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Live Nation, Vice Media Create Network for Music Programming

Concert promoter Live Nation Entertainment has formed a joint venture with youth media producer Vice to create and distribute original music programming.

The new digital network will launch in early 2015, and feature hundreds of hours of original music shows and editorial content that’s targeted at millennials online, on mobile devices, TV and in theaters.

The ad-supported company will have its own dedicated staff, with both companies contributing resources, and splitting earnings.

“This isn’t the voice of music, this is the voice of live music,” said Michael Rapino, CEO of Live Nation in announcing the venture on Wednesday with Shane Smith, founder and CEO of Vice.

Smith, who will oversee the creative elements of the new network, which is not yet officially named, said “we see this as an opportunity to make groundbreaking content.”

Live Nation saw the platform as a way to “fill a hole in the market of great creative in the live music business,” Rapino said of the company, which produces around 23,000 live shows a year, “and share a vision for an opportunity to create a new voice in live music” with Vice.

Vice, which started as a magazine in 1994, focused on alternative culture, has since grown into a network of digital channels, TV production studio, record label, book publisher and filmmaker. The company launched a news show on HBO last year. Based in Brooklyn, New York, it recently opened offices in Venice, Calif.

The company already had been producing music programming and saw Live Nation as a way to pool resources and go after its core demo with more than just content featuring indie music acts.

At the same time, Live Nation was looking to solve an issue — how it works with advertisers — as more ticket buyers to its events turn to digital platforms for entertainment.

“Our DNA is to put artists on stages and let them do what they do,” Rapino said. “We have a large network and sponsors but not a lot of great content to deliver to that ad community,” which encompasses over 800 marketers. The new entertainment platform will enable Live Nation to “fulfill the need to get closer to consumers,” Rapino added.

Live Nation had considered several options, including acquiring companies to become more of an entertainment player.

“We looked at a lot of options and they were all expensive,” Rapino said. “This is a beautiful case where the costs already are in house.” Rapino and Smith first met a year ago to discuss the formation of the venture after they realized they were targeting the same audience with programming.

Smith said that Vice found that the two biggest passion points of its audience was music and news. But that same audience also was most dissatisfied with what mainstream media was offering in terms of music and news.

As a result, it wanted to help Live Nation create long and short form video series, premium editorial franchises, new full-blown live digital music experiences created collaboratively with artists, in-depth documentaries, as well as daily editorial content, and e-commerce and ticketing offerings.

Rapino considers the original shows “the secret sauce” of the platform, of which several series already have been developed, including “Hometown Heroes,” that will bring musicians back to their roots, the environmentally themed “Earth Works,” and a concept that aims to reinvent the music video in a live format, working with such directors as Spike Jones.

The companies also have partnered up with producers, including Pulse Films (“High Maintenance”), which will produce full-length features that will be released in theaters, then edited down to appear on other platforms.

“We want to create tentpoles, great feature film releases that can be released theatrically and online,” Smith said. “This partnership rethinks the live music experience, offering unprecedented access to the world’s biggest stars and emerging artists, and groundbreaking content that will be distributed across the holy trinity of mobile, online and TV.”

Both Live Nation and Vice will contribute resources to the venture which will generate revenue through marketing to a global audience and brand partnerships. Each will contribute marketing, sales and sponsorship capabilities.

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