Our requests to interview Live Nation executives and local staff about the Feb. 12 opening of the new Fillmore Minneapolis were declined by the company, which also owns Ticketmaster. But the company did agree to answer questions via email.
Q: Why was Minneapolis eyed and considered a good market for opening a Fillmore in the first place?
A: We have been booking in the market for 15 years including at the Xcel Center, Target Field, Myth, Orpheum, and many others, including the Varsity. Minneapolis is one of the most vibrant music markets in the country. It also has a tremendous sense of community. That combination made it logical to build the Fillmore here.
Q: Did the long and strong presence of independent venues and promoters here (First Avenue, Sue McLean & Associates, Hennepin Theaters staff) make us more or less appealing as a market to open a Fillmore and to increase the overall presence of Live Nation here?
A: As we’ve said, we have a long history with the market as well. The good news is the Fillmore has a capacity with tremendous potential in the market. We have found that when we build new right-sized venues in cities, that it brings more content into the market. Artists that skipped the market or could not find the right venue will now have another option in Minneapolis. That, coupled with the quality of the band and fan experience at the Fillmore, will make it a must-visit venue.
Q: Can somebody clarify Live Nation’s ties to the Armory? Is there a formal booking contract there, or how can I best describe that partnership, and if and how did that venue tie into the decision to open the Fillmore?
A: [No comment.]
Q: Beyond having a very nice new venue to enjoy, how will Twin Cities concertgoers benefit from Live Nation having a wider/deeper footprint here in the Twin Cities concert scene?
A: While creating a great concert-going experience in an intimately designed venue is a good start, we expect to bring shows that have previously not performed in the market. In addition, the Fillmore will be a contributing member of the community and to the growth of the North Loop District.
Q: Live Nation does not have a very good track record of setting up shop in the Twin Cities, from the long-defunct and never-quite-successful Quest nightclub (late-’90s to mid-’00s) to the one-and-done River’s Edge Festival. Also, AEG’s recent attempt at a Minneapolis venue, Mill City Nights (aka the Brick, 2012-2016), pretty quickly tanked. What’s different this time? Why do you think the Fillmore will work better than these prior attempts?
A: We operate and book venues all over the world including the Varsity. Our commitment is to provide the best in class experience to artists and their fans. We have been successful at doing that. We are confident the Fillmore with its artist friendly amenities, state-of-the-art sound and lights, great sight lines, premium boxes and seating, BG’s VIP Lounge, Trax Burgers and Bar, will provide incredible and memorable live music experiences for years to come.
Q: What’s different about the Fillmores vs. the Houses of Blues as venues? Why not just stick with the House of Blues brand?
A: Live Nation operates over 100 clubs and theaters in the U.S., so we don’t “stick” to any single concept. That said, the Fillmores are a family of venues with similar DNA. But they are all members of the community in which they live and are designed to incorporate a local aesthetic. We have no doubt that the quality and size of this new venue is right for this market.
Q: If you read comments under/off every story that’s been written on the new Fillmore so far, many people are wary of Live Nation “taking over” the concert scene, wary of it being a huge conglomerate, and especially wary of the Ticketmaster ties. I personally know there are good people and diehard music fans in the company, especially locally. What points would you make to combat that rather widespread image problem of this being the big, bad concert corporation?
A: We disagree with the premise of your question. Our business and clubs are locally operated and managed. When the band and fans show up they just want to be taken care of, have a good time and enjoy their experience. That’s our mandate and if we deliver on that we have done our jobs.
Q: Is this the first Fillmore built from the ground up?
A: No, it is not the first from the ground up. In Minneapolis, designers drew their inspiration from the venue’s site — an abandoned railyard formerly used in the logging and flour trade. While each new Fillmore pays homage to the original San Francisco Fillmore’s identity through its signature crystal chandeliers, red velvet drapes, and a wood dance floor, this venue is influenced by the city’s local industrial and musical roots. It’s that attention to detail that will insure that when you visit the Fillmore you will know this is unique to Minneapolis.
Q: Could we get even just a ballpark dollar figure on how much construction of the place cost?
A: These are figures we don’t share, but what we can say is that we set out to build one of the best venues in the country, a club that will hopefully deliver on exceeding the expectations of our guests and performers. The Fillmore was designed and built with that intent foremost in our mind.
Q: How much of the booking at this Fillmore is done in-house locally and how much is done from afar? And is L.A. the hub for those outside bookings, or where?
A: The heart and soul of the Fillmore’s bookings are handled here in Minneapolis. Our primary bookers either live or have lived in this area for most of their lives. They are fans of the local music scene and are excited to help it grow.
Q: What are the advantages to bands and to fans if a tour is booked wholesale — like into other Fillmores and Live Nation venues around the country?
A: We don’t know what the term “wholesale-like” means. We work very closely with bands and their teams to ensure that they are supported, marketed, promoted, and serviced in the best way possible, in addition to helping them play in the best rooms for their performances. That is our responsibility and commitment to them. To that end, having a new venue in Minneapolis to bring their shows is a good thing for the act, their audience and the city.
Q: Aside from the nationally booked Motion City Soundtrack tour, there are no hometown acts on the calendar yet. Will we see some? If so, when, and any indicators what/who?
A: We are really excited about the opening calendar. We have 30 great shows booked in 60 days — including Brandi Carlile, Revivalists, Evanescence, Incubus, Disco Biscuits and Buddy Guy. Also on the schedule are Yung Gravy, who is from Minnesota, and Jonny Lang, who although not originally from here, grew up playing local venues here and employs a Minnesota crew. As the calendar continues to fill up throughout the year we will, as we do everywhere, have shows that feature local performers.
Q: More generally speaking, how might the concert bookings change/expand over the next year or few years from the shows we already see on the calendar?
A: It’s always difficult to look too far into the future except to say that this is a growing vibrant music market and our goal is to offer a broad range of entertainment that is both current and classic.
Q: Because it is just outside the “downtown zone” in the North Loop district, the Fillmore (and Trax) will be paying less in state food and beverage taxes than bars and restaurants that are in the downtown zone. Was that zoning considered in its construction there, and how might you answer criticism from competitors in the downtown zone that you’re getting an unfair advantage?
A: We are not in that enterprise zone.
Q: Could we get a sampling of food and drink prices (especially drinks inside the Fillmore)?
A: The Fillmore will offer a wide variety of delicious food and drink at both Trax Burgers and Bar and the Fillmore. Our pricing will be similar to like businesses throughout the city.
Q: The club’s general manager, Tad Dugan, seems like a nice and smart guy. Why he was brought in from Salt Lake City and what does he bring to the table?
A: Nice and smart. What else would you want from a general manager in a consumer-facing business? He knows music, deeply cares about people and giving them a great experience. He loves the Twin Cities.
Q: With the venue being so close to Target Field and developed by United Properties (owned by the Pohlad family, which also owns the Twins), what sort of synergy might we see between the ballpark/Twins and the Fillmore? Does this increase the likelihood that Live Nation might book more concerts at Target Field?
A: We love our location, in a dynamic and growing district with great transportation and one of the best baseball stadiums in the country. The Fillmore and Trax Burgers and Bar were built not just for great dining experiences and concerts but to host community events, private parties, corporate events and the like. The opportunities are endless.