The world’s biggest live music company is cranking up the volume on voting efforts.
With its concert halls across the country silenced by the pandemic, Live Nation will unveil on Wednesday a set of election-season initiatives, including plans to transform many of those venues into polling places in November.
Live Nation, which owns Ticketmaster, has teamed with LeBron James’ group More Than a Vote, which has successfully enlisted more than 20 sports arenas in a similar campaign.
Live Nation owns or operates about 110 venues in the U.S., and has been quietly working this month with officials in cities nationwide to coordinate plans.
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The company hopes its effort can help fill a void in jurisdictions where traditional polling locations are off-line because of safety issues during the pandemic. Many of those are in cities where Live Nation’s midsize venues, theaters and clubs can accommodate greater social distancing.
The company will announce Wednesday that Live Nation venues in Los Angeles (the Wiltern and Hollywood Palladium), Philadelphia (the Fillmore), Atlanta (Buckhead Theatre) and Austin (Emo’s) are confirmed to serve as voting sites. Venues continue to be vetted in other markets.
"One of the things we kept hearing, because the pandemic is going on, was that a lot of smaller (polling places) would not be made available for voting," said Tom See, chief operating officer of Live Nation’s U.S. venue division. "We said: 'Wait a second, we’ve got 100-plus large locations across the country sitting empty right now. Why not offer them up as places for people to vote?' That was the impetus — to solve a need."
Performance spaces in most U.S. cities have been shuttered since March. The transformation into polling sites will come at a time when those music venues would have been diving into their traditionally bustling fall and winter concert seasons.
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"Live Nation has stepped up to the mic in providing our community safe in-person voting experiences at two iconic music venues," said Dean Logan, Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk, in a statement. "It is collaborations such as this that demonstrate the spirit of community engagement and the strength of our democracy."
See said the campaign launch is a bat signal of sorts, letting communities know the company is making itself available to talk.
“We’re encouraging jurisdictions to reach out to us, and we’ll collaborate really fast to see if our locations fit the need of that local community,” he said. “They’re all a little different, but it doesn’t hurt to knock on the door and see if we can work out something that benefits them.”
Live Nation officials say they hope their campaign drives a broader awareness that many music facilities can be activated as safe voting centers, prompting local officials to consider venues even beyond the company's own stable.
To help combat a national shortage of poll workers, Live Nation is offering its active employees a day of paid time off to serve at voting precincts. The company will use its social media channels and fan databases to encourage the public to do the same, while advocating get-out-the-vote messages with the slogan "Amplify Your Voice."
Live Nation has partnered with several organizations, including Civic Alliance, HeadCount and More Than a Vote, an organization formed this summer by James and other Black athletes and entertainers to shore up voting rights and polling access going into the November elections.
On the entertainment front, the group's team includes rapper Offset, comedian Kevin Hart and singer Toni Braxton.
More Than a Vote has spurred more than 20 sports arenas to sign on for Election Day activity this November, and discussions continue in other markets. The group's bipartisan advisory board is led by Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.
More Than a Vote was launched when it became clear that COVID-19 was compounding existing ballot-box access in Black communities, said Michael Tyler, the group’s executive vice president of public affairs.
Like the sports arenas that have come aboard, music venues carry a cachet that may offer voters extra motivation to show up, Tyler said. Their locations are also widely familiar, typically situated in urban centers and accessible by public transit, he said.
"For us, this is hopefully a solution not just for voting during a pandemic," Tyler said. "It’s our hope that it becomes a permanent piece of the voting infrastructure going forward."
Contact Detroit Free Press music writer Brian McCollum: 313-223-4450 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Live Nation to convert music venues into polling sites across the U.S.