SFX turns up urban beat

Pickup in tune with R&B boost

Concert industry titan SFX Entertainment has jumped into the urban music marketplace, acquiring 50% of A.H. Enterprises, a leading promoter of concerts in the genre. Run by Al Haymon, the L.A.-based outfit has shepherded some of the industry’s top tours.

SFX’s multimillion-dollar pickup comes as many major players are taking steps to raise the genre’s profile as there have been few well-organized R&B tours of late. Recently, Creative Artists Agency expanded its contemporary music division to include an R&B arm.

In addition to guiding roadshows by such acts as Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson and Boyz II Men, Haymon has been ahead of the industry curve in inking corporate support for the genre.

His pact with Budweiser 15 years ago for the potent Superfest roadshow is his most notable deal. Recently, Haymon linked with General Mills to present a series of tours.

“Al Haymon is a name synonymous with success in the field of pop- urban music,” said Mike Ferrel, CEO of Gotham-based SFX. “As a partner, he will bring to our numerous venues a wonderful variety of talented performers, a number of whom have not previously played on many of our stages.”

Ferrel called the move “an important extension of our product line. I am sure his contributions to SFX will be felt immediately.”

While the industry views the genre’s audiences as style setters, these auds fly under the radar for much of corporate America.

“By pooling our resources with Al, we hope to leverage his tremendous roster of talented stars into our own national footprint … and to expand his already substantial base of sponsors,” Ferrel said.

Calling Haymon one of the country’s top three promoters, SFX Music Group chairman Jack Boyle noted, “We can learn much from the expertise he has developed over a brilliant career spanning the last 20 years.”

SFX Entertainment, the world’s largest promoter, producer and venue operator for live entertainment events, has been snapping up the nation’s top concert promoters over the past two years, spending $1 billion to acquire promoters and venues as part of an unprecedented buying spree.

SFX owns, wholly or in part, or operates 82 sites used principally for music concerts and other live entertainment events, such as auto races and Broadway shows — the largest such network in the nation.

SFX recently realigned its operation into four distinct units: music, theatrical, family entertainment and sports.