Despite the law being written specifically to exclude them, entities connected to concert and ticketing industry behemoth Live Nation received nearly $19 million in grants intended for small and independent music venues across America.
The Washington Post has published an extensive investigation cataloging the funds received by Live Nation subsidiaries and companies partially owned by the corporate parent of Ticketmaster. Far from exploiting a loophole, the Post alleges that Live Nation lobbied hard to remove language that would have barred them from grants issued by the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program.
Multiple congressional sponsors of the pandemic fund stated that the bill had initially been crafted to focus on small venues and exclude Live Nation entirely.
“When we wrote this, we specifically didn’t want these publicly traded companies — Live Nation foremost among them — to get their hands on this money,” Rep. Peter Welch told the Post of the SVOG program. “I did not want Live Nation getting a nickel.” Part of the reason is because politicians worried that publicly traded companies like Live Nation would pay operating costs with the grants and then engage in stock buy-backs to improve their stock price — effectively enriching shareholders at the public expense.
Among the Live Nation subsidiaries that received funds as alleged by the post were:
- Frank Productions Concerts (Wisconsin): $10 million
- Gellman Management: $400k
- Delmar Hall (Missouri): $1.75 million
In addition, “The Pageant LLC” received $6.7 million from the SVOG program and, like Delmar Hall, is 50% owned by Live Nation according to co-owner Patrick Hagin, as quoted by the Post. The amount distributed to Frank Productions Concerts — $10 million — was the maximum amount allowed by law.
The Post has also alleged that Live Nation actively lobbied Congress to remove language that would prohibit their subsidiaries or entities they owned a stake in from applying for the funds. Live Nation “sought to shape the bill,” the Post writes, “so it could qualify for the funds, according to five people with knowledge of the discussions.”
Live Nation told the Post that its lobbying efforts were “meant to protect jobs.”
The Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program, or SVOG, was passed in the waning days of the Trump Administration. What began as the bipartisan #SaveOurStages Act allocated $16.25 billion in funds to be allocated to independent venues across America by the Small Business Administration.
The program was a fiasco from the start, with the SBA spending months building a special website which immediately crashed upon launch. By June of 2021 — six months after Congress created SVOG — the SBA had approved just 90 out of 14,000 applications for grants. The SBA would reject some 30% of all applicants, though apparently few connected with Live Nation.