24 Apr 2018

Live Nation buys Rhythm & Vines

From Morning Report, 8:35 am on 24 April 2018

Rhythm and Vines - New Zealand's biggest New Year's Eve music festival - has been sold to global music company Live Nation.

Fireworks display to welcome in 2016 at Rhythm and Vines, in Gisborne

Fireworks display to welcome in 2016 at Rhythm and Vines, in Gisborne Photo: Jared Donkin

The world's largest live entertainment company now has a controlling interest in the annual three-day event.

Rhythm and Vines, held at Waiohika Estate vineyard, attracts high-quality international and local headliners, along with about 20,000 fans each year to Gisborne.

The festival has grown from a small party, attended by almost 1800 people in 2003, to the country's biggest New Year's Eve music festival. Last year it celebrated its 15th anniversary.

Live Nation has a controlling share in Auckland's Spark Arena and started the Auckland City Limits music festival in 2016 as an expansion of the Austin City Limits event, which has been running in the US since 2002. Last year it put on 29,500 events for more than 4000 artists, and sold 149 million tickets worth a total of $9.4 billion.

The company recently toured artists including U2, Coldplay, and Bruno Mars and ran more than 100 festivals worldwide, including Splendour in The Grass, Lollapolooza, and Reading. 

Hamish Pinkham - one of Rhythm and Vines' founders - said he was "pretty excited" about the future for the festival.

"It's been a long time coming," he said, "working on a partnership with a global player like Live Nation." 

"It just means for us that we can keep the festival sustainable and keep operating at a world-class level, into the future," Pinkham said.

Rhythm and Vines has "seen a few cycles"  in their fifteen years, getting into debt at times as a result of expanding too fast, and being ambitious with expensive international acts.  

Pinkham said festival-goers wouldn't notice many changes, but that the systems, production, technology, and ticketing would be "tidied up". The management team will stay the same and Pinkham said it could lead to more opportunities for them. 

Access to talent will be one area they'll be looking to develop, through Live Nation's existing relationships with managers, booking agents, and Australian festivals.