Shuffle: Why AEG's Agora Takeover Is Good For Cleveland And Music Fans, But Faces Challenges

Jul 20, 2017

AEG takes over the Agora, which has been booking mostly metal concerts the last few years
Credit Agora

Northeast Ohio’s music scene is likely to change dramatically with the arrival of AEG. The world’s second-largest concert promoter is taking over the storied Agora venue, in a building in Cleveland's midtown that began life over a century ago as an opera house.

For this week’s Shuffle, Cleveland Scene music writer Jeff Niesel explains why the takeover is good for Cleveland and music fans.

Good for Cleveland:
The Agora will join the more than 60 venues AEG owns or operates nationwide. AEG and Agora operator Chris Zitterbart describes the deal as a co-ownership.

Niesel says there will likely be an uptick in both the number and variety of shows at the venue at 5000 Euclid Ave.

“The Agora has been functioning as an independent venue for the last few years, focusing primarily on metal, hip hop and local bands. But if you notice their schedule, most of those shows have been in the smaller ballroom. There haven’t been a lot of shows in the bigger theater.”

The ballroom has a capacity of 600, while the theater can accommodate 2,100 people.  

“I would think that once AEG takes over and renovates it, that they’ll start putting more shows in the bigger space,” Niesel says. 

The Agora has been at its current site since 1986. The building itself dates back to 1913 when it was the Metropolitan Theatre opera house.

The cavernous venue has creaky floorboards and giant fans blowing because there's no air conditioning. Its gritty image will likely get a makeover.

“AEG is promising seven figures in terms of the money they’re sinking into it,” Niesel says. “I can imagine better seating, better acoustics and air conditioning and maybe paving the parking lot next to it.”

The Agora has been located at its current site since 1986, in a building that dates back to 1913.
Credit Agora

The building is in a section of Cleveland known as Midtown, which is slowly seeing a rebirth, including a new grocery store.

“Maybe that’s something AEG wanted to be part of and saw of potential in the neighborhood,” Niesel says.

Live Nation stronghold
The world’s largest concert promoter, Live Nation, has been dominant in the Cleveland market, running venues including House of Blues, Blossom Music Center and Jacob’s Pavilion at Nautica.

Niesel says the arrival of AEG will create a competitive concert scene, which is good for fans.

'It'll take a certain time and marketing savvy to educate the general public and let them know that this is another facility along the lines of House of Blues and Playhouse Square.'

“The two companies do compete on a national level, and I would think there would be more bands and more shows.”

AEG has largely stayed out of Ohio altogether. It does some shows occasionally at the Q and has operated the massive Rock on The Range festival in Columbus.

Challenges
Still, Niesel says this is a deal that could have challenges.

“I think it’ll take a certain time and marketing savvy to educate the general public and let them know that this is another facility along the lines of House of Blues and Playhouse Square. And hopefully AEG is in it for the long haul.

The Agora was filling a niche that no one else was filling and to now go into territory that’s already established at other places might be a little tricky as well.”