United Properties unveiled this rendering of the new Fillmore Minneapolis being planned near Target Field. The 2,000-capacity live music venue will be operated by Live Nation. (Courtesy Tushie Montgomery Architects)
Ron Bension has been running Live Nation’s clubs and theaters division since 2010. He’s in charge of mega-names like House of Blues and Fillmore Theaters as well as smaller comedy clubs and other clubs and has doubled the number of venues under his guidance since he took the post.
Previously, Bension was CEO of TicketsNow, working with the team at Ticketmaster to restructure the resale site's operations and business initiatives. During his more than 30-year career, he has led several major e-commerce, recreation and entertainment companies to financial and strategic success, including stays at Sportnet, Sega Gameworks and Universal Studios Recreation Group.
Bension spoke with VenuesNow to discuss Live Nation’s club and theater model, future openings and the strategy that his division has devised to bring even more live entertainment under the Live Nation umbrella to fans.
How many venues is your division running?
We have over 73 venues. We just closed on two venues in Denver. Some of our venues have more than one stage in the facilities. There are 10 House of Blues locations (1,500-2,200 capacity), seven Fillmores (2,000 capacity), four comedy clubs (300-500 capacity) and eight theaters. The rest are 700-3,000 capacity clubs.
Any new venues on the horizon?
Yes. We are building a new Fillmore in Minneapolis. We have another new Fillmore we will announce in the next couple of months, and a new House of Blues as well. We’re continuing to expand and we’re in active discussions in about 10 more locations. To put things in perspective, 10 years ago there were 36 facilities in this portfolio, so a fairly dramatic growth and a clear commitment on the part of Live Nation.
How big is this division in the Live Nation portfolio?
A significant part. We do almost 8,000 promoted shows a year [and] another 5,000 filler shows and club nights. It’s a busy little bit of business.
What is the venue strategy?
It’s an expansion strategy. We’re in all of the major markets and we’re going into the secondary and tertiary markets now. We like to have an escalation in each market, so we want a 700 [capacity], a 1,500 [capacity], a 2,500 [capacity], and then you start to go into boutiques and the like, where those markets can support it.
Is there a specific approach with bands?
The approach is to work with bands and touring initiatives to help them market themselves. The most important fact is that Live Nation is the only substantial company with a significant national footprint. We can help bands sell tickets and help bands promote themselves with national websites like LiveNation.com and Ticketmaster.com.
We can go to a band a say, “We want to be in business with you and we’ll do a much better job of marketing your shows and your music,” and we think we’ve done an incredible job of selling tickets for bands and helping bands grow. As the footprint expands, not only can I help a band in Los Angeles, but also then in Philadelphia and Des Moines.