was The Agora [Ballroom] for 14, and it’s been the Newport for 36. So that building on High Street’s been doing live rock-and-roll for 50 years straight. [EXPRESS LIVE!], this is the very first of its kind — indoor-outdoor facility. It’ll be its 20th anniversary. And then Stage AE, the building in Pittsburgh that’s similar to this, it’ll be its 10th anniversary. So 2020 is a big year for the company – 50th, 20th and 10th anniversary. Plus, we’re building a new facility. So 2020’s a huge year.

For more information, visit www.promowestlive.com.

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