SFX Entertainment buys React Presents

Voracious EDM mega-corp swallows local dance promoters

February 25, 2014

Though this blog has noted the close relationship several times, the giant EDM monolith SFX Entertainment officially announced yesterday that it has bought React Presents, Chicago’s most active dance promoters and primary bookers of the Spring Awakening Festival, the Mid, the Concord Music Hall and—until its troubles with the city—the Congress Theater.

The statement from SFX:

“React Presents enhances the nationwide network of promoters for SFX and brings two new and highly successful festivals into our U.S. repertoire,” said Robert FX Sillerman, Chairman and CEO of SFX Entertainment.

“React Presents is a dominant player in the Midwest, so it was strategically important for us to join forces. React’s ability to put together and promote so many quality productions that excite so many fans will greatly add to our success and growth.”

Sillerman is as ruthless, voracious, and controversial a character as the music industry ever has witnessed. Through the ’90s, he was a driving force behind the corporate consolidation of radio, buying independent stations from coast to coast, combining them with local concert promotion companies under the umbrella of his SFX Entertainment, then selling what he built to Clear Channel for $4.4 billion in 2000. (Clear Channel would continue the consolidation, eventually renaming the concert operation Live Nation.)

Sillerman has been working for some time to repeat his success with a similar plan in the world of electronic dance music. “Robert F.X. Sillerman has a $1 billion plan to conquer the world of dance music,” read the cover of the industry Bible Billboard in September 2012. A subhed: “The man who corporatized the music industry is back and he wants to dance.”

The troublesome part of bringing EDM to Wall Street via a public company has been the music’s inseparable association with drug use by the gyrating, glo-stick-wielding  masses, which is why promoters in the field have remained so far underground for so long. Founded in 2008 by Lucas King and Jeff Callahan, React Presents kept a very low profile in Chicago, refusing countless requests for interviews, and generally staying out of the media until troubles at the Congress Theater shined an unwelcome spotlight its way.

“After years of being independent festival/concert promoters in the Midwest, we are very exited to join the SFX family. We feel this strategic partnership with SFX Entertainment and its team of like-minded pioneers will make for a massive global company,” is the statement React’s Jeff Callahan made in the press release yesterday.

The biggest question facing SFX in Chicago at the moment: Will it attempt to block the sale of the Congress Theater to developer Michael Moyer, as reported here last month. The company surely will not be content confining itself to the smaller venues of the Mid and the Concord (which is falling apart), plus one festival per season at Soldier Field.

Follow me on Twitter @JimDeRogatis, join me on Facebook, and podcast Sound Opinions and Jim + Carmel’s TV + Dinner.