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End of the indies: Frontier announces JV with AEG

Australia's last major independent promoter is to merge with AEG Presents, in a move that brings the touring landscape down under in line with Europe and North America

By Jon Chapple on 11 Apr 2019

Michael Gudinski, Frontier Touring, Jay Marciano, AEG Presents

Michael Gudinski and AEG Presents CEO Jay Marciano

image © Christina Gandolfo

AEG Presents, the world’s second-largest concert business, has joined forces with Frontier Touring, the leading promoter in Australasia, announcing a strategic joint venture that will see the two companies merge their operations in Australia and New Zealand.

The partnership, which follows Frontier’s recent merger with Michael Chugg’s Chugg Entertainment, combines “Frontier Touring’s broad regional expertise with AEG Presents’ extensive resources, and will continue to grow both companies’ presence throughout the Asia-Pacific region”, according to a joint statement.

After Live Nation, US-based AEG Presents (formerly AEG Live) is the #2 concert/festival promoter globally, according to Pollstar, with Frontier placing seventh, with nearly 2.3 million tickets sold, in 2018. The two companies have co-promoted a number of tours in Australia and New Zealand since 2007, including the Rolling Stones, Leonard Cohen, Taylor Swift’s Red and 1989 tours, Celine Dion, Justin Bieber, Rodriguez and Shawn Mendes.

According to the Wall Street Journal, AEG has acquired a 50% stake in Frontier Touring, part of Michael Gudinski’s Mushroom Group of companies.

Gudinski, who co-founded Frontier with Chugg in 1979, comments: “Frontier Touring has been fiercely independent since its inception in 1979, and there is no doubt that we’ve batted well above the average on a global level in recent years. AEG Presents has had a successful track record of partnering with independent promoters and allowing them to keep their entrepreneurial roots while also supporting their growth. This next step is about ensuring that Frontier, AEG and our joint-venture partners, Illusive Presents [led by Gudinski’s son, Matt] and Chugg Entertainment, raise the bar in the Australasian live market higher than ever before.”

Of the six Australian companies in the 2018 top 100 promoters list, just two are now independent

Frontier’s joint ventures with Illusive Presents and Chugg Entertainment will continue under the new arrangement (including Chugg’s stake in country music festival CMC Rocks, which will come under under the Frontier-AEG JV), which takes effect on 1 July. The deal does not, however, include the other 24 Mushroom Group companies.

“As demand for live entertainment continues to grow across Australia and New Zealand, we are incredibly excited to be working with a global entity like AEG Presents and the opportunities that it can bring to our business,” continues Gudinski. “AEG is known for its iconic assets, including the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, BST Hyde Park Festival, Stagecoach Country Music Festival, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival [and] such venues as Staples Center and the O2, among others.”

Frontier’s 2018 included tours by Paul McCartney, Celine Dion, Foo Fighters, the Killers, Harry Styles, Sam Smith, Rise Against and Ed Sheeran, the last of which became Australasia’s biggest-ever tour.

Jay Marciano, chairman and CEO of AEG Presents, says: “Frontier Touring and AEG Presents share a passion and commitment to delivering the best music experiences to artists and fans alike. Michael has built an incredibly respected organisation with a proven track record of success and we are pleased that he chose to partner with us.

“We look forward to working closely with him and his talented team to further grow the Frontier Touring brand.”

AEG’s partial acquisition of Frontier Touring, following Frontier’s merger with Chugg Entertainment, marks the end of an era in Australia, one of the last remaining major touring markets not controlled by multinational corporate entities.

“We are incredibly excited to be working with a global entity like AEG Presents and the opportunities that it can bring to our business”

Of the six Australian companies which placed on Pollstar’s 2018 top 100 promoters list, just two are now independent: 70th-placed Adrian Bohm Presents, which largely promotes comedy tours, and 93rd-placed Bluesfest Touring, the touring arm of Peter Noble’s Byron Bay Bluesfest. (Chugg was placed 47th.)

According to IQ’s 2018 Australasian market report, “the concert landscape of the Great Southern Land is still dominated by the ‘big four’” – Chugg, Gudinski, Michael Coppel and and Paul Dainty – with Live Nation “never far from the mind” of Australia’s indie promoters.

Live Nation, the world’s largest concert promoter, has had a presence in Australia since 2012, when it acquired Michael Coppel Presents (MCP), at that time the second-biggest promoter in Australia. MCP was later rebranded Live Nation Australia with Coppel as chief executive (he became chairman in March 2017, handing over the CEO reins to Roger Field).

Paul Dainty, meanwhile – whose Dainty Group company, along with Frontier, Chugg Entertainment and Live Nation/MCP, formerly dominated international touring in Australia – sold up in 2016, joining TEG, the parent company of leading ticketing platform Ticketek, that July. As IQ noted at the time, that deal created “an integrated live entertainment business (a “one-stop shop”, said TEG) to rival Live Nation Australia”.

Sydney-based TEG has since expanded into Asia, and has been linked with European ticketing/concert giant CTS Eventim, as well as several Chinese buyers.


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