In the ensuing years, the venture, which was renewed in 2012 for another five-year term, has produced not only the annual Grammy Awards, but a series of defining live music events, including Celine Dion’s recent round of Las Vegas shows; pay-per-view concerts by Prince and the Rolling Stones; and last year’s TV special “The Beatles: The Night that Changed America,” a star-studded special marking the 50th anniversary of the Fab Four’s first appearance on the Ed Sullivan show.
Ehrlich had always been on his own, never taking on a partner, but came around to the concept after getting to know AEG through his work at the company’s facilities, particularly Staples Center.
“We had already established a really good relationship with them,” Ehrlich says. “And I think it was really the idea that there was going to be some synergy, that we were going to do some of our things that were obviously going to be in the AEG buildings. And then some of the artists that they were working with were going to use us for some of their things. So that kind of worked, and it’s still working. It’s a good relationship and they’re really good people.”
It’s a merger that appears to seamlessly blend business and artistry. “We’re relying on Ken for creativity,” says Jay Marciano, CEO of AEG Live.
“We run the business part and we bring him opportunities and he brings us opportunities. He’s doing all the producing and we’re helping him run the business.”
With Ehrlich about to produce his 35th Grammy Awards, there’s no getting around the fact that the annual kudocast is the crown jewel of AEG Ehrlich Ventures.
“We came to the conclusion that staging a Grammys is like producing 12 back-to-back Super Bowl halftime shows,” Marciano says.
“Watching him work in the 10 days leading up to the show is almost as exciting as the show itself. He always keeps you surprised, and he does the unexpected.”
Perhaps the most challenging and ultimately gratifying collaboration of Ehrlich and AEG came in July 2009 with the memorial service for Michael Jackson. It was a historic event that knew no precedent, televised live worldwide to an audience of hundreds of millions.
“Nobody knew what to expect,” says Lee Zeidman, president of Nokia Theatre, L.A. Live and Staples Center, where the service took place. “I’ll never forget that rehearsal, with Ken writing and editing late the night before,” he says. “That definitely was the highlight of my 25-year career.”
Zeidman, who has been at Staples since its 1999 opening, also works closely with Ehrlich on special events at the Nokia, including the Feb. 10 Stevie Wonder tribute.
“Because we go way back, I have the ability to anticipate his needs,” Zeidman says. “He knows he has a partner in me and the rest of my staff here.”
AEG Ehrlich Ventures will expand in a new direction in 2015.
As one of the largest producers of festivals including Coachella, Stagecoach and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, AEG plans to work with Ehrlich on producing music television based on those festival experiences, which will air on its AXS TV cable network.
“It’s one thing to produce a single show and another to capture the essence of a festival and give viewers a sense of excitement that takes place in a situation bigger than a concert — and Ken can do that,” says Marciano.