FPC Live, a subsidiary of Live Nation, let go of six Madison-based employees and at least three at its Nashville office, sources say.
Madison-based concert company FPC Live laid off some of its local office staff in mid-July, as the freeze on live events dragged on in Madison and across much of the world. Sources familiar with the layoffs say the company dismissed six staff members in Madison, and several others at its NS2 subsidiary in Nashville.
FPC Live was created in 2017 when long-running concert promoter Frank Productions merged with Majestic Madison, consolidating ownership and booking at many of Madison’s most important music venues, including the High Noon Saloon, the Majestic, and the Orpheum. The world’s largest concert promoter, Live Nation, bought a controlling stake in FPC Live in 2018. In September 2018, the company opened The Sylvee, a new-built, 2,500-capacity venue in the same building as its Madison offices at the corner of East Main and South Livingston Streets.
In March, as Madisonians began closing public gathering spaces and canceling events in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, FPC Live initially announced that it would cancel or postpone all its shows through March 31. As the shutdown continued, bookers around the country started trying to reschedule concerts for later in the year. But it’s clear now that the pandemic will wipe out Madison’s usual fall bonanza of touring music. Several of the people laid off worked in marketing, and there haven’t been many actual events to promote, aside from some livestreamed concerts and streaming playbacks of concert videos from years past, including highlights from the summer Live on King Street series.
Management at FPC Live did acknowledge the possibility of layoffs or furloughs early in the pandemic, sources say. Other people who work in the live entertainment business locally, from musicians to bartenders to stagehands, have been out of a job since March. Still, the layoffs came down sooner than some FPC Live workers expected. They found out on July 15 in scripted Zoom calls with executives, and the layoffs were effective immediately. Management told employees that the layoffs were due to the pandemic and were not performance-based.
Wisconsin’s Department of Workforce Development requires employers to report layoffs of either 25 people or 25 percent of their workforce, whichever is greater. This layoff appears to fall short of those requirements, and a spokesperson for DWD says the agency has not received any notifications from the company. While this was not a mass layoff and not entirely out of the blue, it did put several people out of work just a couple weeks before a federally funded $600-per-week boost to unemployment benefits expired.
Tone Madison reached out to FPC Live leadership and to Live Nation’s spokespeople, who have not responded. We’ll update this story if they do.
Since the layoffs, the High Noon Saloon’s Facebook page has used photos of now-former employees in a post advertising High Noon-branded merch. FPC Live also partnered with the band Lucius for a July 30 livestream that The Sylvee’s Facebook page promoted as a benefit for the venue and its staff.
Billboard reported in May that Live Nation furloughed about 2,100 employees. The international concert giant’s stock has been in a prolonged slump since March, and the company has been working to raise more money and restructure its debt.
Meanwhile, independent venues across the country, including many in Wisconsin, are calling on Congress to provide relief through two recently introduced bills, the Save Our Stages Act and the RESTART Act.
“This isn’t going to get any better anytime soon,” says one source familiar with the layoffs. “I don’t think our industry will be back to ‘normal’ for a very long time.”