Nov 15, 2021 - Business

Ryman Hospitality bets big on live music

A wide shot of the Block 21 neighborhood in Austin

Block 21 in Austin. Image courtesy of Ryman Hospitality

Ryman Hospitality has returned to a pre-pandemic strategy of aggressively expanding its entertainment division - a clear indication the company sees a light at the end of the tunnel for live music.

  • Ryman announced had announced on Oct. 26 a deal to buy Block 21 in Austin for $260 million. The acquisition includes the Moody Theater, home to Austin City Limits, as well as a smaller venue and the W Austin Hotel.
  • The company announced plans last week to build a new Ole Red entertainment venue in Las Vegas with an estimated price tag of $30 million. Ole Red venues are collaborations with country artist Blake Shelton.

Why it matters: Chairman and CEO Colin Reed acknowledges to Axios that Ryman Hospitality could be looking to add more iconic venues to its arsenal.

  • While most of its investments in live music have centered around country music, the Moody Theater is similar to the company's most famous venue, the Ryman Auditorium, since it books artists across all genres of music.
  • "These venues like the Moody Theater are awfully important in the long-term psychology of the music listener," Reed says.

Flashback: In Nashville, Ryman went on a multi-year spending spree investing in what Reed calls the "country lifestyle customer." Most notably, the company helped produce the TV show "Nashville," which drove visitors to Music City.

  • From 2016 through 2019, Ryman spent a combined $54 million renovating and expanding its existing venues, plus launching the first Ole Red honky tonk on Lower Broadway.
  • Those moves coincided with opening Ole Red locations in Gatlinburg, Orlando, Florida, and Oklahoma.

What he's saying: The pandemic changed all that, even delaying the purchase of Block 21, initially announced in December 2019.

  • "Our entertainment business is an absolute gem," Reed says. "If you eliminate the businesses that we didn't have in 2019 like Ole Red Orlando ... our business is running at or about the same level as it did in 2019, which is remarkable."

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