In May 2015, one month after it was announced that Live Nation, one of the largest concert promoters in the world, had acquired a majority stake in the Knoxville-based music festival Bonnaroo, Billboard Magazine put forth the question: “What does the buy mean for American indie music festivals?”
This week, Louisville music fans are asking the same thing.
On October 31, “The Tennessean” reported that Live Nation has purchased AC Entertainment, which founded Bonnaroo in 2002 and became a co-producer of Louisville’s Forecastle Festival in 2011.
It’s an odd mash-up, to be sure. The marriage of a global entertainment machine in the midst of managing Lady Gaga’s Absolut Vodka-sponsored tour, and a nautical-themed festival that began as a small gathering of Louisville musicians in Tyler Park.
While Forecastle has grown exponentially since that time — with more than 75,000 attendees at its high point and headliners like The Avett Brothers and Jack White — it’s focus has remained local. Some Louisville artists are curious about whether or not that will change.
James Lindsey is a local hip-hop artist who performed at Forecastle this year.
“As of recent, Forecastle has done a great job of putting great, local acts on such a great scale,” Lindsey says. “Will they still consider artists in the city to be part of it? I think that definitely changes the landscape.”
Lindsey says he is also curious about whether festival founder JK McKnight — who was unavailable for comment for this story — will still be involved in the talent selection process.
But according to AC Entertainment CEO, Ashley Capps, the Live Nation deal is “nothing but a good thing” for the festival.
“The management and operation — the vision behind the festival — all of that is going to stay true to what it has been in the past few years,” Capps says. “I hope people experience the festival as a continually evolving event, but its identity, its values, the character that it has, and the way that it relates to the community of Louisville is core to the whole ethos and experience of coming to Forecastle.”
Capps, who started AC Entertainment in 1991, says if there will be any impact from the Live Nation deal, it will simply be access to greater resources and more talent.
“Live Nation has a lot of international and national touring acts that they work with exclusively,” Capps says. “It will give us access to the resources and relationships of the largest concert promoter in the world.”
Lindsey says while he’s concerned about local representation, he hopes the Live Nation involvement will lead to a more diverse selection of artists making the Forecastle main stage.
“The good thing is that the talent pool should be at a super high level because Live Nation seems to have so many acts and artists, at least on the hip hop front,” he says.
Capps says the deal developed “organically, and over a long period of time.”
“It wasn’t like a sudden thing,” Capps says “And as we looked at the opportunities we wanted to pursue and how we wanted to develop as a company, this seemed like the very best fit to give us access to the resources and infrastructure to help support that.”
He says when people attend Forecastle 2017, there won’t be any perceivable difference in the character of the festival.
“When it all boils down, I think the work will speak for itself,” he says. “I certainly know that it is human nature to be somewhat apprehensive about change and concerned about what perceived change could mean. I think the strength of our particular relationship with Live Nation is they came to us wanting to continue to do more of and be more of who we already are.”