Fillmore Silver Spring: The End of the World as We Know It? Why the new LiveNation venue may not doom the 9:30 Club, the Black Cat, or other D.C. nightclubs

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Live Nation classifies a venue the size of the Fillmore Silver Spring as a “music theater.” While the company does not break out the financial results of the Fillmore brand, it did say this about the 31 music theaters it owns or leases in last year’s annual report: “Because these venues have a smaller capacity than an amphitheater, they do not offer as much economic upside on a per-show basis. However, because music theaters can be used year-round, unlike most amphitheaters, they can generate annual profits similar to those of an amphitheater. Music theaters represent less risk to concert promoters because they have lower fixed costs associated with hosting a concert and may provide a more appropriately-sized venue for developing artists and more artists in general.” Um, rock on.


Nightclubs come and go, but the D.C. market has two venues that have outlasted waves of competition: 9:30 Club and Black Cat. 9:30, whose current space holds 1,200 people, has been in business since 1980 and is directly challenged by the Fillmore’s arrival. Black Cat opened in 1993 and can hold 700 on its main stage and 200 on its backstage downstairs.

Exactly how much competition those old standbys will face for booking from the Fillmore, though, isn’t clear. “Bands want to play at the 9:30 Club or the Black Cat. No band is saying, ‘Hey, I really want to play at the Fillmore Silver Spring,’” says Steve Lambert of Hood Booking, which promotes shows for the Rock & Roll Hotel, DC9, and Red Palace. 9:30 Club’s Hurwitz and Black Cat owner Dante Ferrando both say they are not concerned about the Fillmore. “I was afraid they were would be competition. After looking at their schedule, I’m not worried,” Hurwitz says. Hurwitz thinks 9:30 Club has a history and connection to fans that will be difficult for the Fillmore to replicate. “It’s intangibles that can’t be explained. They need to evolve organically. It’s not as simple as wall coverings, lighting fixtures, and fruit,” he says.

Look at the calendars of the Fillmore and 9:30 Club and certain things stand out. Acts at the Fillmore tend to cost more: You’re shelling out $89.50 for a ticket to see Mary J. Bilge on the Fillmore’s opening night, $69.50 for John Legend on Sept. 17, and $50 for Black Star on Sept. 18. Cheap Trick is not so cheap at $45 on Sept. 27. And none of these prices include a Ticketmaster service charge, which the venue will still apply even though the tickets are sold by a corporate cousin. On the same dates at 9:30 Club: The Low Anthem for $20 on Sept. 15, Atari Teenage Riot for $25 and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah for $25 on Sept. 17, Molotov for $25 on Sept. 18, and Matt Nathanson for $25 on Sept. 27. These prices don’t include the $6 per-ticket service fee and $4 processing charge if you buy 9:30 Club tickets online through Ticketfly.

Granted, these aren’t apples-to-apples comparisons. So, let’s look at two acts from the same genre going against each other on the same night. On Oct. 17, the Fillmore has Bush for $41.50, and tickets are still available. The 9:30 Club has a sold-out Smashing Pumpkins show, which cost $55 when tickets were on sale. Legal ticket-scalping sites, like StubHub, are selling Smashing Pumpkins tickets for about $100 now.

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Hurwitz’s company and Live Nation have battled on other fronts beyond the aforementioned venues. Live Nation owns Nissan Pavilion and promotes shows at Verizon Center, Warner Theatre, Rams Head Live, and Lisner Auditorium, among other local venues. I.M.P. manages operations at Merriweather Post Pavilion and promotes events at Constitution Hall, the Music Center at Strathmore, and the Lyric Theatre and Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore. (Hurwitz likes to point out that a promoter acquired by Clear Channel and later spun off to Live Nation failed at running the Bayou and Nation clubs in the District.) I.M.P. also filed an antitrust lawsuit against Live Nation, which is currently tied up in court.

While Hurwitz often portrays his disputes against Live Nation as a David-versus-Goliath struggle, he is downplaying his promotional skills. 9:30 Club won the “Nightclub of the Year” award in 2009 as voted by readers of Pollstar, a trade magazine that covers the concert touring industry. That’s particularly impressive when you consider that Pollstar’s readers are concentrated in the music industry hubs of Los Angeles, New York, and Nashville, says Gary Bongiovanni, Pollstar’s president and editor-in-chief. “It’s fairly rare for nightclubs like the 9:30 Club and the Black Cat to last as long as they have,” he says.

Our Readers Say

"It’s a county, after all, that recently proposed a curfew for teens."

Ok, but this is only a proposal, while the District - home to the 9:30 Club and the Black Cat - already HAS a curfew for teens.
This article is a joke.
"But walk across Colesville Road, and you’re still in downtown Silver Spring. The nearby shopping center is a menagerie of chain restaurants from the sublime—Nando’s—to the pedestrian—Red Lobster—with 8,000 free parking spaces in the surrounding area."

Hello, Colesville has exactly ZERO chain restaurants (besides a great, local one in Ray's) while you have a bunch of locally owned restaurants in Abol, Kao Thai, Sabroso, Da Marcos, Sergios, etc. along with unique gems in Round House Theater, AFI, etc. You cherry pick crap like a Red Lobster on Ga. Ave. just so you can try and fit downtown Silver Spring into some anywhere-usa mold to bash. If you spent any time in the area you'd know it's far more diverse and urban than just about anywhere in the region.

>>> “The focus this year was to price the house right from the beginning, to drive higher revenue from the front and lower prices in the back to stimulate purchase. The key strategy to achieve this, No. 1, was no mass discounting,”

Isn't that neat. By gosh, the next time I buy one of the lower prices in the back I am going to see if I can't stimulate some purchasing in the front. Not just for me, but for the high revenue folks, too.

I frankly just don't feel like we're making enough effort to contribute to their $5bn revenue.
Makes sense to me. If you are the kind of person who thinks Livenation and Ticketmaster are rock and roll, you are probably the kind of person who thinks Silver Spring is cool. Perfect match.
I only have to look at how Live Nation runs the Jiffy Lube Live Pavillion (formerly Nissan Pavillion) and compare that to how IMP runs Merriweather in MD. The experiences are a contrast of get everyone inside quick so we can suck the money out of them by Live Nation, to one that is about hearing the music and enjoying the experience.

Live Nation, is a tiny spin-off of a much larger and even more sinister entity Clear Channel, whose business practices are to crush the competition and offer a neutered experience driven by the highest priced advertiser. Silver Spring should be ashamed of what they gave to bring this type of category killer to the area. Truly ashamed.
SMP, are you serious? Live Nation is akin to Halliburton or something? Live Nation venues sell 50 million tickets a year - all those people, not to mention all the big musicians, should be ashamed? Psycho much? P.S. Nissan sucks because of the logistics of the site, which is why it sucks compared to Merriweather (in my mind). How does that have anything to do with Live Nation?
@anon
Yeah, how dare he "cherry pick" the shopping center literally across the street. You have to turn a corner to get in there so it shouldn't count as being in the area. And the entrance to the Panera Bread next to AFI definitely isn't on Colesville Road, the door is slightly angled to the parking lot. And we should definitely all ignore the collection of fast food restaurants on Colesville just a block away, that would put Silver Spring into some type of anywhere-USA mold.

Aside from the selection of stores in the actual mall across the street from the Fillmore, Silver Spring is just like any suburban mall in the country.
9:30 and the Black Cat will always have an advantage over Live Nation's Fillmore for one reason: They book cutting-edge acts. Look at the OVERPRICED washed-up has-beens Live Nation is trotting out: Mary J. Blige, John Legend, Bush (are you fucking kidding? Bush?), Cheap Trick (ha!) Et al. Live Nation is clearly aiming for the suburban housewife and husband who is afraid/too tired to go into the scary District for shows.
"Live Nation is quick to emphasize how the Fillmore will develop local talent. Arich Berghammer, Live Nation’s executive vice president of clubs and theaters, tells me he’s open to having Ethiopian music at the Fillmore after discussing the lack of such shows with his cab driver during a recent trip to Silver Spring."

This one will keep me laughing for a while.
Yes, you don't have to look far to find non-chain restaurants in Silver Spring. This isn't Rockville. To name just the chains at the redevelopment hub is a pretty lazy description of the area. But I think that the Fillmore, if it's successful, does portend higher rents and more chains coming to downtown Silver Spring.
Anyone who thinks Silver Spring has more chains than locally owned businesses has never been here. There are few places in the WORLD that are more diverse than Silver Spring. This isn't some Target-filled Columbia Heights or chain-filled Penn Quarter - Silver Spring has, what, a 100 local restaurants that represent dozens of cultures. No one can legitimately say that Red Lobster represents Silver Spring.
"And we should definitely all ignore the collection of fast food restaurants on Colesville just a block away, that would put Silver Spring into some type of anywhere-USA mold. "

Oh, wait there are a few chain restaurants in Silver Spring? That would put them into some type of anywhere-in-the-world mold. Even Paris has plenty of McDonald's, KFCs and Pizza Huts.
Give me a break.

I live in DTSS and the critics are right. I keep seeing people defend this area's nightlife and food life and it's sad. Delusional bunch of yuppies.

The culture of DTSS needs serious work. And yes everything DOES close early- curfew or not. So if you go to a show in Fillmore weekday or weekend you come out and find- nothing. No bars or intresting clubs or nightlife within walking distance still open or not occupied by thugs and hoodlums or old retirees.

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More and more companies are springing up all the time and not all of them operate within a high set of ethical standards..
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