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Providence buys into music retailer Sweetwater

Providence Equity Partners, the private-equity owner of live entertainment firms including Superstruct Entertainment, Ambassador Theatre Group and Tait (Towers), has bought into Sweetwater, the leading US retailer of musical instruments and audio equipment.

Terms of the transaction, which sees funds advised by Provide make a “strategic investment” in Sweetwater, were not disclosed.

Founded in 1979 by Chuck Surack, Sweetwater now turns over more than US$1 billion annually and has served over 1.5 million unique customers. “I am incredibly proud of the growth our company achieved over the last year, which would not have been possible without the dedication of our employees and world-class team of music gear experts,” comments Surack (pictured). “I am confident this growth equity investment will allow us to reach new heights and further our mission of enabling customers to make music and pursue their dreams.”

Other music-industry investments by Providence include software firm Impact, the UK’s Brilliant Stages (via Tait) and, formerly, Greencopper parent company Patron Technology, which it sold last year. Its festival division, Superstruct, recently acquired Dutch event Zwarte Cross, in its first acquisition since before the pandemic.

“We believe the company is well-positioned for sustainable growth as live events return”

“Providence is a great partner to continue our momentum and take Sweetwater to the next level,” says John Hopkins, Sweetwater’s COO. “As the world emerges from the pandemic, we believe the firm’s strong track record of helping music-related businesses accelerate their growth will be invaluable.

“The Providence team appreciates what makes Sweetwater different and we are aligned on how we can further leverage our unique culture to capitalise on new opportunities that create even better customer experiences.”

Scott Marimow, managing director of Providence, comments: “Sweetwater’s status as an online industry leader is a direct result of its unique culture and dedication to customer service. We believe the company is well-positioned for sustainable growth as live events return and artists and entertainment companies look to provide the memorable experiences that have been absent over the past year and a half.

“We are excited to partner with such a culture-driven company and look forward to working with Chuck and team to grow the business together.”

 


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Marshall Amps launches Marshall Live Agency

Marshall, the British music company best known for its guitar amplifiers and speaker cabinets, has launched Marshall Live Agency (MLA), the latest new booking agency to come out of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The firm’s second foray into the music business proper, following the launch in 2016 of Marshall Records, Marshall Live Agency is headed up by agent Stuart Vallans, who explains that the agency sits alongside other aspects of the Marshall business – including amps, loudspeakers, headphones and Marshall Arena, in the company’s hometown of Milton Keynes – to offer a “holistic” service to the live music industry ahead of concerts restarting.

Vallans tells IQ industry reaction to the launch of MLA, which has been in the works since last summer, has been “really positive” so far. “Everyone’s on board with the bands we’ve got so far, and getting the bands right has made the booking process easy,” he explains.

The company’s launch roster includes a diverse slate of emerging acts, including Gen and the Degenerates, Crashface, Elijah Miller, Gallus, Make Friends, Moray Pringle and Polar States.

The goodwill associated with the Marshall brand, which stretches back to the 1960s, when the company built cabinets for guitar legends such as Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton, Ritchie Blackmore and Eric Clapton, has been a “massive selling point” when talking to promoters and festivals, who trust that Marshall can be relied upon to do the ‘right thing’, continues Vallans. “There’s a lot of good faith in the industry – people know Marshall are here to help out,” he says.

According to Marshall, the agency will especially focus on supporting grassroots music in a sustainable way, with plans for carbon-neutral tours also in the works.

“It’s incredible to be backed to do the right thing and put the needs of artists and venues first”

Marshall managing director Jonathan Ellery comments: “From day one, Marshall Amplification has prioritised the needs of musicians and done whatever we can to support live music. Marshall Live Agency is a natural continuation of this legacy.

“Twenty twenty was a devastating year for the venues, musicians and support networks that rely on income from live performances, and we’re not out the woods yet, so it is more important than ever to find creative solutions for audiences to reconnect. Marshall Live Agency, under the guidance of Stuart Vallans and working with the wider Marshall business, will aim to play a key role in nurturing young talent for both the short-term recovery and long-term growth of live music.”

Marshall Live Agency follows the launch of Mother Artists, One Fiinix LiveRoute One Booking and Runway Artists in the UK, as well as Arrival ArtistsMint Talent Group and TBA Agency in the US and Rebel Beat Agency in Spain, in 2020, amid a wider fragmentation of the global agency sector in response to the coronavirus shutdown.

Looking to the immediate future, Vallans says he is focusing on developing MLA’s roster, with the long-term aim being to recruit more agents. He adds that there are a number of other new initiatives coming from Marshall in 2021.

“I’ve been in the industry for 15 years, and quite often agent performance is measured by fees generated. Marshall has straight away thrown that out the window, as it’s not how they do business,” he comments.

“The agency performance will be based on how many people we inspire to see live music. It’s incredible to be backed to do the right thing and put the needs of artists and venues first.”

 


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Frankfurt’s Musikmesse to host first showcases

Musikmesse, the leading Frankfurt trade show for the musical instrument (MI) sector, has parked its tanks on the lawn of German showcase festivals such as Reeperbahn, Pop-Kultur and c/o pop by inviting several European export offices to showcase at its 2018 event.

Musikmesse – which last year, along with sister event Prolight + Sound, attracted around 100,000 visitors from 144 countries to the Messe Frankfurt exhibition complex – first introduced live music programming in 2016, although organisers told IQ at the time the event wasn’t interested in competing with other, more established events for a concert industry audience.

Musikmesse Fest: Just musical instruments… for now

This year, however, Musikmesse Festival – which will feature performances from the likes of Albert Hammond, Dionne Warwick and En Vogue – will include a showcase component, with export offices from Luxembourg, the Republic of Ireland and central and Eastern Europe (including the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia and Hungary) presenting up-and-coming talent over three evenings from 11 to 13 April.

“The interest of international export initiatives in Musikmesse underscores the relevance of the fair as an international platform for the entertainment and live business,” says Wolfgang Weyand, director of business relations and entertainment for Musikmesse/Prolight + Sound. “All participants will profit from these new partnerships.

“On the one hand, they represent an interesting contribution to the complementary programme of events. On the other hand, they facilitate valuable encounters between exhibitors and players from important markets.”

Phil Harrington, CEO of Ireland’s youbloom, says: “youbloom Dublin obviously has a clear interest in showcasing Irish talent abroad and Musikmesse Frankfurt clearly offers a great platform for connecting our scene with potential new international business partners. Yet, there is more to it for the overall youbloom brand portfolio, as we’re currently launching a new online service, targeting musicians worldwide, called youbloomConnect.

“Everyone is talking about music and brands, so why not go for those brands that actually directly working with the music?”

“As such Musikmesse Frankfurt truly caters to many of our interests at once.”

Giovanni Trono of Luxembourgish export office Music:LX adds: “As a small music export nation we always have to work extra hard, and maybe even more importantly, smart, if we are to compete internationally. As such the Musikmesse Frankfurt proposition of us getting to target music brand partnerships directly is extremely appealing.

“Everyone is talking about music and brands, so why not go for those brands that actually directly working with the music?”

Musikmesse Festival 2018 takes place from 11 to 14 April.

 


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