Former Spotify head of music Nick Holmsten has unveiled a plan to create a “playground for artists” in New York’s Times Square, where musicians will be able to perform concerts, meet fans, sell merch and create other experiences. Plans call for the development, which will include a street-facing stage and a retail space, to open in 2022, pending pandemic-related restrictions. Holmsted has joined forces with Fortress Investment Group to create a new entertainment company called TSX Entertainment that is executing the venture; he declined to reveal the amount of Fortress’ investment.
“This is a vision of Disneyland for music meets Las Vegas,” he said, adding that a a digital component will “amplify that moment globally.” News of the plan was first revealed in Hits; Billboard published the official announcement on Thursday (Nov. 19).
Holmsted, who left Spotify in September of 2019 after six years at the company, said his new project is designed to take advantage of “this enormous potential of new artists to find fans they couldn’t reach,” he said, noting that streaming services cannot fulfill the personal connection between artists and fans.
“It has always been extremely important to make sure we can paint the full picture, and that was always a limitation with streaming services,” he said. “I always felt like, ‘Imagine if you can take the best of two worlds: Combine the physical [experience] with the technology.'”
Citing MTV’s “Total Request Live,” which was broadcast in front of a giant window overlooking Times Square, as inspiration, Holmsten is clearly banking on the coronavirus pandemic being contained in the coming months and the subsequent release of a pent-up desire for live entertainment.
However, the timing of the announcement is curious, given the recent spike in coronavirus cases in the U.S., which has more than 11.5 million confirmed diagnoses and more than 250,000 deaths, according to CNN. New York leads the latter category with more than 34,000; its public schools were shuttered again on Thursday after cases reached the citywide 3% coronavirus positivity threshold. Disneyland, Las Vegas and Times Square all have suffered devastating economic damage from the pandemic.