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There are lots of places to see a concert in Milwaukee. For many, Fiserv Forum or stages at the Summerfest grounds immediately come to mind.
But there are many other concert venues in the city, accommodating a wide variety of artists and crowds of all shapes and sizes, ranging from intimate settings at the Cactus Club and Shank Hall up to huge stadium shows at American Family Field.
A big question that’s being asked in Milwaukee right now: How many concert venues can this market support? The reason for that question is FPC Live, a division of Madison-based concert promotion company Frank Productions, is planning a $50 million development near Fiserv Forum with two concert venues, one with a capacity of 4,000 and the other 800. In addition, a mixed-use development planned near the Marquette Interchange includes an indoor concert venue for crowds of up to 3,500, which would be run by Pabst Theater Group and a yet-to-be-named partner.
So those two projects would create three new concert venues in downtown Milwaukee. How would that impact the marketplace? Hopefully they will bring more shows here and attract artists that ordinarily would skip playing in Milwaukee.
But the new venues will also probably take market share from existing concert venues in Milwaukee. Older venues of similar size may have to make improvements and look for other ways to compete with the newer venues.
Of course, that’s a basic fact of life in a free market economy. When new competitors in your industry enter your market, you have to figure out how to compete with them or your business won’t survive.
On the other hand, another approach is to try to convince the government to prevent your competition from doing business against you.
A group of local concert venue owners have formed a group, called Save MKE’s Music Scene, to oppose FPC Live’s plans near Fiserv Forum. Their beef is that its parent company, Frank Productions, is owned by Live Nation, one of the largest live entertainment companies in the world. The group says Live Nation’s extensive relationships with performers will enable it to bring those artists to FPC Live’s venues in Milwaukee at the expense of older concert venues in the city.
The leader of Save MKE’s Music Scene compared Live Nation to Walmart.
“They come into a community with uncompetitive pricing, put independents out of business, shutter neighborhood businesses and displace workers,” said the group’s executive director, Craig Peterson.
Save MKE’s Music Scene promises to fight any zoning changes for the FPC Live project. But the site, located in the Deer District, is completely appropriate for additional entertainment venues. What justification is there for opposing this rezoning, other than to block out a competitor, which has nothing to do with zoning?
There’s no good reason for the city to oppose the FPC Live project. Milwaukee’s established concert venues had better prepare to compete.