Music giant Live Nation acquires majority stake in Austin's ScoreMore
Music industry giant Live Nation has acquired a majority stake in Scoremore Shows, an Austin-based business focused primarily on hip-hop and electronic dance music.
Financial terms of the deal weren’t released.
In its eight years of existence, Scoremore Shows — which produces the Jmblya music festival locally — has grown from a scrappy startup to one of the most influential boutique event production and music promotion businesses in the country. The company produces roughly 200 shows each year, primarily in Texas and the southern United States.
Live Nation is the dominant player in the live music industry with concerts providing the largest share of the company’s revenue.
“To have gotten our start in Austin and ultimately be in business together with Live Nation is honestly a dream come true,” co-founder Sascha Stone Guttfreund said in a statement Wednesday. “We are so excited about this new chapter for Scoremore in having the resources, support and partnership of Live Nation.”
Scoremore’s offices and staff will remain based in Austin, and it will operate as a subsidiary of Live Nation.
Guttfreund and Claire Bogle created Scoremore in 2010, when Guttfreund was a sophomore at the University of Texas. They booked the first Texas tours for top-selling artists such as Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, the Weeknd and Chance the Rapper. They bolstered their brand by persuading artists to do video testimonials praising the company and dubbed themselves “your favorite rapper’s favorite promoters.”
Scoremore began its flagship festival Jmblya in 2013, and after a financially dismal first year built it into the premier spring hip-hop event in Texas. The single-day traveling show had 80,000 combined attendees in Dallas, Houston and Austin this year.
In the past few years, the festival portion of Scoremore’s business has been growing, but in a 2017 interview Guttfreund told the American-Statesman he wasn’t trying to compete with behemoth mega festivals.
“I think we like being different, right, different and alternative. So I kind of like that we’re smaller,” he said.
The Austin date of Jmblya sold out this year with capacity capped at 30,000 at Circuit of the Americas. By comparison, the Austin City Limits Music Festival hosts 75,000 attendees daily in Zilker Park.
Instead of expanding attendance at their existing festivals, Scoremore’s strategy, Guttfreund said, was to host pop-up festivals in underserved markets. In addition to Jmblya, Scoremore owns the Neon Desert festival in El Paso and Mala Luna in San Antonio. This month, the company also announced the inaugural Dreamville Music Festival co-produced by Grammy-nominated rapper J. Cole in Raleigh, N.C.
Scoremore isn’t Live Nation’s first Austin acquisition. The California company bought a majority interest in C3 Presents, presenter of ACL Fest, in 2014.
Bob Roux, Live Nation’s president of U.S. concerts, said Scoremore’s “proven ability to form very early and long-lasting relationships with top talent” as a factor in the acquisition.
In 2017, both Jmblya and ACL Fest featured Chance the Rapper as a headliner. “We are big fans of Scoremore and we look forward to working together to bring more great music to Texas,” a representative for C3 Presents said Wednesday.
Live Nation owns or operates 222 concert venues around the world, according to the Wall Street Journal. In recent years, Live Nation has been aggressively expanding its festival portfolio. In 2015, the company acquired a controlling interest in the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, the largest independent festival in North America at the time. The company also controls Sasquatch Festival in Washington State, the Governor’s Ball in New York, the Roots Picnic in Philadelphia, Voodoo Music and Arts Festival in New Orleans and the C3-produced Lollapalooza Festival in Chicago, which has six eponymous satellite festivals around the world.
Independent music festivals in Austin have struggled over the past few years. In 2017, Sound on Sound Music Festival, the event that rose from the ashes of Fun Fun Fun Fest, folded when an investor pulled out. This year, a scaled-back version of Euphoria Festival was forced to move to clubs after organizers failed to secure a permit to host the event at Carson Creek Ranch. Following a devastating cancellation in 2016, psychedelic music festival Levitation returned to Austin as a club-based festival this spring.
Since SOS Fest ended, booker Graham Williams has been focused on the concert portion of his Margin Walker Presents, the largest independent music promotion company in Austin. He says he doesn’t think the Scoremore acquisition will affect his company.
“Margin Walker has never really competed with Scoremore all that often and they have had their niche in Texas for sometime, so it seems like that will continue, as is, when it comes to tours that come through,” he said Wednesday.
Williams said Live Nation likely is primarily interested in the festival arm of Scoremore’s business. Jmblya’s core demographic is high school-aged consumers, and Williams says he believes the event has the potential to turn into this generation’s Warped Tour.
“I could see that event with it’s one stage and like six, seven acts touring like Warped did and hitting every suburban market and doing well. … It seems like a big company with reach in every market could help do things like that.”