Live Nation Entertainment UK & Ireland chair Denis Desmond and its COO Stuart Douglas have joined the board of Boomtown Fair, with the world’s biggest promoter partnering with Gaiety and SJM to collectively take a 45% stake in the 76,999-capacity event.
Founded by Lak Mitchell and Chris Rutherford in 2009, Boomtown had grown to become the biggest independent festival in the UK behind Glastonbury.
Companies House filings show that Desmond and Douglas joined the board of Boomtown Festival UK and parent company Circus of Boom as directors on 6 July. On the same day an Ordinary Resolution suggests that Mitchell and Rutherford passed 45% of the shares in the company to Live Nation.
Boomtown’s founders issued a statement today, 17 August, explaining that Live Nation UK acquired 18%, Gaiety 18% and SJM 9%.
The move has raised concerns about the dwindling number of major independent festivals in the UK and Live Nation’s perceived market dominance.
Association of Independent Festivals CEO Paul Reed said, “AIF has raised competition concerns about Live Nation’s singular grip on the market for a number of years now and this latest move only strengthens the case for further scrutiny into a single company’s dominance in the market.”
Rutherford said that while he is excited by the possibilities of the deal it will not impact the running of the event: “For us it’s business as usual, we still hold the keys, we are still running the show. We just have the safety of knowing there is now group support to help us pull through the tail end of these tricky years and provide stability for the future. This means we can continue to thrive, provide employment to one of the best festival crews in the world, and deliver to our audience the magic that is Boomtown. We feel incredibly lucky to still be here after such difficult times.”
Boomtown last took place on 10-14 August with headliners including Four Tet, De La Soul, Kojey Radical and Kae Tempest. Despite blistering temperatures on the site near Winchester and reports of a tornado sending tents and chairs 60 feet into the air, the event received widespread praise from attendees on social media.
Boomtown was cancelled in 2020 and 2021, with plans for a 4,000-capacity Boom Village event at the festival’s site on the Matterley Estate later that year also being called off.
The event’s organisers benefitted from a £991,000 Cultural Recovery Fund grant last year but no event has been immune from the impact of the pandemic, soaring costs and supply chain issues. Earlier this year Boomtown issued a statement in which it said, “We have experienced challenge after challenge with significant increases in general costs, something which has massively affected all festivals.”
The move by Live Nation follows a string of investments by major companies in independent festivals, including Los Angeles-based, Superstruct Entertainment acquiring a controlling stake in the Bluedot Festival (cap. 21,000).
Reed said the purchase of a minority stake in Boomtown technically means that the event remains independent under AIF’s current criteria but the definition of an independent festival is something its membership will likely wish to discuss and review in the coming months.
“It’s important that we adapt to changing market landscapes to best fulfil our remit of supporting independent promoters in the face of increasing dominance from a small number of corporate entities,” he said.
The original version of this story incorrectly stated that Live Nation had acquired 45% of Boomtown.
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