In a move that has been rumored for months, Michael Swier, co-owner of Bowery Ballroom and Mercury Lounge and a founder of the Bowery Presents, and Live Nation Entertainment have joined forces to create a new promotions and booking venture called Mercury East Presents, the companies announced Monday morning.
Focused on the competitive live music market in New York City, according to a press release “the alliance creates a nexus of current and future independently-owned and operated venues within the five boroughs while capitalizing on shared expertise and industry strength to serve artists and fans alike.”
The deal brings several of the area’s major venues under one umbrella, including Swier’s Mercury Lounge and Bowery Ballroom, Live Nation’s Irving Plaza, Gramercy Theatre, Warsaw and Ford Amphitheater at Coney Island Boardwalk. The group says it will continue to expand its purview and will bring acts to venues like Madison Square Garden, Barclays Center, the Beacon Theater and Radio City Music Hall. The new company also collaborate with Founders Entertainment, which is behind the Governors Ball and Meadows festivals.
“Swier and his team are the total package, delivering industry expertise, relationships, and landmark venues that complement the greater Live Nation portfolio,” said Michael Rapino, President and CEO, Live Nation Entertainment. “Mercury East is the ideal partnership, and will allow Live Nation to bring New York’s residents and visitors more music and events than ever before.”
“The foundation of Mercury East reaffirms our commitment to quality and streamlines production by officially uniting the venues we own and operate with our key partners,” Swier said in a statement.
The move, which was rumored as soon as Swier’s two venues parted company with their original home Bowery Presents in August, is the most recent salvo in the venue battle for New York between AEG and Live Nation. “The way the landscape has changed these days, with consolidations, this is the counterbalance one would need to exist and completely with the formidable Bowery Presents-AEG alliance,” Swier told the New York Times. “Going it alone was not an option.”
The fact that Bowery Ballroom is no longer associated with Bowery Presents is only the most obvious confusing factor in a tangled history. Swier opened the Mercury Lounge in 1994 and the Bowery Ballroom in 1998; Moore and Swier cofounded Bowery Presents in 2004; Jim Glancy joined in an ownership role in 2006. Swier was bought out of Presents in 2010 but continued to own Bowery Ballroom and Mercury Lounge while Presents booked both venues; Swier also opened the Teragram Ballroom in Los Angeles in 2015.
AEG Live finalized its acquisition of Bowery Presents earlier this year, which also includes Terminal 5, Rough Trade, Music Hall of Williamsburg and the new venue Brooklyn Steel, which launched in April with a powerful opening blast of shows that includes multiple nights from LCD Soundsystem as well as PJ Harvey, Nas, Slowdive and others. AEG’s footprint in New York has also been grown in recent years with the addition of Webster Hall (which it operates in partnership with Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment), Playstation Theater and Forest Hills Stadium.
While Bowery Ballroom and Mercury Lounge are comparatively small rooms (575 and 250 capacity, respectively), their influence on New York City’s independent music scene is enormous.
The plot thickens: A source told Variety over the summer that Bowery Presents is in early discussions involving a new, “intimate” venue of the approximate size of Bowery Ballroom.