With an eye toward Live Nation, U Street Music Hall and 9:30 Club form booking alliance

November 22, 2011|By Erik Maza | The Baltimore Sun

Washington's 9:30 Club, run by Bethesda-based I.M.P., and U Street Music Hall have formed a cross-venue booking alliance, the two Washington clubs said today.

They say the partnership will allow them to foster up-and-coming talent. "There will be bands that we present at U Street Music Hall that will one day headline at Merriweather," said I.M.P. chairman Seth Hurwitz, who also runs the Columbia amphitheater, in a statement.

It also enables the two clubs to be competitive against Live Nation, which opened the Fillmore in Silver Spring in September in a bid to grow its slice of the midsize club market.

Owners of midsize clubs and promoters have expressed concern over Live Nation's intrusion into the market because they fear the conglomerate will use its enormous resources to book artists into touring packages, preventing them from playing independent venues.

Partnerships like this one between U Street and the 9:30 Club give the clubs a degree of leveraging power, allowing each club more freedom in booking sought-after acts that it otherwise can't accomodate on its own schedule.

In September, Hurwitz had hinted that similar partnerships were in the pipeline, but they had not been settled at the time.

Because the partnership will focus on upstart acts, it is also an acknowledgement that the clubs - and especially the 9:30 club, which is in direct competition with the Fillmore - won't always be able to match Live Nation's lucrative offers to established talent.

Instead, the clubs are hoping to get a head-start in establishing relationships with new acts before they break out.

"There is obviously a furor to start grabbing acts at the top level," Hurwitz said. "Our business plan has, and always will be, to develop acts and relationships with strong foundations that will become more than this week's headliner."

Under the agreement, U Street will sometimes book shows at the 9:30's "Backbar," which accomodates about 50 people. And, the 9:30 Club will present shows at U Street Music Hall, which has a capacity of 500. The 9:30 Club has a capacity of about 1,200 people.

The first round of shows under the partnership was not announced today.

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