During its 50-year history, United Concerts became arguably the premier live-music promoter in Utah, having built up to staging about 170 shows annually.
But within the past month, United Concerts suddenly ceased to exist.
The building the business operated out of is still standing, and employees are still showing up there, working to bring concerts to the Salt Lake Valley. But United Concerts is technically gone.
After founder and CEO Jim McNeil finalized an early October sale, it’s now part of Live Nation Entertainment. Terms were not disclosed.
“It’s absolutely amazing [the difference between] what I did at the Terrace Ballroom 50 years ago and what we’re doing now. We built an amphitheater [Usana], we built a club [The Depot] we’ve been in ticketing, we’ve done radio. And it was just time,” McNeil told The Salt Lake Tribune. “I’ve had this ongoing relationship with Live Nation since we opened the amphitheater, and they said, ‘We’d like to buy you.’ And the time was right to do that. And what that’ll bring to us is, it’ll bring more shows, it’ll bring bigger shows. There’ll be — musically — a lot more going on in Salt Lake.”
Since the sale became official, several sizable Live Nation-produced tours have scheduled shows at Vivint Smart Home Arena and other venues in coming months, including Sam Smith, Weezer and The Pixies, country star Thomas Rhett, Maroon 5, pop star P!nk, and a second go-round of Tim McGraw and Faith Hill.
As part of the transaction, House of Blues, which is Live Nation’s club offshoot, will take over managing The Depot.
McNeil said discussions about a potential sale had been taking place on-and-off over the past four years.
The deal gives McNeil a new title (president, U.S. concerts — Salt Lake City) and ensures he’ll continue to oversee local operations. The big difference in his day-to-day is that “I’m gonna be reporting to someone else, and I’ve never really had to do that before. So that’s an interesting transition.” That said, McNeil added that he’s known his new boss, Bob Roux (co-president, North America concerts), for years, “and I have an immense amount of respect for him.”
He doesn’t foresee big changes occurring in the local organization, noting, “I think the people that are here are staying. If anything, we’ll be growing.”
Teresa Mooney, who has been United Concerts’ vice president of marketing, will keep that title with Live Nation Salt Lake City. She said the United Concerts’ staffers having access to Live Nation’s personnel and analytics can only bolster local concert promotion.
“Each department will be on call with the people that are dealing with things nationally. They have vast amounts of resources — how they’re calculating shows, how well those shows do, tracking artists. It’s just amazing all the resources they bring to us,” she said. “Instead of us throwing a dart at a dartboard, we’re gonna have so much information.”
The sale further expands Beverly Hills, Calif.-based Live Nation’s growing footprint in the area. Earlier this year, Live Nation-owned Ticketmaster was named the ticketing partner for Salt Lake’s Vivint Smart Home Arena and the Utah Jazz, of the National Basketball Association.
Roux said in a prepared statement that the two companies’ previous work together made joining up a logical move.
“Having partnered with United Concerts on hundreds of shows in the past, we’re confident they are the right partners as Live Nation grows our presence in the market,” Roux said.
Meanwhile, McNeil is confident he ultimately made the right choice in doing the deal, even as he and his team conceded to feeling pangs of nostalgia.
Asked what the mood in the building was like when news of the sale became official, McNeil, in turn, asked Mooney.
“Well, I’ve been with Jim for over 30 years, so seeing United Concerts go away has been a little hard. I mean, it’s kind of our baby,” she said. “But we’re really excited about working with Live Nation. … We’re looking at doing some new shows and bringing some new things to Utah.”
McNeil expressed similar sentiments.
“I can’t say this hasn’t been emotional. After doing this for 50 years, and then having someone buy you and change the name, there’s a lot of emotion, there’s a lot of memories there. We’ve done 6,000 shows. There’s a lot of history,” he said. “[But] I’m looking forward to the future with Live Nation. This is very exciting.”
United Concerts sold more than 350,000 tickets for Usana Amphitheater shows alone last year, he said, adding that Salt Lake City’s maturation as a market has meant “we do as well with ticket sales as cities that have much bigger populations.”
McNeil recently turned 70, and while he acknowledged that the sale provides him with an “exit strategy” down the road, he’s not looking to take it just yet.
His career highlight to this point remains bringing The Rolling Stones to then-Rice Stadium back in 1994. The act that tops his wish list now is Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters.
There’s plenty more he wants to do. And now, he figures, as Live Nation Salt Lake City, he just might be able to do most of it.
“I’m looking forward to the future. From when we started at the Terrace Ballroom, which hasn’t existed in decades, to building our own amphitheater, I’ve had a great time. I love what I do. I’m very lucky,” McNeil said. “I’ll be here for quite awhile. I’m not ready to stop. I love selling tickets. I love putting deals together. I love seeing people at shows having a good time. … That’s why I do that. I still love the music.”