NIEZGODA: Save Milwaukee’s Music Scene

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Photo by Claire Gallagher

The Rave/Eagles Club, right outside of Marquette’s campus.

Milwaukee is a city that holds a vibrant music scene: home of Summerfest, several concert venues and an avid music scene full of up-and-coming artists that play all over town. However, this spirited scene may be threatened due to plans for expansion. 

As Milwaukee continues to be a growing metropolitan city, Deer District and the surrounding area of Fiserv Forum are making plans to expand  and build another concert venue. Frank Productions Concerts, otherwise known as FPC, is a Madison-based concert promotion company run by Frank Productions. FPC announced new plans to build an art entertainment venue right in the heart of Deer District, slated to be completed by 2024. 

One of the largest Frank Productions affiliates is Live Nation, a parent company of Ticketmaster. Ticketmaster typically vendors the tickets that Live Nation promotes, holding the status of some of the biggest companies in music entertainment. As of Oct. 2022, Ticketmaster and Live Nations own about 23% of the event tickets market share. In many parts of the world, a person can not go to a concert without encountering some operation of Live Nation. Now, this will be spreading further into Milwaukee. 

The proposed concert venue would have a 4,000 person capacity limit as well as host up to 135 concerts year-round that will feature both national, regional and local talent. While this may sound like a great project, there are several implications that will be detrimental to the Milwaukee music scene. 

This plan fails to take into account the 135 concerts that are hosted by other historic concert halls around Milwaukee. The number of concerts that would take place at the new venue would steal business away from local Milwaukee venues that have been here for over 30 years.

Right in the backyard of Fiserv Forum is Turner Hall Ballroom, less than a mile away lies the Rave, the Riverside Theater and the Pabst Theater. Head over to the East Side and you’ll find the Backroom at Colectivo, the Jazz Estate and Shank Hall. From Cactus Club to Mad Planet, a music-lover’s options are in the multitudes as you travel from venue to venue all over Milwaukee.

Many of the venues have formed a coalition to stop the FPC Venue plans from proceeding forward: called “Save Milwaukee’s Music Scene”.

The FPC Venue should not be built, as it will continue to profit a company that has created a small monopoly on the music entertainment industry and take money away from local Milwaukee businesses. Without that revenue, the Milwaukee venues will be wiped out one by one. This cannot happen, as it erases some of the shared history that Milwaukeeans have experienced.

Concerts are not just about the music, but also the ambiance which is what the space provides. There’s something almost awe-inspiring about these historical venues. They hold the spirit on the stage of all the musicians that have played there before and the memories of the concert-goers who came together written in the walls, paving the foundation for a vibrant music scene. 

Not to mention, it is unlikely that Milwaukee’s population would be able to sustain this new concert venue. The number of bars and restaurants that line the streets of Old World Third and Water Street would be unable to accommodate large numbers of crowds, as seen with the chaos that has ensued after the 2021 and 2022 Bucks playoff games. 

This is not a smart move for Milwaukee, as not only would it overwhelm the city, but it would take away business from local businesses that have had their stake here for over 30 years.

I am all for the expansion of our city. In fact, it is necessary for Milwaukee’s growth. However, there is no need to take business away from concert halls that have called Milwaukee home and cultivated our music culture. 

This story was written by Laura Niezgoda. She can be reached at [email protected]