Slim’s, Great American Music Hall Workers Axed as Goldenvoice Expands

In 2017 Goldenvoice assumed control of booking at the Great American Music Hall, seen here in the 1970s. (Wikimedia Commons)

In 1988, Bill Graham’s former assistant Queenie Taylor hired Tanya Pinkerton to help publicize events and distribute concert listings for a new venue called Slim’s. In 2000, when Slim’s acquired the Great American Music Hall, Pinkerton gladly added the historic venue to her client list.

But a year after Slim’s and the Great American Music Hall inked a booking agreement with corporate promoter Goldenvoice, Pinkerton was recently told her work is redundant.

She was let go in January, shortly after manager Dana Smith and promoter Tracey Buck were also laid off. Goldenvoice, Pinkerton was told by email, already had concert listings covered. “What’s funny is, after 30 years I decided to increase my price, by about $15 a month,” she said. “So finally I got the chutzpah to ask for a raise, and I was fired instead.”

The layoffs came one year after Slim’s and GAMH, for years considered two of the city’s flagship independent venues, outsourced booking to Goldenvoice, the Coachella promoter that, like competitor Live Nation, has dramatically expanded in the Bay Area.

Based in Los Angeles, Goldenvoice first entered San Francisco when it took over the Warfield and the Regency Ballroom in 2008. Last year, it launched the Blurry Vision music festival in Oakland. Recently the company also announced a concert series at Stanford University’s Frost Amphitheater. With Slim’s and GAMH, Goldenvoice now runs concert promotions at every level—from a small club to a large festival—in the Bay Area.

Sponsored

The company is not without controversy. AEG, Goldenvoice’s parent company, is owned by Philip Anschutz, a multibillionaire conservative philanthropist with an anti-LGBTQ record. Corporate saturation of the local concert market is also detrimental, critics say, to a healthy local scene of independent venues and promoters, as well as local bands and fans.

Jamie Zawinski, the owner of Slim’s neighbor DNA Lounge, is among the local music industry figures sounding the alarm about Goldenvoice and Live Nation. In response to the Slim’s and GAMH partnership, he wrote a widely shared blog post arguing that the companies’ expansive concert and ticketing holdings are monopolistic and “bad for our culture as a whole.”

Jamie Zawinski, the owner of DNA Lounge, wrote a blog post about corporate promoters' expansion in San Francisco.
Jamie Zawinski, the owner of DNA Lounge, wrote a blog post about corporate promoters' expansion in San Francisco. (Sam Lefebvre/KQED)

Pinkerton likened her relationship with Slim’s and GAMH workers to a familial bond, calling them friends and a steady source of referrals. It was a tight-knit operation that until 2017 was overseen by talent buyer Dawn Holliday, who last year called the Goldenvoice partnership a “great source of sadness.”

Since Goldenvoice took over the calendars, venue management left its SoMa office. Anthony Bedard, the junior talent buyer and longtime Hemlock Tavern booker, was let go early last year. The most recent layoffs, according to Pinkerton, reflect Goldenvoice’s regional workers taking on more promotions and marketing duties for the venues.

Pinkerton said Buck and Smith, who declined to be interviewed, were laid off Monday, Jan. 7, and cleared out that day. The next Tuesday, Pinkerton received an email from Kent Jamieson, the venues’ new general manager, saying the partnership with Goldenvoice made her company, Bay Area Entertainment Listings, a “redundancy.”

“It was crappy,” she said. “After 30 years I would’ve liked to have been told in person.”

Jamieson declined to discuss the cutbacks, calling the layoffs “unfortunate decisions.” Previously the manager of long-running punk band NOFX, Jamieson said the venue owners, a group including Boz Scaggs, hired him last year. “I was brought on separate from Goldenvoice,” he said.

Scaggs, the famed musician and songwriter who founded Slim’s, appears to be stepping back from the venues himself. In a 2017 document he was listed as the sole director of his company, Big Billy Inc. But his name doesn’t appear on the corporation’s most recent statement of information, which lists directors Jamieson plus David Fortune and Alexander Levy.

Pinkerton said she still has plenty of clients, and added that losing Slim’s and GAMH gives her more time to spend with her husband during his second bout with cancer. She also stressed her sympathy for Buck and Harrison.

“They were professionals,” she said. “They were also warm and kind people, which is rare these days in the music business.”

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