In 2013, ScoreMore Shows co-founder Sascha Guttfreund turned down multiple seven-plus figure acquisition offers because he wanted to keep building the concert promotion company he and Claire Bogle started back in 2009, when he was just nineteen years old. Over the past five years, ScoreMore has continued to grow, launching the Mala Luna Festival in San Antonio; developing the Neon Desert Music Festival in El Paso; and promoting the touring JMBLYA Festival (which, earlier this month, brought rappers J. Cole, Migos, Young Thug, and T.I.—among others—to more than 80,000 fans in Austin, Houston, and Dallas), as well as the forthcoming Dreamville Festival, produced in partnership with J. Cole in his hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina.
On Wednesday, the company announced that they are accepting an acquisition offer: as of today, ScoreMore joins LiveNation, the entertainment behemoth that also owns fellow Texan company C3 Presents, as well as Ticketmaster and Jay Z’s RocNation. (Neither company has announced the terms of the acquisition.) Texas Monthly talked to Guttfreund about the deal’s implications for ScoreMore, its family of festivals, and the impact he expects it to have on the concert business in both Texas and beyond.
Texas Monthly: Everything is booming for ScoreMore. You’ve had acquisition offers in the past. What’s changed to make this the right time and right offer?
Sascha Guttfreund: We had some growing to do. When we first started talking to [LiveNation], JMBLYA was a 10,000-person festival. We wanted to come back to the table with a little more to offer. We got to that place by launching two new festivals. With Mala Luna and now [North Carolina’s] Dreamville, we’ve gotten to a place where we’re a better partner, because we have more going on. We’ve got seventeen people in the office every day working full-time to create events that people love, and we want to continue to grow and provide more opportunity to people. The partnership with LiveNation really makes that possible.
TM: What does it allow you to do that you haven’t been able to do before?
SG: One, they have so many resources and experiences. If you think about it, we started promoting concerts when we were nineteen years old, so we just learned a lot of things along the way as we went. To be able to have partners who are the best concert promoters in the world, and to go to L.A. and sit with these people, or go and sit with Charles and Charlie and Amy and Huston [Charles Attal, Charlie Jones, Charlie Walker, Amy Corbin, and Huston Powell, principal partners and lead bookers at C3], and talk about talent-buying—there are so many opportunities that come by virtue of sitting in the cockpit rather than being independent. I work with people I love, and I wanted to be in a position where we could grow and continue to offer opportunities, and this makes that possible.
TM: Do you have specific ideas about what that looks like?
SG: Absolutely. [We’ll be] going into more markets and going into different cities. LiveNation has local offices all over the world, so it gives us the opportunity to grow and scale by having real partners in each market that are on the ground and knowledgeable in those markets. Our strategy has always been to bring something different to the marketplace, so the idea is to go into those markets that don’t necessarily have a music festival, and create something proprietary. To do that with our partner is an amazing opportunity.
TM: You’ve started festivals in El Paso and San Antonio. Going forward, is it important to you to start festivals in places that are overlooked?
SG: San Antonio is a good example, since LiveNation does have a Texas office that books many, many concerts in San Antonio, but they didn’t have a music festival. There are examples where they’re doing concerts in a certain market, but not a festival. For instance, we’ve been talking about doing something in Arkansas with LiveNation, where they have a local office, they have an amphitheater, but they don’t have a music festival. What we’re really good at is creating new brands and having those brands have personality, curation, experience, and vibes. Our idea is to continue to create and roll out new brands where the local market really feels ownership of that brand, and feels like the brand is there for them. The idea is to continue to go to markets that don’t have music festivals, although there’ll probably be exceptions to the rule. There were smaller music festivals in Dallas that were bigger than us, but now JMBLYA has become the biggest festival in Dallas—that just happened organically over the course of time. Overall, the idea is to go into markets that don’t have music festivals and to bring something different to that local market.
TM: Does this have any implications for JMBLYA specifically, in terms of growing the festival?
SG: I’m really, really happy with the size of JBMLYA. As far as LiveNation is concerned, obviously there’ll be some strategy working together on the talent-buying side, but JMBLYA is in a really good place, and LiveNation just wants to see us continue to do what we do and have growth. If anybody is concerned that the festival is going to change, the answer is absolutely not. We’re in a great place with our festivals. Where you’ll see ScoreMore grow is in the amount of festivals and the diversity of markets.
TM: One of the keys to ScoreMore’s success has been getting on things early, whether that was Kendrick Lamar six years ago or booking Migos and Chance the Rapper for JMBLYA 2017 before both acts became superstars by the time the festival rolled around. Do you think that eye for talent is part of what LiveNation was looking to acquire?
SG: I’d like to think so. That’s a conversation that I’ve had from the beginning with them—the idea that we are identifying new clients earlier in their career.
TM: In the past, artists had to choose between working with ScoreMore, who had done right by them, or take the jump to LiveNation. Does this give artists a best-of-both-worlds situation?
SG: I think it gives artists the best of both worlds. Doing business with LiveNation is great for artists, but for us it was always kind of a bummer, because we were only able to work with artists to a certain point. There were exceptions to that—we launched the Dreamville Festival [with J. Cole] prior to the LiveNation deal, so we were able to get some great opportunities—but in general, the idea is that LiveNation gets us, and we get the resources to grow artists from 300-person-capacity venues to arenas and have the best mentorship that we could have.
I think the biggest thing that I try to be cognizant of all the time is that I’m still really new at this. I’ve been doing it since I was nineteen, but we’re learning every single day. I think it’s great for artists to be able to work with us and LiveNation, not only because we’re good at what we do, but because LiveNation empowers us to be so much better and to learn so much more.
TM: You’re based in Austin, so there are already a lot of people with a lot of experience here. What’s your relationship like with C3?
SG: C3 gets painted as a bully in the local marketplace, but any time I needed advice or guidance or support, those guys were there for me. If it wasn’t for them, this deal wouldn’t have happened. It couldn’t be a better relationship before the deal, and now it’s easier, because we’re all in the same family, so we can be fully transparent with information, and strategize on talent-buying and curating the festivals together.
TM: Having been the scrappy, upstart, independent promoter for years, does being part of something the size of LiveNation change the way you see ScoreMore?
SG: I don’t think so, because Michael [Rapino, the CEO of LiveNation] prides himself on bringing entrepreneurs onboard to be entrepreneurial. He had no intention of bringing us on board to change the way we go about things. Of course there are going to be things that we’ll learn about and structures that’ll be new, but as far as the business day-to-day, they want us to continue to grow and do what we do. We’re a culture where we’re friends and came up together, and nothing is going to change. It’s the same team that got us here, and it’ll be the same team that takes us the rest of the way.
TM: Where is ScoreMore five years from now?
SG: I can tell you five years ago, if you’d asked me that question, I definitely wouldn’t have thought we’d be having this conversation. I hope that we continue to create great events all over North America that people really enjoy because they love the talent and because it’s affordable. One of the things we’ve said from the beginning is that we want to create events that are more affordable, especially for young people. I think five years from now you’ll look at us and see that we have a real touring business and more festivals, but that we continue to do what we do now, just on a larger scale.